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15 April 2019New members commit to sharing Grace & Light’s story

Ten people have committed to playing an active role in Grace & Light by publicising what we do in their congregations, hosting volunteer teams during visits, raising new local supporters and sharing ideas for improving our ministry.

They made their commitment public at our Nigerian annual general meeting on 16 March when they were welcomed into membership. They are Dr Emeka Ekwonu, Samuel Harry, Cindy John, Rev Dung Rwang, Juliana Ashom, Pastor Stephen Agbu, Pastory Larry Pam, Andrew Dung, Prince Maxwell, Suleiman Ahmed and Friday Bitrus.

“We are pleased to have so many people committing to be actively involved in supporting our work in Nigeria,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “They will make a big difference to understanding about Grace & Light in their areas.”

 

Forty-five people attended the annual general meeting including trustees, directors and Jos volunteer team members. They began with a time of prayer and worship, followed by an overview of achievements in 2018 and the auditor’s financial report.

Then founder Mark Hopkins shared our vision for 2019 to help the Christian church to tap into righteousness as an ever-flowing stream, using Amos 5 and 2 Corinthians 5 to explain what we mean. 

 

 

He said: “Our heart’s desire in Grace & Light this year is to put before the eyes of church and nation the righteousness of God. Not just glimpses here and there, but an every-flowing stream. Let us press on toward this without any compromises.”

15 April 2019Teachers commit to being Christian examples to their students

Teachers rediscover a passion for guiding students and being Christian role models at their secondary schools during a Grace & Light teachers’ conference.

Twenty-four teachers from nine Jos secondary schools spent a day at our headquarters discussing responses to corruption in education. They shared issues they and their students face including bullying, intimidation, sexual exploitation, cheating, lying and stealing.

They also looked at trauma healing for students, understanding what teenagers go through and how to respond in a caring and supportive way; plus sexual and gender-based violence issues from the perspective of students.

 

 

 

“Many admitted they were in their roles for the salary and not because they have a passion for teaching or helping young people progress in life,” said Tassie. “We looked at their profession from God’s perspective, explaining how much he loves children and wants them to blossom. 

“We helped the teachers see that they are where God wants them to be; that he has called them to be teachers. He can give them a passion for their roles and the impact they can make in young peoples’ lives.”

Each of the teachers recommitted their lives to Christ; and rededicated themselves to caring for their students. They want to be Christian examples in their schools and to treat pupils and other teachers differently. 

15 April 2019Social righteous message has lasting impact

Jos volunteers revisiting Jebu Miango were delighted to find secondary school students continue to live by the gospel values they heard about on our first visit.

The Jos team first visited the school in 2016. Three year on they saw a marked difference in attitudes of 14 to 18-year olds who heard their original message and younger pupils who have begun their secondary education since.

“The older students, and their teachers, said their lives were changed by our message of social righteousness. They were doing well academically, no longer lying, stealing, cheating at exams and sleeping around,” said Tassie Ghata, international coordinator.

 

 

“We shared our message again, and tested for HIV/AIDS, for the younger ones who have started at the school since we last visited. They also took our message to heart and committed to changing their lives.”

The Jos volunteer team visited three secondary schools during March. In total 699 pupils heard Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness. Of these, 324 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS with one testing positive. Two hundred and thirty rededicated their lives to Christ and another 78 made a first commitment.

15 April 2019Remote rural churches welcome visits

Grace & Light volunteers are now visiting congregations in a rural area 80km south of Jos after Tassie Ghata spoke at the monthly meeting for COCIN pastors in the Mangun Regional Church Council.

Tassie spoke at the pastors’ meeting in early April, sharing about our HIV/AIDS ministry in churches and schools, our sexual and gender-based violence ministry and focus on social righteousness every day of the week, not just Sundays.

Sixty-two pastors listened to Tassie’s in-depth talk, asked many questions and embraced her message. “They opened their eyes to what is happening in their own congregations; no one said that is not true,” Tassie said. “They are open to working with Grace & Light to tackle these issues.”

 

 

 

Already the pastors are giving dates for our Jos and Mangu volunteer teams to visit their churches, share the gospel of social righteousness and counsel then test for HIV/AIDS. 

These are rural churches and not all are accessible during the rainy season from late April to the end of October. The two volunteer teams will focus initially on those with good road access and visit more remote churches from November onwards.

Please pray for safe travel and for the funding shortfall for a second minibus that will make it easier for the Jos team to travel to Mangu.

15 April 2019Tassie enjoys meeting UK supporters

Many new people committed to supporting Grace & Light in prayer as international coordinator Tassie Ghata toured the UK visiting churches, charities and long-standing friends.

“We have expanded our horizons with many new people hearing about our work in Nigeria, asking lots of questions and signing up to receive information about what we are doing,” said Tassie.

“I was particularly happy to meet with Christine Pulsford, the new leader of Book Aid and to hear she has picked up her father Bob Hiley’s vision. That includes us and we will continue to work together in the future.”

Our first visit was to Zion Baptist Church in Cambridge. This was followed by a UK trustees meeting in Upper Norwood, Sunday service at Perry Rise Baptist Church in Forest Hill, African evening hosted jointly by Elim and River of Life churches in Worthing, prayer meeting and Sunday service with Holme-on-Spalding Moor Christian Fellowship, meeting and lunch at St Augustine’s, Hedon near Hull, Elim Filippino church in York, Holme-on-Spalding Moor Primary School assembly, and two prayer groups in Sheffield. 

We also met with Christine Pulsford at Book Aid in Sydenham, George Verwer of OM Special Projects, and Femi Ladega, Julaine Hedman and Les Issacs at Ascension Trust in Morden. Les is guest speaker at our leaders’ conference in September.

UK fundraising trustee, Jo Ann Eastgate, accompanied Tassie on her visits. Jo Ann said “Every day was busy travelling and meeting new people. So, one of my memories is a day off in which Sandra and Chris Lemming took us to a National Trust property near York. I loved walking round the walled vegetable garden talking with Tassie about the plants we were passing, getting ideas for both our vege gardens.”

International coordinator Tassie Ghata spent two and a half weeks in the UK from 20 March to 5 April.

 

 

 

                    

Pictures:

  1. Sandra and Chris Lemming's Prayer Group
  2. Tassie Ghata with Pastor Gale Richards at Zion Baptist Church
  3. Pastor Margaret Gibbs and Tassie Ghata at Perry Rise Baptist Church
  4. Tassie Ghata and Christine Pulford at Book Aid
  5. Tassie Ghata with Les Issacs
  6. Tassie Ghata with George and Drena Verwer.

12 March 2019Attitudes to gender violence changing

Local communities in Du are changing their attitudes to gender-based violence as Christians model biblical principles of how to treat women and girls.

Over 300 people in 16 churches have completed Grace & Light’s Transforming Masculinities programme, helping them see gender equality from the perspective of scripture and to change their own behaviours so they respect themselves and others.

They were mentored in small, single-sex groups by Grace & Light-trained gender champions for six weeks. Champions helped them explore biblical perspectives and also share how to put these into practice in their communities. They are members of the congregation whom people know and trust.

“Participants were people who are either victims or perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence. We are so pleased that only a very few dropped out before completing the programme,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “And that they are changing their lives and their communities are noticing.”

One man confessed that he was grooming teenage girls for sex, said sorry, and has change his behaviour.

Another now intervenes when he sees a neighbour beating his wife, telling the husband to stop as his behaviour is abuse.

A third has found the courage to report his brother to the police for raping girls as young as four. Before he had scolded his brother but not intervened. The training convinced him he needed to stop the abuse happening.

This has caused chaos in his family and he is being supported by his gender champion, the other people in his small group and the church leadership.

A fourth, an older school pupil at a boys’ school, said that he was raping younger boys and telling them it was their punishment. The younger boys were not complaining; but giving in and accepting the pain.

He thought it was normal as it happened to him when he was younger. Now he knows it is wrong, has stopped, is telling other senior boys to also stop, and has called on Grace & Light to raise the issue of rape used as punishment when volunteers visit boys’ schools.

The programme’s success has been noticed by other churches, and by members in the 16 churches. Grace & Light is being asked to expand gender champions training to churches in other areas of Jos and to support repeated delivery of the Transforming Masculinities programme in the Du churches.

At the moment we do not have the funds to grow this ministry. If you feel able to support this work financially, please donate via our website and mark your gift ‘SGBV ministry’. Alternately, you may prefer to post a cheque to Grace & Light UK, 8 Kingswood Drive, London SE19 1UR.

12 March 2019Borno volunteers begin ministry

Our 40 new Borno volunteers have returned to Damaturu, Potiskum and Biu and begun ministering to local church congregations in the war-ravaged state.

The new volunteer team in Potiskum has been able to arrange two church visits during February despite the uncertainty caused by the presidential elections and insurgency in Borno.

“This is a fantastic achievement as churches are still being attacked by Boko Haram. Many are in poor condition from earlier attacks, with damaged or missing walls and roofs,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

People feel apprehensive, they are not sure what is going to happen next, whether they and their families will be safe if they go to church to hear Grace & Light volunteers speak.

“People are scared so coming out to church to be tested for HIV/ AIDS is not what is important to them,” added Tassie. “Instead, volunteers are sitting with them, listening and counselling about the things going on in their lives.”

Please pray for the new volunteers and their team leaders Clement Ajao, Dauda Agwom and Ibrahaim Bitrus, as well as Johnson Ahmad and Ngaruru Yakubu, our other Borno ambassadors, who are recruiting new volunteers in Maidiguri.

12 March 2019Villagers able to test for HIV/AIDS for the first time

Over 1,000 people came to be tested for infectious diseases, many for the first time, when Grace & Light visited a remote village.

Locals from many nearby villages converged on Chugwi - near the town of Vom and about 30km south west of Jos – when they heard Grace & Light and its mission partner were visiting the village to share the gospel and test for hepatitis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Many had never had the opportunity to be tested for HIV/AIDS before; or heard the gospel message of social righteousness.

In total 132 people chose to be counselled and tested for HIV/AIDS and 37 rededicated their lives to Christ, committing to lead lives of social righteousness according to the gospel.

12 March 2019Drunkenness! Abortion! Cheating! Confronting complacency

Volunteer teams confront complacency in church congregations with powerful messages about how God calls us to live and witness in our communities.

A gentleman at one church stands out for international coordinator Tassie Ghata. After the service he came up to her and was clearly drunk – both by his behaviour and his smelly breath.

“He said that the spirit had been speaking to him during my sermon and then narrated all I had said, before adding today I am giving my life to Christ.”

Please pray for this man and ongoing support from the church pastor. He is an occasional visitor to the church and Tassie has not been able to contact him since as his mobile phone is not working.

At another church Tassie spoke with a street trader named Dorcas, a seller of grain. At the end of the service she came to the front crying and saying she had been convicted to change her business practices – she hadn’t realised they were wrong.

“She had two special measures made for her. One was slightly bigger and allowed her to cheat the grain growers she bought from. The other was slightly smaller for cheating her customers. She now knows this is wrong and says she won’t do it again.”

Tassie added that volunteer teams have been seeing increasing numbers of young people confessing sexual immorality in churches. They are hearing similar stories across different congregations, denominations and areas.

“During our counselling girls who have made Christian commitments and been baptised are confessing to having abortions. They feel everyone is doing it and say they didn’t know it is not what God wants. From their pulpits they don’t hear about how to live righteous lives that honour God and so don’t understand what he expects of them until our volunteer teams visit their church.”

Volunteers teams from Jos and Yola visited 16 churches during January and February. They shared the gospel with 3,854 people of whom 1,308 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Five people tested positive.

Most of those who tested – 1,170 - chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups based in their churches.

Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 142 were new converts while 688 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.

12 March 2019Few school visits during election unrest

Presidential elections in February prevented volunteer teams visiting secondary schools across Nigeria.

Volunteer teams have visited just one secondary school during January and February due to the presidential elections.

Many private and public schools closed for almost a month to prevent pupils getting caught up, on their journeys to and from school, in unrest associated with the electioneering period.

Those that remained open moved their mid-term break to the middle of February to coincide with the elections. The university lecturers two-month strike, which ended early February, has also caused disruption in secondary schools.

The one secondary school the Jos team visited is a neighbour and shares a wall with our headquarters; it is the first time Grace & Light volunteers have visited the school.

One girl stands out for the team. A 16-year-old, she said she had run away from home and was staying with her boyfriend, an older man, in his house. Her widowed mother was struggling to care for the family and assumed her daughter was staying with relatives or friends.

Volunteers are now counselling both the girl and her mother to help rebuild their relationship as well as trust with the school.

In total 157 pupils heard Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness at the school. Of these, 104 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS with none testing positive. Forty-eight rededicated their lives to Christ and another 20 made a first commitment.

30 January 2019Borno volunteers travel to Jos for training

Our ambassadors in Borno State are recruiting eager volunteers in spite of the continuing insurgency that is devastating communities.

Plans to start new ministry in Borno State have been on hold throughout 2018, as Yola team members Tony Sudan and Tari Bitrus continue to be unable to travel to Maiduguri because the roads remain closed. They were hoping to deliver new volunteer training and commission volunteers there before Christmas.

Instead, 20 people are traveling to Jos and will stay at Grace & Light’s compound from 30 January to 4 February for the five-day training. They come from three other towns in Borno – Damaturu, Potiskum and Biu - and have been recruited by our ambassadors in these towns – Clement Ajao, Dauda Agwom and Ibrahim Bitrus.

Once they return to Borno and begin ministry in local churches, international coordinator Tassie Ghata and programme officer Pofi Josiah will visit quarterly to support and encourage them. Travel is easier from Jos even though Yola is closer.

“These people are all new volunteers,” said Tassie. “We have not been able to contact any original members of the Biu team. They have been scattered by the insurgency and are not living where they were before.”

Please pray for Clement, Dauda, Ibrahim and the new volunteers, as well as Johnson Ahmad and Ngaruru Yakubu, our ambassadors in Maiduguri.

This training was funded by our 2018 circular walk along the South Downs. Together we raised £2,225 for new ministry in Borno State; thank you to everyone who joined us on the walk and to everyone who supported us financially and in prayer.

Please put Saturday, 1 June in your diary and join us if you are able for our 2019 fundraising walk. We will be going up and down, over but not under, Box Hill in Surrey the first Saturday in June.

30 January 2019Taking testing to rural villages

People in rural communities appreciate Grace & Light bringing the gospel of social righteousness and HIV/AIDS testing to their villages.

As with our schools’ ministry, volunteers have been expanding our churches ministry into rural villages and ministering to people who have not heard our message of social righteousness or been tested for HIV/AIDS.

“Again and again, the feedback from these people is thank you and we’re happy you are bringing the gospel and testing to our village,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who didn’t know they were HIV positive. They are now on drugs programmes and supported by their churches.”

Volunteers teams from Jos, Yola and Bauchi visited 17 churches between October and December. They shared the gospel with 3,869 people of whom 1,038 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Seven people tested positive.

Most of those who tested - 1,015 - chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups based in their churches.

Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 90 were new converts while 586 rededicated their lives to Christ.

30 January 2019Secondary pupils embrace social righteousness

Christian and Muslim students are open to changing their lives when they hear our message of social righteousness.

In the last few months of 2018 the Jos volunteer team visited schools in rural villages around Jos for the first time; these are mixed government schools with both Muslim and Christian students.

They found students excited to test for HIV/AIDS and saying they'd heard scare stories about the disease, didn’t have many facts and had not had an opportunity to be tested.

“Now they know their status they can take steps to avoid becoming infected. Those who are positive have been enrolled in drugs programmes,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “We encourage them by sharing their future is bright, even with HIV, because of the drugs available.”

Tassie remembers Umar, a Fulani boy, who wrote on his testing consent form that he was a new convert.

“We spoke with him to check he understood what becoming a Christian means. He said yes he did and he had already been hearing about Jesus Christ. The principal at his school, who is a Christian, will follow up with him as will one of our volunteers.

”During our time there Umar publicly witnessed before other Muslim and Christian students that he was accepting Christ.”

During October and November, the Jos and Yola volunteer teams visited nine secondary schools, sharing our message of social righteousness with 3,832 students.

Of these, 1,419 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS with three testing positive. Six hundred and twenty-one rededicated their lives to Christ and another 230 made a first commitment.

30 January 2019Practical action tackles gender violence in Du churches

Sexual violence programme expands out into multiple churches in the south of Jos.

Volunteers from 16 churches in Du have become gender champions for their congregations and are now supporting people who are either victims or perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

At the beginning of December leaders from 20 churches in Du, a district in south Jos, attended a one-day workshop that explained the gender champions programme and gave a taster of the training.

Each church was invited to nominate two people – a woman and a man – to become the gender champions for their congregation. Sixteen did so, sending two members to Grace & Light’s three-day training programme in mid-December.

Titled 'Transforming Masculinities', the programme looked at gender and creation, Jesus as a role model for masculinity, root causes and consequences of sexual violence, and SGBV in the bible.

“We included many different interactive activities to help participants understand, open up and share with each other,” said Tassie Ghata, international coordinator. “We knew some would be victims as research shows almost 30 per cent of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence by the time they are 15.”

Champions are now leading small groups of people in their churches, up to eight of the same sex, helping them to see gender equality from the perspective of scripture and to change their own behaviours so they are respectful of themselves and others.

This is the next phase of the SGBV programme that Grace & Light is running in Nigeria. We hope to expand the programme to churches in other Jos districts during 2019.

Our SGBV work began when Tassie and Pofi Josiah attended Tearfund’s five-day SGBV training for leaders in Abuja back in February 2018. Then in March Tassie delivered the programme over three days for members of the Jos volunteer team.

The team has been including elements in churches and schools’ ministry ever since. The first time was in April when they delivered a one-day workshop for 40 church leaders in Du. It gave an overview of the impact sexual and gender-based violence has on communities, plus strategies to help faith leaders respond effectively to the causes of sexual exploitation and abuse.

30 January 2019Volunteers rally for World Aids Day

Our volunteer and staff teams joined in the many rallies held across Nigeria for World Aids Day on 1 December.

They carried banners, handed out leaflets and marched along with other civil society agencies in their towns.

In Jos, as in the other towns, they marched to a hall where they listened to many speeches. One in particular stands out for international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“The speaker said there are plenty of drugs in Nigeria, but people are not accessing them. I asked myself why? Perhaps there is no follow-up.

“In Grace & Light we go with people to hospital and help them enrol for drugs. Then we provide ongoing support so they are not alone as they cope with the many struggles that come with being HIV positive.

“This day is a reminder that HIV is still big in Nigeria. Nigerians are overwhelmed with problems and not paying attention to HIV as much anymore. That’s when the disease can begin spreading again.”

30 January 2019Jos fundraising dinner supports retreat centre

International coordinator Tassie Ghata and chairperson Mark Hopkins welcomed 47 guests to our 2018 fundraising dinner in Jos.

After a warm welcome and introductory presentation, guests enjoyed a Western-style three course meal in the hall at our headquarters compound.

Many of the guests had only recently heard of Grace & Light and had no idea about what we do,” said Tassie. “This was our chance to inspire them to get involved. We are delighted many have since become prayer supporters and regular donors.”

These individuals were invited by a group of advocates cum ambassadors Grace & Light has in Plateau State, influential people who speak about our work to others in their business and personal networks.

The evening raised 400,000 naira (£855) towards construction costs for the retreat centre in our headquarters compound.

30 January 2019Book fair raises one million Naira

People scooping up secondhand books at our clearance book fair took away bargains and helped fund our retreat centre.

The book fair is now an annual event at our Jos headquarters compound. It both raises money for projects and also raises awareness of our work among local communities.

This year money raised is going towards the cost of building a retreat centre in the compound. Foundations have already been laid and the next stage is constructing the first floor.

More than 300 people visited the fair over its two days in mid-November, spending one million naira (£2,150). Thousands of books were displayed on tables and groundsheets in the hall next to our charity shop.

“People were so excited to get our free offer this year,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “Those who spent more than one thousand naira (£2.15) were offered five books for free from a selection of titles we’d had for a while.

“We now have very few books left to sell, which is good as we are receiving another shipment from Book Aid in February.”

30 January 20192019 theme launched at staff retreat

Righteousness as an ever-flowing stream in the lives of Christians is Grace & Light’s theme for 2019.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata launched our 2019 theme during Grace & Light’s annual retreat for Nigerian staff in early November.

Over three days staff members evaluated their achievements in 2018 and brainstormed how they will implement goals for 2019. Their outputs are team targets and workplans for the year.

“We also included socialising and relaxing together including watching a movie, to strengthen our relationships and commitment to each other,” said Tassie. “This was a time to share what is happening in our lives as well as what is happening at work.”

One person shared how the mentoring he has received since becoming a Grace & Light employee has changed his life. “Before he struggled to say thank you or sorry because of cultural ingraining. He comes from a family where men are not supposed to say these things. Now he is happy to say them to his wife, children and colleagues,” said Tassie.

“Another person said he can now see the folly of the Me! Me! Me! mantra he continually heard at the prosperity gospel church he used to go to.”

30 January 2019Ministry expands into Bassa secondary schools

Grace & Light has been invited to explain what we do to secondary school leaders in Bassa, a local government authority area in Plateau State.

Programme officer Pofi Josiah shared our core aim to make Nigeria a better place, social righteousness, how we work in schools and how we address students’ issues that we come across during counselling.

Subsequently, the Jos volunteer team visited three of the schools to minister to students during assemblies; while other schools have invited the team to visit during 2019.

Pofi spoke during the monthly meeting between principals of Bassa’s 21 secondary schools and the areas education director. Bassa is in the centre of Plateau State and hosts the army’s 3rd Armoured Division headquarters, popularly known as Rukuba Barracks. There are ten different tribes and dialects in the area.

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