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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