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26 March 2020Responding to Covid-19 in Nigeria

At the moment our staff and volunteers are all safe. not suffering from the coronavirus and encouraging churches to play their part in limiting the spread of the virus.

During visits to churches and schools they have been sharing the symptoms, how the virus is spread and prevention measures individuals can take to slow the spread.

They have been calling on people to take the advice of medical staff seriously, practice social distancing, stay at home, remain calm and role model how to respond in their communities.

Plus we are providing hand sanitisers for each of our volunteer teams and in our headquarters buildings.

The first case of Covid-19 was reported in Nigeria in late February; so far the spread is slow and there are few reported infections (51 on 25 March).

Nigerian states have different rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the common rule is that people should not gather in groups of more than 50. So, churches with less than 50 members can continue to meet, those with 50 or more members should not be doing so.

This means Grace & Light volunteer teams are no longer visiting Sunday services for vision sharing, counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS.

They will continue to support members who have tested positive during earlier church visits and the leaders of these churches, as they are able.

Volunteer teams will also continue to reach out to pastors to arrange vision sharing visits for when the pandemic is over. Visits can take many months to organise and the volunteers want to be supporting congregations as soon as they are able to.

We are also postponing refresher training and new volunteer training while the pandemic continues. Training will commence again as soon as it is safe for people to meet in large groups.

Ministry in schools is postponed as schools are closed across the country and students are staying home. The students’ conference planned for May is also postponed, probably until after the start of the new school year in September.

Please pray for:

  • Pastors and congregations to be role models on how to respond to the virus in their communities
  • Good health and wisdom for our staff and volunteers as they support each other and church pastors.

23 March 2020Lafia churches open their doors

Churches in Lafia are excited to be joining Grace & Light’s ministry and are opening their doors to our local volunteer team, following a visit from the Jos headquarters team.

Already Lafia volunteers have visited two churches, sharing the gospel of social righteousness, counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS during Sunday services.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata and programme office Pofi Josiah visited Lafia at the end of January.

They began their visit with a Saturday workshop for invited church pastors and leaders from 12 churches. Forty-five people attended the day long workshop.

“We were able to share Grace & Light’s vision in more detail than they will hear during a Sunday service,” explained Tassie. “We also spoke about how churches can partner with us and how we support our partner churches.

“Our visit was about strengthening the relationships between these churches and the Lafia volunteer team members.”

Then Saturday evening through to Sunday afternoon was for the Lafia volunteers. Initially, the focus was on their performance in 2019, what worked well and where they believe they could improve.

Next they looked at hopes and plans for 2020 and where the Lafia team would like support from head office. This was followed by a discussion about the issues they face during church and school visits.

“We also included a practical session is which we checked their counselling and testing techniques and shared ways they could develop these,” said Tassie.

Lafia volunteers have committed to following up the pastors they met at the workshop and arranging more visits more regularly.

Please pray for:

  • Regular visits being organised for Sunday services. At the moment Nigerian churches are still open
  • Introductions to pastors not at the January workshop, that they will be open and interested in the Lafia team visiting their churches.

23 March 2020Encouraging volunteer team leaders

Volunteer team leaders have stronger relationships with each other and with staff members following our first team leaders’ meeting.

Leaders are feeling re-energised and encouraged that they are partnering with God to bring his righteousness into their communities and are making a real difference in people’s lives.

During the workshop leaders were able to share the issues they face visiting churches and secondary schools, discuss ideas for resolving these issues and how they can support each other during 2020.

Each leader committed to continuing in their role, encouraging their team members, organising at least monthly visits to local churches, and asking for support when they need it from other leaders and Jos headquarters staff.

Biu’s leader took home bibles for each of their team members in recognition of the team’s faithfulness in visiting 13 churches during 2019, as well as meeting monthly to support each other and send in their monthly reports promptly.

Leaders from eleven of our 12 volunteer teams travelled to Jos for the overnight event on 10-11 January.

Please pray for

  • Each of the leaders and their teams, that they will remain motivated and committed to visiting churches and schools throughout 2020
  • Leaders to stay connected with each other, continuing to support and reach out to each other.

23 March 2020Church visits during January and February

Corruption is the new normal for many Nigerians including regular church-goers. Those who hear Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness realise it is not God’s way.

In many churches, when our volunteer teams speak about social righteousness, people are surprised by their message.

Once they hear and understand, they realise the way they are living is not what God wants them to do and they decide to change their behaviours.

“Corruption is the new normal,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “For instance, it is usual for the first person who gets to work to sign in for everyone else, who then come later.”

Our message about HIV/AIDS also continues to have an impact, with many people choosing to be tested and to share their status with families and loved ones.

A man in his 70’s, who is HIV positive, had held a grudge against his wife after she left him when she found out. He came forward to be open with his status and let go of his grudge during counselling. Now a weight has lifted and he no longer feels bitterness or anger.

In another church, a man shared his status with his wife and grown up children. He is now being supported by his pastor and his family who are also in church with him.

Four volunteer teams - from Jos, Yola, Lafia and Jalingo - visited 16 churches during January and February. They shared the gospel with 5,211 people of whom 1,255 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Six people tested positive.

Of those who tested, 1,138 chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups in churches that are able to host these groups.

Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 174 were new converts while 975 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.

Please pray for:

  • Nigerian church leaders as they role model godly behaviour for their congregations
  • Volunteer teams setting up visits in local churches so they can share the gospel of social righteousness
  • Church leadership teams open to having Grace & Light visit and test their congregations
  • Individuals who recommit their lives to Christ, or make a first commitment.

23 March 2020Secondary students choose social righteousness

The word on social righteousness is spreading across Nigerian secondary schools, with students choosing to change their behaviours to honour God.

During January and February, the Jalingo and Jos teams visited three secondary schools, sharing the gospel with 832 students and testing 431 (52%). Of these, 164 (20%) rededicated their lives to Christ and 53 (6%) made a first commitment. Two students tested positive.

One visit was to a mixed Muslim and Christian secondary school where students heard Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness and were tested for the first time.

Almost half chose to be counselled and tested, with two testing positive who didn’t know they have HIV. Both students are now taking anti-retroviral drugs and being supported by the Jalingo team and teachers.

The Jos team had a similar experience at a school they visited for the first time. The students had never been tested for HIV and were happy to know their status.

“They said they were pleased to be tested, and that no one had ever sat with them one-to-one and listened to their concerns and experiences of sex and relationships,” said Tassie Ghata, international coordinator.

“Their generation is realising that HIV is real and a threat to their lives. We are being told stories of young people in other schools, who hear about social righteousness and choose to change their lives, even though we have not visited their school.”

The Jos team also returned to a school two years after their initial visit. They found students continuing to honour God with good social behaviours and working hard academically.

One girl, who tested positive during their first visit, openly shares her status with other students, encouraging them to remain HIV free. Her school principal continues to care for her.

Please also pray for:

  • The students who tested positive, that they will be accepted by their families, friends, other students and teachers, receiving the support they need to remain healthy
  • Strength and faithfulness for those students who committed to changing their lives to social righteousness and honouring God.

29 January 2020Stretching targets for 2020

Grace & Light has set itself stretching targets for our work in Nigeria during 2020.

We want to increase our work and impact in churches and schools across Nigeria, with our volunteer teams energised to visit more regularly, sharing the gospel of social righteousness and testing people for HIV/AIDS.

Our targets include:

  • Testing 12,000 people in churches over the 12 months (32.6% increase)
  • Each of the 12 teams visiting at least one church per month, with Yola and Jos visiting at least one church per week (80% increase)
  • The Jos, Yola and Jalingo teams visiting 30 secondary schools (43% increase)
  • Training secondary teachers so they are able to support life sharing groups in their schools
  • Teachers conference in Jos in March
  • Schools conference for 600 secondary students in May
  • Increasing work place and prison visits
  • Three training programmes for new volunteers in February, June and October
  • One refresher training programme for existing volunteers in March.

These are testing targets for our staff and volunteer teams, especially as we are currently recruiting for a manager to lead the office team in Yola.

Our volunteer teams outside Jos and Yola really need annual refresher training for the motivation that will see them visiting churches every month.

Currently we are approaching grant making trust for funding for:

  • One more new volunteer training programme
  • Three more refresher volunteer training programmes
  • The teachers conference in Jos and a second in Jalingo later in the year
  • Secondary school students conference.

Please pray our funding appeals will be successful and we will raise the costs to run these events.

Team leaders meet up

We were pleased that leaders from 11 of our 12 volunteer teams were ableto come to Jos in January for our first team leaders meeting in seven years. Only Mitchika’s leader could not join us because insurgency in the area made travel impossible.

The team leaders were able to discuss, with Tassie Ghata and the office team, our ministry plans for 2020 and input their suggestions. They also participated in a refresher on their roles and what is expected of them. We hope to be able to hold this meeting at the beginning of the year from now on.

Please pray for all the leaders as they return to their teams and put into practice they challenges they agreed to in the meeting.

Prayer & Giving Request for 2020

We have one final prayer and giving request for 2020 – it concerns regular giving. Last year regular and ad hoc giving for salaries was £8,000 short. If you are not already doing so, please pray about supporting our staff with a monthly standing order.

Without our staff teams in Jos and Yola we would not be able to give our volunteer teams the support they need as they visit churches, schools, prisons and work places, and they certainly won’t be able to meet the stretching targets we have set for 2020.

Please contact Ed Greening at ed.greening@graceandlight.org for information on setting up a standing order or direct debit.

You may prefer to give online at https://my.give.net/graceandlight/ or send a cheque to Grace & Light, 8 Kingswood Drive, Upper Norwood, London SE19 1UR.

However you give, please include a reference so we know how you would like us to allocate your gift. And thank you in advance for your generosity.

2020 Dates

Tassie Ghata will be visiting the UK from 18 March to 2 April and spending time in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Worthing.

Please let Jo Ann Eastgate know if you are nearby and would like to join one of the open events joann.eastgate@graceandlight.org

Also do let Jo Ann know if you would like Tassie to visit your church or small group – she has a couple of days free at the moment.

Friday, 1 May is our annual supporters event in Jos, Nigeria. More information from tassie.ghata@graceandlight.org

Saturday, 30 May is our annual UK fundraising walk. This year we are walking around Chichester Harbour. Please contact Jo Ann Eastgate if you would like to join us.

25-26 July fundraising fashion show at Chatsworth Baptist Church, West Norwood, London. More details from UK trustee Fola Ogunyide via info@graceandlight.org

Saturday, 1 August is our UK annual supporters afternoon tea in Upper Norwood, London. More details from Jo Ann Eastgate.

Finally, thank you for all the support you have given us to date. With your continued support we are looking forward to achieving our stretching targets during 2020.

29 January 2020Church visits during 2019

Nigerians are open to living Christ-centred lives once they hear Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness.

During 2019 our 12 active volunteer teams visited 128 churches, sharing the gospel of social righteousness with 28,427 people and testing 9,046 for HIV/AIDS.

Of those who tested, 8,517 chose to join a life sharing group and be open with their results. Thirty-one people tested positive, 4,784 rededicated their lives to Christ and 1,024 made a first commitment.

The Jos volunteer team (46 churches visited) and Yola team (31 visits) were most active, followed by Biu (13 visits), Potiskum (6 visits), Mangu (6) and Jalingo (5).

Our teams were more active in 2019 compared to 2018 when nine teams visited 114 churches, sharing the gospel with 23,831 people and testing 7,382. Then 34 people were positive and 6,803 joined life sharing groups in their church.

“Church members are amazed we talk about things they consider old time religion. They think social righteousness is strange,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“Corruption is so high in Nigeria that it has become normal. People do whatever they can to survive Monday to Saturday, and then on Sunday are good girls and boys.

“We are surprised they listen to our social righteousness message and are willing to change and live as Christ calls us to. Many do rededicate themselves at each church we visit.”

Please pray for our volunteer teams who all have day jobs and give their free time to serving their local communities with Grace & Light:

  • Time and energy to arrange visits to churches
  • God’s love for the people they counsel and test during each visit
  • Churches able to provide the support life sharing groups need to care for their members and continue over the longer term
  • Churches able to encourage their members who make first commitments and rededicate their lives to Christ.

29 January 2020Secondary school visits during 2019

During 2019 the Jalingo, Yola and Jos teams visited 21 secondary schools, sharing the gospel with 5,975 students and testing 3,280 (55%).

Of these, 886 (12%) rededicated their lives to Christ and 520 (10%) made a first commitment. Six students tested positive for HIV and are receiving ongoing support.

Visits are significantly less than in 2018, when the five volunteer teams visited 30 schools, sharing the gospel with 9,761 students and testing 4,075 (42%).

However, in 2018 15 students tested positive for HIV, while 1,630 (16.7%) rededicated their lives to Christ and 618 (6%) made a first commitment.

The volunteer teams visiting schools in 2018 were Jalingo, Lafia, Gombe, Jos and Yola.

During 2020 our aim is to again visit 30 secondary schools and test 10,000 pupils. Please pray for the leaders of our volunteer teams as they make contact with head teachers and organise visits for their teams.

This year our headquarters team will be supporting all 12 volunteer teams as they begin or continue ministry in secondary schools. Please pray for the teams:

  • Yola, Jos and Jalingo currently visiting schools
  • Lafia and Gombe restarting school visits
  • Bauchi, Mangu, Michika, Hong, Biu, Damturu and Potiskum visiting schools for the first time.

29 January 2020HCT Testing during 2019

Ministry in prisons and work places increases during 2019.

As well as visiting churches and schools, the Jos volunteer team shared the gospel and tested people in their work places and prisons; while staff in Jos and Yola also tested individuals who visited their offices.

Often this is church members bringing their partner for testing after they have heard our message on a Sunday morning.

In total the Jos and Yola teams shared the gospel with 2,480 people and tested 669 outside schools and churches. Of these 192 rededicated their lives to Christ and 59 made first commitments. Two people tested positive for HIV.

Please pray for continued openness in businesses and prisons for our teams to visit, share the gospel, counsel and test.

29 January 2020North Eastern teams strengthened following training

The Hong, Jalingo and Yola teams have additional members following training for new volunteers in Yola during December.

Tellingly, at the end of the training 15 of the 17 participants rededicated themselves to Christ and committed to living according to gospel values.

“Like others in the many churches we visit, these volunteers saw the way they lived as the norm for Christians. As we talked about social righteousness they came to understand what Christ expects of his followers,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

Tassie travelled from Jos to Yola to deliver the training alongside Yola office manager Tony Sudan. Over five days participants heard an overview of Grace & Light’s distinctly Christian approach, the effect of HIV/AIDS on churches, transmission, prevention and treatment, counselling and testing, care and support for those living with the disease, establishing life sharing groups in churches and maintaining trust and respect within their teams.

Four of the participants joined the Jalingo team taking its cohort to 12. This means the team will be able to visit more churches on a Sunday. During 2019 they were faithful in visiting secondary schools, but struggled to visit churches.

Another four joined the Hong team taking its membership to six people. Hong is close to Mitchika and the town has been impacted by Boko Haram. Previously the two members needed support from Yola to visit churches; now they will be able to organise their own visits.

The other nine new volunteers joined the Yola team and will be visiting churches, schools, work places and prisons in the city and its surroundings.

Tony Sudan has since left Grace & Light; please pray for Tassie as she recruits a new office manager for Yola. We are looking for someone with pastoral and admin skills who is able to motivate and care for each of the team members.

Please also pray for the new members in the Jalingo and Hong teams as well as for the team leaders and other volunteers as they increase their visits during 2020.

29 January 2020Testing during World Aids Day

Yola and Jos teams support World Aids Day to remind Nigerians that HIV/AIDS is still a real threat to congregations, communities and individuals.

World Aids Day, on 1 December, is a chance to remind Nigerians that HIV/AIDS is still virulent and if they don’t take precautions, changing their lifestyles, they too could become infected.

Many in the younger generation in Nigeria believe that HIV/AIDS is something that affected their parents in the past and is no longer an issue for themselves. Grace & Light volunteer teams frequently come across this attitude in secondary schools and churches.

In Yola the office and volunteer teams joined a rally with other local organisations and tested 138 people who came to watch the spectacle.

The Jos teams visited two local churches, as World Aids Day fell on a Sunday. They visited ECWA Bomo2 in a rural area sharing the gospel of social righteousness with 215 people and testing 80. They also visited COCIN Nyango in Jos, sharing the gospel with 613 people and testing 88.

"In total we tested 306 people who now know their status and will take care not to become infected in the future," said Tassie Ghata.

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