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08 May 2018Planning for future growth

New five-year strategic plan gives Grace & Light certainty for ministry and finances in Nigeria.

Our Jos headquarters team and Nigerian board of trustees have developed their strategic plan for the next five years, 2018 to 2022, with support from UK leadership consultant Kate Register.

Kate spent 10 days in Jos in April with international coordinator Tassie Ghata reviewing Grace & Light’s achievements in its first 15 years, highlighting our strengths and opportunities and looking ahead to identify our critical activities for the next few years.

Key objectives include increasing the number of schools and churches our volunteer teams visit year on year, increasing support and encouragement so volunteers faithfully visit local churches each month, growing income from regular donors in Nigeria, plus taking our ministry into new states where Grace & Light is currently not active.

“Kate has given us greater clarity on how to monitor our activities and how to evaluate what we achieve,” said Tassie. “She also gave us a tool for business planning that is clear to use.

“We have a longer term business plan for the charity shop and for completing the retreat centre we are building in our Jos headquarters. We know how to change what we do when we don’t see the results we expect.

“Kate also spent time with our Nigerian board encouraging them and helping them to reflect on their role. They found the time very helpful; already we are seeing the results in their support and involvement.”

Kate is a member of the UK board of trustees for charity Pioneers and also founded Sunergos, a leadership consultancy for Christian ministries. https://www.sunergos.org.uk/

In the summer 2017 Kate worked with Grace & Light’s UK trustees on their five-year plan; the results are already obvious in more effective fundraising and a significant increase in the UK’s contribution to income.

08 May 2018Tackling sexual and gender violence in communities

Church leaders in Du, a southern district of Jos, have greater understanding of the sexual and gender violence their congregations are facing or have experienced following our workshop.

Forty church leaders from a range of congregations in Du participated in the Tearfund sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) workshop that was delivered by Jos volunteers and staff on 27 April.

They heard that almost 30 per cent of Nigerian women had experienced physical violence by the time they are 15 (Nigeria Demographic & Health Survey 2013) and this includes members of their own congregations.

In small groups the leaders mapped out what is happening in their local communities - the root causes of SGBV, the consequences for individuals and the community, and how different genders are treated.

Then they explored the character and behaviours of the perfect human being as modelled by Jesus in the gospels; looking at how he dealt with issues of sex and power and asking what is relevant for today in Du.

This Tearfund programme is designed to help faith leaders respond effectively to the causes of sexual exploitation and abuse of children, women and men – things like poverty, forced marriages, multiple sexual partners and declining cultural values.

“Church leaders said following the workshop they better understand the issues in their own churches and community and are now committed to addressing them from a scriptural perspective and in Jesus' love,” said Tassie Ghata.

08 May 2018Trauma counselling training for secondary school teachers

Teachers in Nigerian secondary schools are better able to counsel and support students suffering from trauma following a World Renew training day delivered by Jos volunteers and staff.

Twenty-four teachers from 12 schools in Jos and Mangu participated in the day-long training. These are all schools that the Jos team have visited at least once as part of our schools’ ministry; most have hosted multiple visits to share the gospel with pupils and test for HIV/ AIDS.

During the training workshop the teachers heard presentations and explored, through group work, how to identify and support children who are suffering from traumatic experiences in their lives.

In small groups they shared the problems they face in their own schools, then presented their findings to the wider group. Through this activity they discovered that much of what they experience they share in common.

They also heard, from scripture, about what God’s expectations of them are as carers of his children who are made in his image – faithfulness, grace, compassion, love.

Further, the teachers were encouraged to remember back to their own school days and the teachers who stand out for them. They reflected on these teachers' good qualities and the difference they made in children’s lives.

“This is what really spoke to them, remembering the positive influences on their lives and realising they can do the same for the children under their care,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

Earlier this year Chris and John Breuker of World Renew delivered train the trainer trauma healing for 15 Jos volunteers and staff.

08 May 2018AGM shines light on our Nigerian activities

Reflections on what Grace & Light achieved during 2017 at our Annual General Meeting highlighted the challenges we face reaching complacent congregations.

Forty-one people joined Grace & Light staff, Nigerian trustees and board members in Jos for an update on achievements and finances at the AGM on 24 March.

Guest speaker David Tyokighir, of World Renew, illustrated leadership the Jesus way. He said that the world desperately needs servant leaders who model themselves on Christ and build trust without exploiting or manipulating those they lead.

“God has put us on earth and what does he want to do through us? Jesus focused on pleasing God, he did not focus on himself. Living in harmony with God’s plan is a privilege,” he said.

Grace & Light founder Mark Hopkins encouraged the audience to shine as lights in a world surrounded by darkness and to build up treasures in heaven rather than focusing on amassing earthly possessions.

“People aren’t choosing darkness, they are choosing to pursue the things of this world," he said. "They don’t realise that what they are getting is actually darkness. It is the same deceptive way that Satan worked when he was tempting Jesus in the desert.”

International coordinator Tassie Ghata presented the achievements of 2017 including reaching 35,506 people with the gospel message in 97 churches and 16 schools, testing 10,808 and seeing 1,100 give their lives to Christ for the first time and another 4,491 recommit their lives.

Six volunteer teams were active in 2017, while fundraising activities in the UK and Nigeria increased income by 32 per cent. Praise God!

Among the audience were local and national journalists from six publications including Jos TV station PRTV and Christian magazine Today’s Challenge. Subsequently, Tassie was invited to speak live with PRTV radio presenter Esther Bitrus about social righteousness on 8 May.

08 May 2018Church leaders awaken to gender and corruption issues

Church leaders in Gombe have greater understanding of Grace & Light’s work following a members’ workshop in March.

Thirty-one pastors, deacons and action committee members participated in the day-long workshop, during which they discussed HIV, social righteousness, gender and corruption issues from the perspective of the gospel.

The workshop ran the day after Pofi Josiah’s meeting with members of the Gombe volunteer team. Tassie Ghata and Alfred Mshelizah travelled from Jos to help him lead the workshop.

“We were pleased so many leaders joined us for the workshop, including six pastors. They developed greater understanding of Grace & Light’s work and also strengthened their personal commitment and that of their congregations to supporting us.

“The exercises and group work brought out many issues they said they want to address in their congregations. It helped them see clearly that our churches are full of people who are not into Christ really, and how to respond through sermons, small groups and pastoral care.

“They were able to see that gender roles are created by culture and not by God. We were able to bring this out into the open and help them see how to change perceptions of masculinity and femininity in their churches.

“Under corruption they were able to see the many issues in their churches they will now address including stealing, falsification of data and time keeping at work.”

08 May 2018Support and encouragement for volunteers

Volunteer teams in Lafia and Gombe are more motivated to visit churches and feel encouraged and supported following a visit from our headquarters team.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata and programme officer Pofi Josiah spent a day with the Lafia team in February and then Pofi visited the Gombe team in March.

With each team they spent time talking through experiences of visiting churches, strengths and the challenges each team is facing, plus shared new techniques that have been introduced since their last visit or refresher training.

“We were pleased so many volunteers joined us at Lafia for our day together; 11 out of 13 volunteers came,” said Tassie. “They are a new team and have been faithful in visiting churches, but struggle with the admin side of organising visits, so we ran the refresher training programme with them.”

With Gombe, a more established team, eight of 13 volunteers came to the meeting. “We were disappointed so many were missing, but also pleased that their church visits are going well,” said Tassie. “We taught the Gombe volunteers how to do schools’ ministry and hope this will take off in the area in the new school year from September.”

Tassie and Pofi hope to visit each of Grace & Light’s 20 volunteer teams every year depending on budgets and other demands on their time.

08 May 2018Church visits in March & April

Hearing a clear explanation of how the gospel applies to their lives changes people. Our visits to churches, during which we share the gospel, are the catalyst that cause people to turn from sin to righteousness.

Three examples from church visits during March and April illustrate this clearly for international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

In one church Jennifer, a student, said that she believed those in her home were bewitched. Things kept going wrong. She herself already knew she was HIV+, was struggling to cope with this knowledge and with concentrating in class.

She said the sermon she heard that Sunday really helped. Tassie had spoken about giving our lives to Christ and allowing him to order our steps so that we no longer live for ourselves.

In another church Vausti shared her difficulties finding a husband. She had been sleeping with her boyfriends in the hope they would then marry her, but without success. After hearing Tassie’s sermon about living for Christ and seeking righteousness in our lives, Vausti said that she had decided she was no longer going to give herself to men and instead wanted to give herself to Christ.

A man in a third church confessed that he saw women as devils and could see no reason to marry. From listening to Tassie’s sermon he came to understand that women and men are both made in God’s image and that we attain personal righteousness through Christ rather than through sexual abstinence. He gave his life to Christ and is now open to marrying a wife who also centres her life on Christ.

“These three people stand out for me because once they understood what righteous living in Christ is all about they turned their lives around,” said Tassie. “When people hear the gospel message clearly explained they respond.”

During March and April volunteer teams visited 33 churches, sharing the gospel with 7,009 people. Of these, 2,248 chose to be tested for HIV/ AIDS and 22 were positive.

Ninety-four per cent of those tested chose to join life sharing groups in their churches; 1,115 rededicated their lives to Christ and 245 made a first commitment.

Nine volunteer teams were active during March and April – Hong, Inye, Lafia, Michika, Mangu, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Jos.

08 May 2018Schools ministry in March & April

Ours schools ministry is facing a fundamental challenge for which we would appreciate your prayers.

We ask for your prayers for our schools’ ministry in Nigeria over the coming months as the leadership team make decisions about how to take the work forward.

The team has been confronted with an obstacle in that for the second time a parent has threatened to sue Grace & Light for revealing their teenage son is HIV+. In both cases the child was not aware they were infected, though their parents were.

“These two parents said that we should have asked their permission before testing their child and of course they would have said no as they wanted to continue hiding the truth from the child and other family members,” explained Tassie.

“These are teenagers who have a right to know about their health and the retroviral drugs they are taking. What’s more they are becoming sexually active and so could infect others.

“We have only had this issue twice. Most of the time parents are grateful when we break the news because they struggle with how to tell their children they are HIV+.”

These two complaints are making Grace & Light rethink our procedures in secondary schools. Currently we have authorisation from the Nigerian Ministry of Education to counsel and test students for HIV/ AIDS and this is preventing the two threats of legal action from becoming a reality.

The challenge is how to balance the rights of teenagers to know their status as they mature against the rights of parents to control what their teenagers are told.

The Jos volunteer team visited one secondary school in March and April. They shared the gospel with 1,335 students and tested 325. No students tested positive for HIV.

27 April 2018Walking for traumatised Christians in Borno State

Please do join us for our 2018 countryside walk to raise funds for new ministry in Borno State.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in Borno over the last eight years of conflict between the military and Boko Haram. Many have died or fled into the bush; churches, homes and businesses are destroyed.

Now the situation is stabilising and aid agencies are beginning to expand their operations to meet basic nutrition and health needs. It is time for Grace & Light to return to the state and support local churches as they begin rebuilding and reach out into their communities.

Your support will enable us to send a team into Borno to contact existing volunteers, visit church leaders, begin to speak in churches and offer HIV/ AIDS testing, recruit and train new volunteers so ministry to churches and schools in Borno can be self-sustaining.

Current situation

Yola staff members Tony Sudan and Tari Bitrus got a glimpse of what it will be like to rekindle ministry in Borno back in August 2017 when they rekindled our work in Michika, Adamawa State, which has also been devastated by the insurgency in the north-east.

They heard stories of volunteers who had lost their lives, homes, businesses and relatives. Life continued to be precarious with unreliable mobile communications and electricity.

However, they were still inspired by Grace & Light and wanted to be part of our renewed ministry in the area. Three original volunteers and 17 new people joined our Michika team.

They are faithfully visiting local congregations, sharing the gospel, counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS and supporting people as they struggle to return to normal life.

Now in 2018, with your support, Grace & Light will be recruiting new volunteers to work in similar circumstances with churches in Borno State.

Beautiful English Countryside

Our 12 mile (20km) circular walk takes us up and over the spectacular South Downs and along the Arun River.

We begin our walk along the side of Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral, through Arundel Park and up onto the South Downs for fabulous views out to the sea.

We then walk down and along the Arun River to Houghton Bridge where we will stop for lunch in the secret garden at the delightfully quaint Bridge Inn.

In the afternoon we will along the other side of the Arun to North Stoke and back past the Wetlands Centre and Swanbourne Lake to Arundel for afternoon tea.

Do join us even if you are not confident you can walk the full 20km. You will be able to hop on and off our support minibus at lunch should you need a break from walking.

Rather than walking you may prefer to support our walkers.

Founders Mark and Isabelle Hopkins will be joining us on this walk, along with our UK trustees.

Details are on how to register for the walk and how to donate to our ministry at https://mydonate.bt.com/events/graceandlightsouthdowns/457428

05 March 2018More volunteer teams are active

More volunteer teams are active following refresher training in October, taking our social righteousness message to more and more congregations.

“Our message of social righteousness continues to speak to the hearts of people, causing them to change their lives and live better,” said Tassie.

“During counselling at one church a woman, who is studying at a theological college, began crying and saying she is not living up to what she professes. She had been sleeping with her teachers and neighbours and didn’t realise how wrong this was.

“She made up her mind to change and to speak with her lecturers so they change also, a brave thing to do. Grace & Light continues to support her.

“At another church we met a young woman studying at technical college who said she was sleeping around to support her widowed mother and pay her college fees.

“We taught her how to run a business, so she earns this money in a way that honours God. Now she goes to the wholesaler and buys snacks and women’s hygiene items to sell to other students at her college and is able to support herself and her mother. During the holidays, when there is not college, she will bake homemade goods and sell them in the local market.”

Between December and February volunteer teams visited 24 churches, sharing the gospel with 3,153 people. Of these, 1,539 chose to be tested for HIV/ AIDS and eight were positive.

Ninety-two per cent of those tested chose to join life sharing groups in their churches; 760 rededicated their lives to Christ and 168 made a first commitment.

Eight volunteer teams were active over the three months – Inye, Michika, Mangu, Lafia, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Jos.

05 March 2018Schools' ministry transforms from ad hoc to structured programme

Grace & Light is moving its ministry in secondary schools from ad hoc activities to a structured programme. This is possible following the successful fundraising walk in Dorking last June.

The Jos and Yola volunteer teams are increasing the number of schools they visit each month during 2018. Already they have visited nine schools in the first two months of the year.

“Sadly, we are still testing students who prove to be HIV positive and we continue to hear testimonies from young people who are being molested and abused by big men, often known to their families, or in some cases their fathers. Others are neglected by their parents who tell them to go find their school fees themselves.”

The Jos and Yola volunteer teams visited 11 secondary schools between December and February this year. They shared the gospel with 2,326 students and tested 1,231. Seven students tested positive for HIV.

Three hundred and fifty-two students rededicated their lives to Christ and another 131 made first commitments.

PLease pray for the secondary students we speak with, especially those who are HIV positive; and also that more schools would open their doors to Grace & Light, inviting our teams in to speak with, counsel and test their students.

05 March 2018Sexual & gender violence training

Grace & Light is supporting Tearfund’s sexual & gender-based violence programme in Nigeria.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata and programme officer Pofi Josiah joined Tearfund’s five-day training in Abuja from 19 February, along with delegates from partner organisations in many countries. Training was delivered by three facilitators from Tearfund’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.

“Sexual and gender violence is happening everywhere across the world,” said Tassie. “We were able to share our experiences with delegates from other African and Asia countries, learning from each other.

“Jesus is our model. He had God-given power and used it to honour both genders, modelling the way we are supposed to live with each other.”

The programme helps faith leaders respond effectively to the causes of sexual exploitation and abuse of children, women and men – things like poverty, forced marriages, multiple sexual partners, decline of cultural values and the insurgency in the North East.

According to the Nigeria Demographic & Health Survey, in 2013 almost 30 per cent of Nigerian women had experienced physical violence by the time they were 15.

“We are delighted that Tearfund invited us to participate in the training. For us it indicates they recognise our work around sexual violence and are treating us as a partner, even though Tearfund does not directly support our activities,” said Tassie.

She is now tailoring the training for Grace & Light and will be delivering a three-day programme for staff and volunteers from 7-9 March in the Jos head office.

05 March 2018Volunteers and staff improve trauma healing skills

Americans Chris and John Breuker have spent a week with Grace & Light, delivering training in trauma healing, mentoring staff members and observing during visits to churches.

Chris and John were in Jos for six weeks helping local Christians support traumatised people in identifying and bringing their pain to God, for the charity World Renew.

Their training builds capabilities in helping individuals release their pain, develop the ability to forgive and be reconciled with those who inflicted the pain. This frees people to care for themselves and to serve others.

“We meet lots of hurting and traumatised people in churches for many different reasons,” explained Tassie Ghata.

“This training, which happened while I was in the United Kingdom, is equipping our staff and volunteers to empathise and better help these people.”

Fifteen staff and Jos volunteer team members participated in the training programme.

According to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, 325,000 displaced people are living in refugee camps in Plateau State; most have fled the insurgency in the North East. There are multiple camps around Jos, two are in the city itself.

You can read more of World Renew’s trauma healing work in Nigeria at https://worldrenew.net/what-we-do/projects/post-conflict-trauma-healing-nigeria

05 March 2018COCIN churches in Du open to social righteousness

The Jos volunteer team is being invited to visit COCIN churches in the southern part of the city following an advocacy visit to the Regional Church Council in Du.

Already thee pastors have contacted the volunteer team leader to arrange Sunday morning visits to their churches - for the team to share the call to live according to gospel standards of social righteousness, as well as counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS.

“We had not been invited to visit COCIN churches in this southern area of Jos before,” said Tassie Ghata. “We were very pleased to speak with so many pastors and are sure more churches will be calling us to arrange visits.”

Tassie, Pofi Josiah, Dawuleng Jacob and Alfred Mshelizah visited the Regional Church Council offices on 27 February. They met 55 pastors from 35 COCIN churches in Du. Tassie explained what Grace & Light does and how we partner with local churches.

23 February 2018Join our fundraising walk for new ministry in Borno State

Open fields, pine forests, ancient woodlands, soothing water, breathtaking views, unfolding history.

Our 12 mile (20km) circular walk on Saturday, 2 June will take us up and over the spectacular South Downs and along the Arun River.

We begin our walk along the side of Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral, through Arundel Park and up onto the South Downs for fabulous views to the coast.

We then walk down and along the Arun River to Houghton Bridge where we will stop for lunch in the secret garden at the delightfully quaint Bridge Inn.

In the afternoon we will walk up High Titten and along the South Downs Way to Rackham Banks, an ancient monument, then to North Stoke and back past the Wetlands Centre and Swanbourne Lake to Arundel for afternoon tea.

There will be plenty of time in Arundel to explore its array of antique, book, craft and sweet shops.

Do join us even if you are not confident you can walk the full 20km. You will be able to hop on and off our support minibus at lunch should you need a break from walking.

Rekindling ministry

Our walk is raising funds for new ministry in Borno State, north eastern Nigeria. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in Borno over the last eight years of conflict between the military and Boko Haram. Many have died or fled into the bush; churches, homes and businesses are destroyed.

Now the situation is stabilising and aid agencies are beginning to expand their operations to meet basic nutrition and health needs. It is time for Grace & Light to return to the state and support local churches as they begin rebuilding and reach out into their communities.

Your support will enable us to send a team into Borno to contact existing volunteers, visit church leaders, begin to speak in churches and offer HIV/ AIDS testing, recruit and train new volunteers so ministry to churches and schools in Borno can be self-sustaining.

Create your own fundraising page at Grace & Light South Downs

If you are unable to join our walk, please do consider support our walkers, you can link to their fundraising pages at Grace & Light South Downs

23 February 2018Tassie delighted to meet Scottish and English supporters

Tassie encourages British supporters with the same message she share in Nigerian churches, during her visit at the beginning of 2018.

Every day was a highlight! Our first visit was a catch up with George Verwer who shared insights and wisdom from his 50 years mentoring missionaries and gave Tassie a newly published African study bible.

She used one of its stories to illustrate her talk the following morning at Rye Lane Baptist Chapel. There we joined more than 40 women for breakfast, worship and some fun games before Tassie spoke about being complete through God’s grace and shared stories of Nigerian women who know they are whole in Christ but are also living with HIV.

The weekend we spent in Worthing with Trish and Chris Chatfield meeting with the local Pioneers prayer group, speaking at Elim Worthing’s morning service and sharing during an African-themed evening at St Paul’s church.

At the beginning of the week we took the train to Glasgow and on to Dunblane where Graeme Simpson collected us for the drive to their home in Crieff. It was c-c-c-cold and snowed the next morning; great big soft flakes falling straight out of the sky.

That evening Graeme and Carolyn had organised an African meal at Crieff Baptist Church and Tassie gave an update on our Nigerian work to the missionary prayer group, again sharing stories of how God is transforming lives through Grace & Light.

The following morning, we took trains and a bus back through Glasgow and south east to Cumnock – letting Tassie see how beautiful the Scottish Highlands are, especially when snow-covered. Our evening was spent with the bible study group at Cumnock Baptist Church, a congregation that has faithfully supported Grace & Light over many years.

More buses and trains the following day, this time to York where Sandra and Chris Lemming collected us and took us to their home in Holme-on-Spalding Moor.

Non-stop activities followed the next day; first Tassie spoke at the village primary school, then lunch in the church coffee shop in the heart of the village, speaking at the afternoon bible study group and finally dinner with ministers from all the local churches. Dinner was another new experience – melting Swiss cheese under a raclette grill then scraping it on to bread and vegetables.

At the end of the week we took the train back to London and an international night at St Paul’s Brentford followed by Chatsworth Baptist Church in West Norwood Sunday morning.

Tassie’s final few days in the UK were with St Thomas’s in Trowbridge, speaking at their women’s fellowship and missionary prayer meeting.

Each time Tassie spoke we invited people to support our work through prayer, one-off gifts and regular donations. If you would like to do so you can find out more here.

We are grateful to the many people who invited us into their homes during Tassie’s visit and who gave generously to support our work in Nigeria. We raised over £1,600 from churches and individuals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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