17 October 2019Social righteousness leaders conference doubles in size

Grace & Light’s annual National Leaders’ Conference on Social Righteousness continues to grow in reputation and size, this year attracting 110 religious and business leaders from across Nigeria.

Social righteousness is a topic they recognise as at the heart of Nigerian life and that they want to discuss with each other, sharing experiences and practical responses.

Discussions built on the earlier conferences in 2017 and 2018 when delegates accepted change starts with them and committed to beginning to role model social righteousness in their communities.

Over four plenary sessions, keynote speaker Rev Les Issac OBE, founder and CEO of Ascension Trust and of Street Pastors, challenged people to remember where they come from, be an authentic Christian wherever they are, drop pride and imitate Jesus.

In all the evaluations at the conference end, delegates said Les’ passion stood out along with his positivity in overcoming adversity, which he shared in his personal testimony. The conference was again held in Jos over three days in mid-September.

Twice as many delegates attended this year compared to 2017 and 2018. Half were church leaders from many different denominations, 16% were secondary school head teachers, university and bible college lecturers, 14% were medical professional and civil servants, and the remaining 20% leaders from business and NGOs.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata said, “Delegates left saying they will be deliberate in mentoring others, role modelling Christlikeness, insisting on excellence, and behaving consistently in their private and public lives.

“We were pleased to hear what we shared during the conference has changed their understanding about social righteousness, their attitudes and they intend to change the way their behave.”

Please pray for leaders as they return to their congregations and organisations, that they will be able to maintain the commitments they made during the conference.

[l-r] Julaine Hedman and Les Issac of Ascension Trust with Mark Hopkins, Grace & Light chairman

17 October 2019Support continues for North Eastern churches

Volunteers in Biu and Potiskum continue to faithfully visit local churches in North Eastern Nigeria in spite of unrest caused by Boko Haram and the military response.

Biu volunteers visited four churches in Borno State during August and September, while the volunteers in Potiskum visited one church in Yobe State in the same time period.

Eight volunteer teams - from Jos, Yola, Lafia, Mangu, Michika, Jalingo, Biu and Potiskum - visited 22 churches during August and September. They shared the gospel with 5,672 people of whom 1,603 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Six people tested positive.

Most of those who tested – 1,528 - 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; 183 were new converts while 679 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.

Please pray for the volunteer teams in Borno and Yobe - Biu, Potiskum and Damaturu, that they will remain encouraged and motivated to regularly visit churches in their areas.

17 October 2019First visit of the new school year

Juoro Gbaji Government Day Secondary School is the first to host a Grace & Light visit since schools resumed in mid-September.

Volunteers in the Jalingo team visited the school, which is a mixed Christian and Muslim school in Taraba State, North Eastern Nigeria. They shared the gospel with 350 students of who 158 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDs; none tested positive.

This area continues to experience civil unrest. The Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups have resumed tit for tat attacks on each other’s villages, following a short 48 hour ceasefire in late September.

Further, a recent UNICEF report says over 34,000 children in the state risk dying from a high prevalence of severe acute malnutrition.

This is due to a lethal mix of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnappings and the Tiv Jukun atrocities causing dangerous levels of food insecurity plus displacement of mass populations and decrease in morality, according to Bhanu Pathak, UNICEF’s Chief of Field Office in Bauchi.

Please pray for the people of Taraba State and for our Jalingo volunteer team as they share the gospel with schools and churches in the state.

16 September 2019Inspiring leaders to change Nigerian society

Leaders from churches, businesses, charities and government across Nigeria are joining Grace & Light for our third annual National Conference on Social Righteousness.

Each year delegate numbers increase as leaders hear about the transformation in the lives and impact of those who have attended our previous conferences. They come together to share how to bring positive change into Nigerian society.

Tassie Ghata, international coordinator, said: “We believe God is calling on leaders who still put him first to band together and plan how to make a stand for righteousness in all situations.

“We have spent decades complaining the Nigerian church is miles wide but only inches deep. It is time we stopped just talking and started dredging the river bed. This conference aims to inspire and equip Christian leaders to do just this through listening to visionary speakers, discussions and practical planning.”

This year the conference is running 19-22 September with Rev Les Issac OBE of Ascension Trust as our keynote speaker. Les is the founder and CEO of Ascension Trust and of Street Pastors, now an international initiative that engages with people on the streets to listen and help them. Les is also an honorary Ecumenical Canon at Southwark Cathedral in the UK.

Please pray for Les and Julaine Hedman who is travelling with him to Nigeria, Tassie, Mark Hopkins and our event team, as well as our many delegates. We are asking God to open their minds, hearts and spirits to what he wants to do in their organisations over the coming year.

photo: Tassie Ghata with Les Issac during her UK visit in March

13 September 2019HIV is no longer talked about

Volunteers continue to find rising HIV infections and college students who are in denial about the reality of HIV and AIDS in their communities.

During July 0.62 per cent of people our volunteers tested in churches turned out to be HIV positive. In June 1.1 per cent tested positive. Before that volunteers rarely came across people testing positive.

So, what has changed? International coordinator Tassie Ghata explains the range of factors. She says Nigerians see HIV/AIDS as part of history from the 1990’s and not something that is in society now.

As an example, she shares about two students who tested positive. “They go to the same church near a Jos university campus. They couldn’t believe they have HIV; it too some time to convince them to enrol for drugs at the local hospital and persuade their partners to also test.

“HIV as an issue is no longer talked about in Nigeria. It is harder to get test kits and they are more expensive. Partly this is because Western charities and medical organisations are withdrawing from our country as they perceive HIV is solved.

“Our government depends on their outside support to tackle HIV, and can’t do so alone, as HIV/AIDS is just one of many major problems in Nigeria that the government is dealing with.”

Six volunteer teams - from Jos, Yola, Mangu, Michika, Biu and Potiskum - visited 13 churches during July. They shared the gospel with 3,461 people of whom 968 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Six people tested positive.

Most of those who tested – 900 - chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups in churches able to support these groups.

Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 107 were new converts while 708 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.

13 September 2019Children need emotional and moral support

Volunteers hear the same story over and over again - young Nigerians are being left to sort out their lives without input from parents.

In each secondary school they visit, volunteers hear the same story. It is almost always girls and occasionally boys. They have been raped in their own homes by uncles, family friends, relatives, both men and women. They never tell their parents.

“Parents are not there for their children emotionally and morally. We are saying to parents, don’t just pursue money to provide better material possessions, also care for your children’s emotional and moral lives,” explains international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“Talk to them about homosexuality, rape, sex and other serious issues so they know how to respond and how to get help.”

Volunteers find these students often believe rape is a punishment they deserve, because this is what the perpetrator tells them. It isn’t until they hear our Grace & Light talk that they realise they are victims and have done nothing wrong.

During July, the Jos team visited two secondary schools, sharing the gospel with 520 students and testing 351 (67.5%). Of these, 206 (40%) rededicated their lives to Christ and 76 (14.6%) made a first commitment.

Please pray for more schools to open their doors to Grace & Light volunteers now the new term has begun. We’ve visited fewer schools since February as most closed during the elections and then spent the remainder of the school year focused on catching up and covering the syllabus.

We also cancelled our annual teachers’ conference, planned for June, because teachers were unable to take time away from their classrooms.

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