24 July 2019Student returns to say thank you
A year on from testing positive, a boy is much healthier and grateful to know his status.
“Now he is a fine looking young man, said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “He and his mother recently visited our Jos headquarters to say thank you and let us know how he is doing.”
His mother was grateful when Grace & Light’s Jos volunteers visited the boy’s school in 2018 and tested him for HIV/ AIDS. She had struggled to know how to tell him both she and he were infected.
They are both now on drugs and the boy is receiving financial help for school fees from our fund for vulnerable students and is able to attend all lessons.
The Jos and Jalingo volunteer teams visited two secondary schools during May and June. In total 865 pupils heard Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness. Of these, 329 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS with one testing positive. Six rededicated their lives to Christ and another nine made a first commitment.
15 July 2019Sunny day for an invigorating walk
This year’s UK fundraising walk has so far raised almost £1,000 towards HIV/ AIDS test kits that will be used in Nigeria during the second half of the year.
Twelve people joined us for our fundraising walk in June, including two visitors all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. We met at Rykas Café at the bottom of Box Hill for a nourishing breakfast before we set off.
The first part of our walk was flat through water meadows alongside the Mole River, calmly flowing on the day. The famous stepping stones were blocked off as one had been dislodged during recent floods.
Our steep climb then began up the 297 steps to the top of Box Hill and a panoramic view from the top and a chance to get our breaths back. This was followed by a more leisurely stroll through woods downwards to the bottom of the hill.
Here we were met by even steeper steps, tall and uneven, up to Mickleham Downs. By the tops our hearts were pumping and breathing heavy. The difficult parts were over, from now on we were walking downhill through forests with occasional short climbs here and there.
Lunch was in the delightful King William IV pub cascading down the hillside into the village of Mickleham. We sat outside enjoying excellent sandwiches and salads on a sunny day in a garden divided into rooms with hedges and flowering plants.
After an hours rest we were ready for the final walk back along the River Mole to Ryka’s café and a well-deserved afternoon tea.
Thank you Judy, Mike, Ebun, Julaine, Kay, Sarah and Isabelle for joining our UK trustees in fundraising for HIV/AIDS test kits for the remainder of 2019.
There is still time to support their fundraising efforts, either by giving online at https://www.goldengiving.com/wall/grace-and-light or posting a cheque to Grace & Light UK, 8 Kingswood Drive, Upper Norwood, London SE19 1UR.
15 July 2019HIV infection rates increasing
During Sunday visits to churches, volunteers are beginning to see new HIV cases, something that is concerning international coordinator Tassie Ghata.
“These are people who were not expecting to be HIV positive and are shocked to find that they are. There is a pattern.
“Most are middle aged and married, with one a church member and their partner not a church goer. They are both women and men. When we follow up we find both are HIV positive and usually the partner does know their status.”
Tassie shares some examples. At one church a woman began crying when she discovered she was HIV positive, she expected to be clear as she was faithful to her husband, a church elder who had led the service that day. He had left straight after the service and before testing began.
In this case Tassie asked a retired nurse in the congregation to follow up. When she met the husband, he admitted he knew he was positive, but had been afraid to tell his wife. He has now apologised to his wife and she has accepted his apology. They are both on drugs. Church members are supportive and he has not had to stand down from his leadership position as members have also forgiven him.
At another church a husband was too ill to come to services, but did not know he had AIDS. They realised when his wife tested HIV positive and Grace & Light volunteers visited their home to test him also.
Their issue was that they did not have money to travel from their village to the nearest hospital for testing and drugs; now they have local support from Grace & Light volunteers and their church. Both are on drugs and are already feeling stronger. The husband has rededicated his life to Christ, has stopped drinking, returned to church and been accepted by the congregation.
Seven volunteer teams - from Jos, Yola, Bauchi, Lafia, Michika, Jalingo and Biu - visited 21 churches during May and June. They shared the gospel with 4,327 people of whom 1,260 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Seven people tested positive.
Most of those who tested – 1,195 - chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups based in their churches.
Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 150 were new converts while 723 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.
26 May 2019Monitoring visit to support Yola workers
Persecution is an increasing challenge for Christians in north eastern Nigeria, with Grace & Light teaching how Christians should respond in ways that honour God.
Local congregations and their leaders in Yola appreciate support from our Yola team workers Tony Sudan and Tari Bitrus, plus volunteer team members. They in turn need encouragement from our Jos headquarters.
Thus, in April International coordinator Tassie Ghata, lifesharing coordinator Ibrahim Bitrus and security guard Salomon Ibrahim spent five days in Yola. Some of their time was spent auditing activities, planning work, sharing new initiatives and praying.
They also visited COCIN Regional Church Council offices in Yola, meeting with chairman Barnabas Kpasham who studied at TCNN and was a Grace & Life life sharing member while a student in Jos.
“The council secretary and two committee members joined Barnabas for our meeting,” said Tassie. “We were able to share what we do and what Grace & Light is all about. They were excited to welcome us and will open doors into COCIN churches for the Yola team.”
Two days later Tassie and Tony led a day workshop for pastors and church leaders who are already Grace & Light members in Yola. Forty-five people attended and discussed issues of social righteousness, persecution, corruption and sexual and gender-based violence in their communities.
Additionally, Tassie, Ibrahim and Salomon took boxes of books from BookAid to sell to local people with the income helping to fund ministry in Yola.
26 May 2019Widows encouraged to stand up to abuse
Widows living in the rural Mangun area are encouraged to care for themselves and their children and to support each other with the cultural challenges they face.
International coordinator Tassie Ghata led a workshop for 362 widows in the area, which is 80km south of Jos, in early May. She shared Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness and encouraged the widows to support themselves and their families through work, both employment and entrepreneurship.
During the day they also looked at the societal challenges of being a widow in Nigeria. “They were able to share their own experiences. Many talked about how their husbands’ families took everything when he died including sons, so they and their daughters were left with little to live on.
“Sexual and gender-based violence is a particular issue for them, as without a man to protect them, they and their daughters are vulnerable. We encouraged them to stand together and not to keep quiet when they are abused, instead to ask for help from their pastors and congregations.”
This workshop is one of the outputs from Tassie’s advocacy visit to COCIN’s Mangun Regional Church Council pastors’ meeting in April.
26 May 2019Faithful volunteer teams
New volunteer teams in the North East continue to visit congregations to share the gospel and test for HIV/ AIDS. Between them Potiskam, Biu and Damaturu teams have faithfully visited seven churches since February.
“Congregations and families are happy we are visiting and providing testing as the government is fully focused on defeating Boko Haram in the area,” said Tassie Ghata. “The government has its hand full dealing with problems in the internally displaced people camps and can’t manage HIV issues as well.
“Grace & Light is able to fill the gap, helping people know their status, providing access to drugs for those who are positive, encouraging through life sharing groups.
“Church leaders are also happy as we do not just talk about HIV/ AIDS, but also focus on social righteousness and how to live as Christ wants us to.”
Jos volunteer team revisited Kurmin B ECWA church on Easter Sunday, with Tassie sharing her message on The Way of the Cross. She said “Multiple people said afterwards that they were encouraged to continue following Jesus example.
“Many are government workers and said they were on the verge of giving up on trying to live according to social righteousness principles because it wasn’t working for them.
“What they meant was that at work they were being criticised for their good behaviour instead of being celebrated or rewarded and this had been demotivating them. Now, after our visit, they will continue to follow social righteousness.”
The Gombe team visited Gombe University during April and shared with students in its Chapel of Joy. Tassie said “Usually university students don't want to test for HIV/ AIDS so we were delighted so many came to hear us speak and then to test 241 who were all willing to be open with each other.”
Seven volunteer teams - from Jos, Yola, Gombe, Bauchi, Jalingo, Biu and Potiskum - visited 11 churches during April. They shared the gospel with 2,830 people of whom 726 chose to be tested and know their HIV status. Two people tested positive.
Most of those who tested – 718 - chose to be open with their status and joined life sharing support groups based in their churches.
Significant numbers made a Christian commitment; 91 were new converts while 318 rededicated their lives to Christ and promised to live according to gospel values.