30 May 2023Social Righteousness Focus Reduces Election Violence
Nigeria’s election in February was far more peaceful than expected, especially given many Christians believe the election was stolen. Grace & Light is taking some of the credit for this unexpected peace.
During January and February volunteer teams shared the gospel perspective on politics and voting in elections, encouraging people to vote for people who put serving their communities before then own advancement.
Congregations were encouraged not to cast their votes for politicians because they came from the same tribe, or had been offered money for their votes.
Instead they were challenged to look at their character and behaviours and elect people with high morals and policies that would be good for the whole community and the country.
“We also highlighted social righteousness, calling on congregations to live according to gospel values, to see all people are created in God’s image and to love and respect them as God does.,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “We are sure this made a difference during the elections. People chose not to use violence as a way of protesting when the results were not what they wanted.”
Four volunteer teams have been active in the first quarter of 2023. Between them the Jos, Yola, Jalingo and Mangu teams visited 21 local churches.
In total these teams shared the gospel of social righteousness with 7,320 people and tested 642 for HIV/ AIDS. Only 2 people tested positive and are now receiving ongoing support.
Out of those who tested 615 people (96%) chose to be open about their HIV status with family and close friends.
Many stepped into deeper relationships with God. 1,097 people rededicated their lives to Christ and another 103 made first commitments.
The volunteer teams also set up 24 new Voluntary Savings and Accountability Groups (VSAG) groups in these churches.
Please pray for:
- Our nine active volunteer teams, that members will be committed to visiting at least one church each month during 2023. As well as Jos, Yola, Jalingo and Mangu, they include Gombe, Lafia, Hong, Abuja and Zing
- Our non-active volunteer teams will overcome barriers and begin visiting churches in 2023. They are Bauchi, Obudu, Michika, Langtang, Fufore, Zaria, Izzi, Agubia, Echaria, Ndiegu-Azu, Ankpa, Biu, Damaturu and Potiskum
- The 24 new VSAG groups will work well, helping people come out of poverty by learning to save, as well as encouraging members to live lives that honour God
- Christian politicans will honour God with their words and actions, acting as role models in Nigeria.
30 May 2023Warm Welcome for Tassie Ghata in the United Kingdom
London to Littlehampton and back again; then Sheffield, Doncaster and remote Kirby Stephen before London once more: Tassie Ghata tours the UK.
International coordinator spent two weeks in England during March, meeting supporters, strengthening relationships and updating congregations on what is happening in Nigeria.
Tassie’s visit commenced with a trustees meeting followed by afternoon tea for supporters in London, followed by a weekend in Littlehampton. While there Tassie spoke at The Hub in Upper Beeding and afternoon tea for supporters in Worthing.
Back in London Tassie met evangelical church leaders at a conference in Tower Hamlets before travelling north to speak at The Well in Sheffield, and Kirby Stephen Methodist Church as well as visiting the Pioneers team in Doncaster.
We will begin planning Tassie’s 2024 UK visit in the autumn. Please let Jo Ann Eastgate know if you would like her visit and speak with members of your congregation.
Please pray for:
- Interest from church leaders Tassie met during her visit; that they will continue their interest and support in our work in Nigeria
- Our many UK supporters will continue to support our work through prayer and donations
30 May 2023Celebrating 20 Years
There is much to celebrate in our first 20 years – HIV/AIDS losing its stigma, open doors and pulpits in churches, loyal and active volunteers, seeds germinating in young people’s lives, generous supporters around the world.
Grace & Light was formed 20 years ago, in 2003, in a revelation to our chair Mark Hopkins following the AIDS-related death of someone he regarded as a daughter.
In his address at our annual general meeting in Jos, Mark said: “thinking back 20 years, I can picture my daughter Patience Chule getting ready to die. It was a week later that God gave me, totally unprepared as I was, a blueprint for what became Grace & Light.
“The text I took for Patience’s funeral was the death of Samson. My message was that, as Samson killed more in dying than he ad in life, so Patience’s death would bring more people to life in Christ than she had been able to do living. How god has turned this hope of mine into glorious reality!
Over the 20 years 548,356 have heard Grace & Light’s message to lead lives honouring God. Our volunteer teams have tested 177,303 people in 2,551 churches and another 14,121 in 110 secondary schools.
Just 3,009 have tested positive and are receiving treatment; while 39 people have subsequently died of the disease.
Of those who tested, 161,895 chose to share with their status with close friends and family, and joined life sharing groups when these were supported in their churches. Many made Christian commitments; 41,585 rededicated their lives to Christ and 9,460 made first commitments.
“We want more and more people to lose sight of themselves and see only Jesus and is righteousness, expressing this in multiple powerful ways in the sock society in which we live.
“The reality is that evil has become deeply entrenched in just about every nook and cranny of the nation, tragically not excluding our churches. Our Lord and his apostles warned us often enough that we need endurance and perseverance as we go against the powerful satanic world order. This is just what he has given us capacity for in the power of his spirit.
“I call on you to sow patiently for righteousness, looking to God to rain it down and produce a bountiful harvest in his good time.”
Please pray for:
- Our ministry honours and brings glory to God
- Grace & Light’s leaders listen to God’s voice as they plan our future direction
- Church leaders and politicians adopt our message calling them to live lives that honour God in their communities.
30 May 2023Pastors Support Gender Champions Programme
COCIN and ECWA church leaders have greater understanding of the sexual and gender-based violence many of their congregation members face.
Thirty-eight pastors from a dozen COCIN and ECWA churches in the wider Jos area attended a half-day workshop in mid-March in preparation for their churches introducing the Gender Champions training programme.
The workshop explored root causes of sexual and gender-based violence, signs to look out for, how to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
“the pastors said they were very excited to have Grace & Light’s support as they serve their communities. Some pastors went back and spoke with other church leaders who weren’t able to attend our workshop; this resulted in another seven churches signing up for the Gender Champions programme,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.
“Some of the pastors and their wives were abuse survivors. They cried as they remembered how they were treated. They learnt to forgive and said in the future they won’t stay quiet, but instead will act when they see abuse.
“Afterwards, one wife shared that we had saved her marriage. She was ready to leave her husband. But when he returned from our workshop he asked for forgiveness. He hadn’t realised that he has responsibilities in the home and committed to fulfilling them in future.”
Please pray for:
- Church leaders as they support members of their congregations dealing with the aftereffects of sexual and gender-based violence
- People leading the Gender Champions programmes in the 19 churches; that they will be wise and caring as they support their group members in changing behaviours
30 May 2023Congregations Strengthen Relationships
Social righteousness continued to be a popular and relevant focus for workshops for church congregations during February.
Over six hundred people who attended two workshops in Lafia and Dong Kassa committed to supporting their partners through struggles, or each other as they start small businesses.
Pastors & Wives Workshop, ERCC Lafia
One hundred and thirty people attended Grace & Light’s workshop for pastors and their wives at ERCC Lafia at the beginning of February. Lafia volunteer team leader Matthew Alago and operations manager Pofi Josiah led the full day with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence.
As well as spending time explaining Grace & Light properly to participants, Matthew and Pofi focused on sexual and gender-based violence. They also looked in detail at family issues.
“During group discussions, men and women met separately so they could talk freely about the issues they face both at home and in their churches,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.
“They realised how much their partners struggle and that they need to work together and support each other as much as they can.”
Congregation Workshop, ECWA Dong Kassa
Almost 500 people attended this full day social righteousness workshop for ECWA congregations in Jos North led by Tassie Ghata in mid-February.
Tassie focused on poverty and wealth, while members of the Jos volunteer team counselled everyone who wanted to talk about what was happening in their lives.
“We talked about practical ways of getting out of poverty including setting up small businesses, as well as being accountable to others, supporting each other and learning how to run a business together,” Tassie said.
Many of the people who attended took our message to heart and have since joined VSAC (Voluntary Savings and Accountability Groups) in their churches.”
Many also made first commitments to Christ or rededicated their lives to him during the day.
Please pray for:
- Lafia volunteer team members as they strengthen relationships with the ERCC Lafia pastors, including invitations to speak during Sunday services
- Lafia pastors and their wives will be positive role models for living lives of social righteousness in their congregations
- Dong Kassa entrepreneurs will be successful in running their small businesses and taking their families out of poverty
- Dong Kassa people who made first commitments or rededicated their lives will grow in their relationships with God
30 May 2023People Deepen Their Commitment to Honouring God
Christians deepen their commitment to live lives that honour God when challenged about their lifestyles.
More than 3,300 people heard Grace & Light’s call to live lives of social righteousness at five very well attended events during January.
They made first commitments or recommitted their lives to Christ, promised to change the ways they behaved within their families and at work, and to vote for credible politicians.
Women’s Fellowship Convention, COCIN RCC Jing
Our international coordinator Tassie Ghata was the main speaker at this annual meeting for the COCIN churches in Jing at the beginning of January attended by 1,268 women.
Over three days she covered our four social righteousness issues – poverty and wealth, work and corruption, sexual and gender-based violence and politics of righteousness.
We raised awareness that Christianity is not working well in their villages. We asked why people are very poor, why corruption is happening in their daily lives, why they are electing politicians they are acquainted with who they know are not godly people.
“Instead we challenged them to elect people with character, morals and policies that are god for their villages,” Tassie said.
“We spent lots of time on each of the four topics, exploring them in depth, with plenty of time for questions and discussions. We made the topics practical and relevant for their communities.”
Grace & Light’s message on sexual and gender-based violence was timely, as during the convention a woman was raped while fetching water from a local stream.
The women sent for their husbands to come and join us and Grace & Light provided their transport. Hundreds of men joined us as we shared the gospel perspective on family life that honours God.
Tassie, along with national administrator Dawuleng Jacob counselled more than 50 people during the conference, talking through issues in their spiritual lives, corruption at work and family dynamics.
Youth Fellowship Convention, COCIN RCC Jing
When the women who attended the annual convention arrived home they persuaded their children to attend, and 758 young people from 27 churches did so.
This time the speakers were Dawuleng Jacob and operations manager Pofi Josiah. They covered the four social righteousness topics – poverty and wealth, work and corruption, sexual and gender-based violence and politics – from the perspective of young people.
The youth were pleased to see them as Pofi and Dawuleng are local men who have made something of their lives,” said Tassie Ghata. “And they gave their presentations in the local dialects.”
Youth Fellowship Convention, COCIN RCC Mangun
In early January Pofi Josiah was also the guest speaker at the annual three day convention for young people in Mangun; 758 young people from 33 churches attended.
During counselling they shared lots of issues with sexual abuse, often from a young age, and substance abuse. Many recommitted their lives to Christ or made a first commitment.
“Young people were sharing that the believed following Christ was only supposed to happen in church. Now they know that following Christ should happen in all aspects of their lives,” said Tassie Ghata.
Pastors and Wives Workshop, Kerang
At the end of January 172 people attended this full day workshop for pastors, their wives and church secretaries in Kerang, which is part of RCC COCIN Mangun.
Tassie Ghata was the guest speaker, again covering Grace & Light’s four social righteousness topics with participants representing around 60 churches.
“This was a chance for church leaders to hear in detail about Grace & Light’s work and how we support local congregations,” said Tassie. “They were able to ask lots of questions and we could allay their fears about what happens when congregations are challenged about the way they live.
“We know from experience, that God uses our words to convict people to repent and change their lives.”
Church leaders were also convinced and since this workshop 40 churches have booked Grace & Light volunteer teams to speak during their Sunday services, counsel and test their congregations for HIV/AIDS.
During personal counselling at the end of the workshop several couples shared their knew they were not doing very well in their home lives. Husbands recognised they were not helping their wives, wives were bearing too much of the family responsibilities, and they were not complimenting each other. They made commitments to each other to do better.
“They were also convicted by our message around the politics of righteousness and said they wished someone had come earlier to tell them that they should not elect politicians just because they were from the same tribe,” said Tassie.
Couples Workshop, Adamawa State
Eighty couples from Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN) Assembly of God and Baptist churches in Jimenta and Kofare attended a workshop for pastors and their wives led by Grace & Light’s Yola manager James Gisum and Pofi Josiah.
This time the focus was on God’s plan for marriage, harmony, love, affection, respect, honour and role modelling, for the next generation, how to become one in a way that honours God.
Plus they looked in detail at the opposite of God’s plan for marriage – resentment, frustration, anger, aggression, divorce. This includes the consequences of sexual and gender-based violence and the root causes of violence in marriage – unbalanced power, inequalities and unrealistic expectations of relationship.
Much time was given to reconciliation, with couples sitting together and sharing deeply, facilitated by James from the front. This meant discussions could be personal and confidential.
Please pray for:
- Christian women and youth in the 26 villages in Jing, that they will serve their communities with Christ’s love and be witnesses for him
- Young people in Jing and Mangun will continue to live as followers of Christ in all aspects of their lives and relationships
- Pastors, their wives and church leaders in Kerang, Jimenta and Kofare as they seek to live out and role model God’s ideals for marriage.