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24 May 2022Great to See Friends New and Old

So many highlights for Tassie Ghata of her time in the UK meeting old friends and new supporters from the South Coast to Cumbria near the border with Scotland.

Tassie’s tour started with a drive from London to Cumbria, then York, Sheffield, Doncaster, London, Worthing and back to London – we lost count of the miles.

Highlights include meeting students at The Well in Sheffield, the African night at Elim Worthing, a wonderfully informal service at The Hub in Upper Beeding and catchup with the team at Book Aid in Sydenham.

It was great to spend time with Pioneers UK staff this visit; and have tea with ex-Nigerian missionaries Maurice Cottom and Bridget Williams, as well as Les Issacs and George Verwer – all long time supporters of our work.

Tassie Ghata will next be in the UK 12-26 April next year. If you would like her to visit your church – either during a Sunday service or a group that meets during the week – contact Jo Ann Eastgate on jo.ann01@btconnect.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 May 2022Fundraising Walk Along the Arun River

In 2022 our summer walk is raising funds for new volunteer training in Nigeria during the second half of the year.

On Saturday, 11 June we will begin at the war memorial in Arundel, walk up past historic Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral, then through Arundel Park and onto the South Downs for fabulous views out to the Channel.

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 along the opposite bank of the Arun River, 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.

If you are not confident you can walk the full 10 miles, you can begin or end at The Bridge Inn, which is close to Amberley train station.

You don’t need to raise funds from other people to join us, making a donation to another walker is absolutely fine.

If you choose to raise funds, we can provide a sponsorship form – contact Jo Ann Eastgate for a copy at jo.ann01@btconnect.com.

Please do let Jo Ann know you are joining us.

You can also create your own fundraising page at www.peoplesfundraising.com/fundraising-team/grace-light-sponsored-walk-2022

If you are not able to join us for our walk, please do sponsor one of our walkers at this website.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • Fine warm weather, not too hot, without rain or strong winds so we have an enjoyable walk
  • Lots of good conversations and fun during the day
  • Generosity in sponsorship so we can fund at least one new volunteer training programme in the autumn.

23 May 2022Christian politicians challenged to put God before ambition

International coordinator Tassie Ghata was given the opportunity to explain God’s expectations of political leaders before 500 people during a rally in preparation for Nigerian elections next year.

During her 60 minute speech Tassie introduced the concept of the politics of righteousness, saying “this is getting involved in government, leadership or influencing societal decisions in a way and manner that brings glory to God and impacts the people positively.

“With this definition, it is possible to have politics of righteousness in Nigeria at every level, because there are people who love God and are ready to obey Him no matter what.”

She highlighted the issue she believes causes Christians and churches to distance themselves from politics: Christian politicians who become drunk with power and shipwreck their faith.

“They fail to live according to God’s commands and also don’t take a stand for the truth, perhaps because they are afraid of losing their position or want to please the crowd.”

Tassie encouraged both the aspiring and current politicians in the audience to:

  • Eagerly and earnestly seek for God’s righteousness and surrender themselves to Jesus Christ
  • Serve the people rather than lording over them
  • Seek wisdom from God for their work and decisions.

“We are in a very tough time today. One of the biggest issue for politicians is our endemic corruption. Everywhere people are talking about corruption and how bad and deep it is. Many think it can’t be changed, that it is a way of life in Nigeria.

“We need politicians who will remain courageous in the midst of difficult times and challenges, understanding that God calls them to this position as their mission field, demonstrating his righteousness within politics.”

The rally, in COCIN headquarters in Jos, included the 45 Christian politicians standing for election in 2023 as well as current House of Representative and Senate politicians for Plateau State.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • Aspiring and current politicians in Nigeria as they prepare to contest seats in the 2023 elections
  • Churches as they support candidates who are members of their congregations.

23 May 2022Where your treasure is, there your heart is

Grace & Light members are being encouraged to save part of their incomes and invest in each other’s businesses to reduce the poverty in their lives.

Voluntary Savings and Accountability Groups are the new way of doing life sharing accountability for Grace & Light members who choose to share their HIV results after testing in local churches.

Shortened to VSAG, Grace & Light began introducing the new way of running accountability during 2021. So far 20 groups have been set up in six churches in Jos and Yola.

Each group has 25 to 30 members who meet weekly to encourage each other in their Christian lives. They break into smaller same sex groups for advocacy and life sharing support, then come together as the large group in the final 15 minutes for savings club activities.

Each meeting they are able to buy up to five shares; all the shares have the same value that is agreed by the group, so they have financial equability. Group members can then borrow up to three times the value of their shares and pay interest to the group.

Loans are paid back within three months or interest doubles – so others can borrow. After 12 months members receive the value of their shares plus interest earned. Then their savings club starts again from scratch.

Each savings club is run by three members who act as the treasurers. When the group meets they record deposits and borrowing in a ledger and individual passbooks; then put the money in the group safe, usually in their church, or in a local bank account.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata explained: “We have been concerned for some time that members were not staying committed to life sharing groups for very long. They would join enthusiastically, then begin attending sporadically before stopping.

“This is a problem as group members depend on support from each other if they are to overcome the temptations they face in their daily lives at work and home.

“We’ve been praying for a way of strengthening their accountability to each other and this savings club model seemed good. We tested it first in our Jos office and our team members found it helpful.

“So far the groups that have started in the six churches are staying committed to meeting weekly and supporting each other with life styles and finances. We will be introducing Voluntary Saving Action Groups in other churches during 2022.”

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • Treasurers in the VSAGS will honestly and transparently manage their group members’ savings
  • Group members will attend meetings each week, share their lives openly and encourage other members to live lives that honour God
  • Church leaders will publicly support the VSAGs in their churches.

23 May 2022Teachers honour God by rejecting corruption

Secondary school leaders in Yola better understand the issues their students face after attending Grace & Light’s workshop for teachers.

Forty-four teachers from 11 private and state secondary schools spent a day in March discussing responses to corruption and poverty in education.

They shared issues they and their students face including bullying, intimidation, sexual exploitation, cheating, lying and stealing, with Grace & Light programme officer Pofi Josiah.

They also looked at trauma healing for students, understanding what teenagers go through and how to respond in a caring and supportive way; plus sexual and gender-based violence issues from the perspective of students.

Pofi said “The delegates realised they and their schools were not doing well. They acknowledged systemic corruption, how they are covering for each other and helping pupils cheat during exams. We helped them see this is a problem not just for them, but for school leaders right across Nigeria.

“These leaders also are much more aware of sexual and gender violence. They understand that pupils are not concentrating because they are suffering. They said they would begin to take this issue seriously rather than disciplining students for not concentrating.”

Delegates were nominated by their schools and were a mix of vice principals and senior teachers. This is Grace & Light’s first teachers conference since Covid.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • The teachers who attended the workshop, as they apply what they heard back in their classrooms and schools
  • They will be supported by other leaders and teachers in their schools who did not attend the workshop.

23 May 2022Baptist and COCIN churches open their doors to our volunteers

More church leaders are hearing about Grace & Light and welcoming our volunteer teams to their Sunday services following advocacy visits.

The first visit, in February, was a meeting with 28 pastors from COCIN’s Dadin Kowa regional church council in Jos south.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata spoke for an hour, explaining how Grace & Light works with local churches as well as how they can become involved, then answered questions for 30 minutes.

“They were interested and some expressed surprise that they hadn’t heard about us before. Many promised to invite us into their churches and are now making bookings with the Jos volunteer team.”

In March Tassie spoke before 35 pastors at the annual Plateau Baptist Conference, also in Jos. Again she explained what Grace & Light does and how we work with local churches; this time speaking for 90 minutes with an hour for questions.

“This time I also spoke about the politics of righteousness and sexual and gender based violence that they need to be raising with their congregations.  

“Subsequently the pastors have been inviting us into their Baptist churches for the second half of this year and they are sharing with other pastors who were not at the conference.”

Five of the Baptist pastors also came to Grace & Light's annual general meeting a couple of days later.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • COCIN and Baptist pastors being willing to invite Grace & Light volunteers into their churches and actually booking visits for Sunday services
  • More church pastors to hear about our work and contact our Jos office to find out more.

23 May 2022Openness leads to better relationships between couples

Christian couples are better at talking with each other about problems in their homes following a couples workshop for their congregation.

Twenty-six couples from an ECWA church in Miango participated in Grace & Light’s sexual and gender-based violence workshop in April.

During the day long workshop they discussed what women and men both being created in God’s image means for them, and how God expects them to treat each other.

They also heard about the differences between positive and negative parenting and how both impact their children’s self-esteem and behaviours.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata, who led the workshop, said “the workshop highlighted for them the benefits of talking openly about sexual issues. When they don’t do so it leads to frustration, quarrels and other problems in their homes.

“They said their then take these problems to their parents and siblings because they don’t know how to talk about them with their spouses.

“Many were surprised that husbands can rape their wives. We discussed this in same sex groups, expecting to take 15 minutes, and ended up taking an hour to talk through all their questions.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • Communication between the couples who attended the workshop, including around sexual satisfaction, supporting and disciplining their children
  • God to pour in deep love, affection, respect and honour between each couple.

23 May 2022Refresher training strengthens nine teams

Volunteers are recommitting themselves to encouraging local congregations to strengthen their relationships with Christ.

Seventy-six volunteers from Yola, Mubi, Hong, Biu, Gombe, Jos, Mangu, Lafia and Bauchi participated in our most recent refresher training at Miango Rest Home.

Over three days they were reminded of best practices for testing, counselling, care and support; vision sharing; the change from life sharing to voluntary saving and accountability groups; building relationships with church leaders; and social righteousness.

Each person recommitted to Grace & Light for another two years. International coordinator Tassie Ghata, who led the training, said “We are looking forward to seeing vibrancy in their lives and teams.

“Many had their initial training quite some time ago. Some things they had forgotten, other things they didn’t understand. Over the days it became clear to them how to show respect to the people they are counselling and how to ensure they are treated with respect when counselling. They said they feel better equipped to serve.

“One of the complaints many of them had was around not being paid for volunteering, as other charities do in Nigeria. We reminded them their commitment was to doing God’s work rather than getting allowances.”

Mubi is a new team, established by the ex-leader of the Michika team who was displaced to Mubi by Boko Haram insurgency.

This training was subsidised by the UK fundraising walk around Chichester Harbour in June last year.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • Volunteers in the teams that they will remain committed to visiting at least one local church each month for vision sharing, counselling, testing and establishing voluntary savings and accountability groups
  • Leaders in the teams as they build relationships with local church leaders that lead to invitations to Sunday services for their teams
  • Team members in areas impacted by insurgency including Mubi, Michika, Biu, Damaturu and Potiskum.

23 May 2022Encouraging people to reject witchcraft

Hidden stories, things people are uncomfortable sharing, are emerging during counselling as congregations recommit their lives to Christ.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata has been particularly struck in the early months of 2022 by the number of people admitting involvement in witchcraft and traditional religion. She shares about one person who believes he has killed members of his family.

“He confessed that he had cast spells to kill people he was angry with and they had later died. After hearing us share how God views witchcraft, during a Sunday sermon in his church, he made a first commitment to Christ, said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness.”

Tassie is also amazed by how many young people don’t have a Christian understanding of what marriage entails. Perhaps their spouses are in church with them, at different churches, or not church -going.

“They haven’t heard about how to love, honour and respect their partner. They don’t care about each other. Once they make a first commitment or recommit their lives to Christ during counselling, they decide to bring their spouse to our office for marriage counselling. Then we begin seeing them going to church together.

“This year we’ve also counselled more couples who are mistreating each other, physically, sexually and emotionally. They are coming for counselling in churches on Sundays and in our office and committing to change. We are looking forward to hearing testimonies of how this changes their lives.”

Four volunteer teams have been active between January and April 2022. Between them the Jos, Yola, Gombe and Jalingo teams visited 29 local churches.

In total these teams shared the gospel of social righteousness with 6,991 people and tested 1,085 for HIV/ AIDS. Five people tested positive and are receiving ongoing support and care.

Of those who tested 1,039 people (96%) chose to join life sharing accountancy groups in their churches, 963 people rededicated their lives to Christ and another 122 made first commitments. Just 46 people chose to keep their results confidential.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • People who have renounced witchcraft, that their relationships with God will strengthen and they will enjoy their new freedom from evil
  • Married couples who have committed to improve their relationships with each other, that they will grow in love, affection, respect and honour for each other

  • Volunteer teams struggling to visit churches regularly – many are in areas of unrest.

23 May 2022Family Grateful for Daughter’s Diagnosis

Parents and their adopted 14 year old daughter are delighted to have her test results following Grace & Light volunteers visiting her secondary school.

The teenager tested positive during February and at last the family knew why she had been suffering with ill health over many years. She had been receiving treatment from a hospital which had been charging for liver treatment that had cost their life’s savings and not been working.

Now their daughter has free antiretroviral medication provided by the government that is treating her symptoms and will extend her life. Her family are overjoyed.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata said: “The family are very appreciative of Grace & Light. They were taking her for hospital treatment every month and despairing. Now they know what is wrong, can get free treatment for her and are seeing her health improving.”

Tassie also shared that during visits to secondary schools the volunteers are hearing many stories about inappropriate sexual relationships with adults including relatives, teachers and family friends.

“During assemblies we speak openly about sexual abuse, telling them not to sleep with adults they know and explaining that this is abuse; many don’t realise. Then during counselling we hear their stories of sexual relationships with adults from about a third of those we speak with.

“One student said he learnt about sex from his uncle’s wife and then, thinking this was okay, began sleeping with other students. Now he has repented and committed to changing his behaviour.”

Between January and April this year the Jos and Yola volunteer teams visited 12 secondary schools, sharing the gospel of social righteousness with 2,511 students. Of these, 1,093 chose to be tested for HIV and two students tested positive.

Six hundred and seventy-seven students rededicated their lives to Christ, and another 277 made a first Christian commitment.

Prayer Requests

Please pray for:

  • The two students who have tested positive, that they will continue to take medication and live healthy and fulfilled lives with ongoing acceptance and support from their families and friends
  • Students who are being coerced to sleep with adults they know; that they will have the courage to resist and say no; and that the adults won’t punish them in response
  • Students who have made a first or recommitment, that they will grow in their relationship with Christ and give him control of their lives.

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