April 99

April 5, 1999

Dear Friends,
It's Easter. Again.

It's time to celebrate the meaning of the Cross. Again.

It's time to embrace the reality of the Resurrection. Again.

It's time to affirm the Good News of redemption. Again.

It's time to acknowledge God's sovereignty. Again.

It's time to rediscover joy. Again.

It's time to confess we sinned. Again.

It's time to give thanks. Again.

It's time to pray. Again.

He is faithful. Again.

The Balkans are in war. Again. The news from China is not good. Again. The news from Washington, DC is no better. Again. In times like these we need to return to the reality of the Empty Tomb and what that means. God is. And every area of life is therefore affected. Nothing escapes Him. On the wall in my office above an oil painting by Bobby of The Carpenter hangs my 1997 Christmas gift from our daughter, Monica, which says:

Invoked or not invoked God is present.

When Roger Sherrard and I met with Albania's President Rexhep Meidani in August 1997, a month after he took office, we shared that message. In light of recent events in the Balkans, our prayer is that President Meidani will recall that truth as he seeks to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God" in the midst of such great trouble. Wally Cheney, our General Counsel, and I will be in the Balkans Easter week on our way to the UN Human Rights Commission hearings in Geneva on religious liberty. The following thoughts and "His-stories" are shared in light of the Easter message as we continue...

Living in His-story,

Samuel E. Ericsson
President

 

Recent Evidence of Resurrection Power

by Samuel E. Ericsson

 

The first Good Friday was not really a good Friday if you had asked the disciples that evening. It had been horrific. Their best Friend had been arrested, beaten, mocked and crucified. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Good Friday? Hardly! In fact, an Egyptian friend told me recently that in the Middle East it's called Sad Friday. Of course, the story did not end Friday. Everything changed Sunday morning when two women discovered the tomb - empty! It was history's Defining Moment.

Since that first Easter, the Adversary has used every evil tactic imaginable to undo Christ's Victory. In the 20th Century he used two of the most evil ideologies ever devised by man - Nazism and communism -- to destroy the Church and kill Jesus' followers. But he failed. As Jesus predicted, "The gates of hell will not prevail against the building of my Church." What follows are a few recent snap-shots of resurrection power as seen in some places where the Adversary thought he had won the day.

MONGOLIA: Communism took over this land-locked nation of 2.5 million in 1927. Thousands of priests were murdered in 1936 and all church buildings were bulldozed. The communists thought they had won. Although they did not let go until a few years ago the struggle continues. A few days ago, I asked one of my closest Mongolian friends visiting the U.S. to reflect on the state of the Church in Mongolia today. He told me that as recent as 1989, it would have been almost impossible to find a single Mongolian believer. Today he estimates that there are between 15,000 and 50,000 who call themselves Jesus' followers. Nearly a million Mongolians have seen the Jesus film. That's evidence of resurrection power! The Church is alive and well in Mongolia.

Last month, Ron Nikkel, the President of Prison Fellowship International and an Advocates' Board member, invited Wally Cheney and me to meet two guests from Mongolia who work in prison administration. Wally, who recently retired as the General Counsel and Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, had a great opportunity to answer questions and share ideas on how to make Mongolian prisons more humane. The two administrators were very interested in improving prison conditions but felt that some of the key reforms could only be done through their Parliament. Neither one was positioned to engage in the legislative process. Since I had been to Mongolia three times and knew some in the Parliament, we offered to do whatever we could to help them.

Less than two weeks later we received an invitation to attend a luncheon honoring nine Members from Mongolia's Parliament visiting DC for two days. After lunch, Wally and I were asked if we could meet several Members for dinner. Wally and I offered to give the entire delegation a "Washington by Night" tour followed by dinner. Over dinner, Wally soon discovered that several Members had a keen interest in prison reform and Wally's expertise on prisons. They expressed the hope that he could help the Parliament in Mongolia address these issues. At my table, a bright young Parliamentarian (a woman with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University) volunteered that unless Mongolia rebuilt its society and legal system with a solid moral and ethical foundation, the structure would eventually tumble "like a house of cards." We discussed plans for seminars on ethics, morals and values and their relationship to justice, human rights and reconciliation. (And a few days later, through yet another contact, we were invited to give input to the draft on the Religion Law being considered by the Parliament.)

The following Monday, the Mongolian Embassy called to inform us that their new Minister of Justice (who oversees the prisons among other things) had just arrived for a brief visit and asked if we could "arrange a few meetings." The beauty in viewing life "as a journey" like the Good Samaritan parable is that it encourages you to be flexible. Wally and I soon arranged meetings with 1) Federal Judge Eric Bruggink (who had been on our 1997 team to Mongolia), 2) our friend Congressman Don Manzullo from Illinois (a CLS member with a great interest in Mongolia), 3) the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 4) our Board Member, Judge Kenneth W. Starr. In just a few weeks, we had witnessed the "invisible hand" orchestrate events enabling us to carry out Christ's mandate to minister to those in prison -- more proof of resurrection power.

CENTRAL ASIA: With the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, 15 nations came into being including the six Central Asian Republics where Islam is the dominant religious tradition: Azerbijian, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Needless to say, this is tough soil. Again, communism had tried to destroy the Church and massacred millions of believers.

Recently a mutual acquaintance of Wally's and mine stopped by our office. The last time he visited Advocates was five years ago when he worked for the Department of Justice. He has since retired and moved to Central Asia where he is working in several creative ways to help these nations rebuild. He uses his excellent skills as a lawyer to be salt and light in a region of the world that had been closed to the Good News for seven decades. We look forward to working with him and his network of committed law professionals whose desire is to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God." It's another "resurrection story."

BULGARIA: Often referred to as the "16th Soviet Republic" because of its harsh Marxist government, Bulgarians will have the opportunity this Easter to view the Jesus film throughout Bulgaria. As the result of the recent registration of various ministries, it is now possible to legally rent facilities to show what is perhaps the most watched film in history. It was the Bulgarian Rule of Law Institute that enabled these registrations. It's resurrection time in Bulgaria!

CHINA: Although the Adversary has been at work for over 50 years to prevent the growth of the Body of Christ among China's 1.2 billion citizens, there are currently some 50-70 million believers who worship the Resurrected One - up from 2-3 million in 1980. They need our prayers and we need wisdom as we continue to work in this great nation.