August 01

 

Out of Africa With Hope
by Samuel E. Ericsson
 

My perceptions of Africa were shattered during a ten-day visit to Uganda and Kenya. Media coverage of this great continent typically focuses on its problems. True: the AIDS epidemic is a brutal reality in Africa that has claimed more lives and left more orphans there than perhaps in all other continents combined. True: institutional corruption is systemic; crime and conflict are common. True: millions live at a subsistence level earning less than a dollar per day. But also true: there is another side to the African story that rarely gets told. There are many bright lights glowing all over Africa. This is their story.

From a Table for Ten to a Network of Ten Thousand: One day at lunch during our 1998 International Convocation, ten African lawyers from six nations organized the African Christian Lawyers Network (ACLN). Their vision was to encourage, enable and equip Africans to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God by promoting human rights, reconciliation and the integration of faith and profession. Africa was the first continent to organize in this way. In August 2001, ACLN held its third regional conference by the beautiful source of the Nile at Lake Victoria near Kampala, Uganda. Their network now reaches nearly twenty nations and links together over 10,000 Christian lawyers, judges and law students. It is the most active regional network of Christian lawyers on any continent. You will see a few snapshots of the lawyers, judges, students and national leaders we met on our journey who all spoke of hope for Africa:

* Michael -- a gentle giant; legal advisor to the President; head of Ugandan Christian Lawyers Fellowship, LLM from U. of Iowa; conference co-organizer; wife Monica, a journalism professor, mother to three precious treasures.
* Betty -- bridge-builder and networker to Uganda's Parliament; open hand, open home and open heart; husband is a Member of Parliament; constant house guests.
* Kathy -- beautiful, trendy Kenyan spending her spare time helping those in prison.
* Nardos -- Ethiopia's Paul; former Supreme Court justice and Bar president; he and his wife spent time in prison for their faith during Ethiopia's dark Marxist era.
* Seventeen law students from Uganda and Kenya who led worship; incredibly creative, committed and Christ-centered; unparalleled music, motion and ministry; the next generation of lawyers in Africa shows great promise.
* Paul -- chief organizer; steady and thoughtful; exudes character and integrity.
* Pamela -- a one-person worship energy-machine.
* Priscah -- law student leader who leads in worship in three languages.
* Pheona -- law student with intense Bible knowledge and a smile to match.
* Beauttah -- gentle soul transforming Kisumu, Kenya from the bottom up; superb advocate who took on "The System" on behalf of 300 powerless traders and won.
* Stella -- Togo's "quietness and confidence shall be your strength."
* Patson -- Zimbabwean pastor; chairs the African Evangelical Alliance Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission; bridges law and grace with wisdom and humility.
* Gayle -- speed talker, Christ walker.
* James -- former law professor and Canadian resident who returned to Uganda to give input on revising the Constitution consistent with biblical ethics.
* Tim -- Kenyan lawyer who led seven bicyclists on a 350-mile fundraiser for their legal aid ministry; they had covered 48 hilly miles in three hours under Kenya's hot sun when we caught up with them in our Land Rover for some photos. No sweat!
* Peter -- Kenyan Airlines asst. general counsel; sold out for God, with family to match; former President of Kenyan Christian Lawyers Fellowship; reliable!
* Kamotho -- contagious energy; natural leader; godly; advocate for street children and death row inmates; would be senior partner at any major U.S. law firm; former president of Kenyan Christian Lawyers Fellowship; national bar board.
* Sam -- CEO of Communications Commission of Kenya; superb manager; an anchor among Kenyan Christian lawyers; fearless, but tactful; Bible student.
* Raychelle -- chairperson of Kenya's national bar whose nomination papers were filed with only one minute to spare; vision plus energy equals impact!
* Ann -- Zambia's "still waters run deep"; widowed and single mom at 26; focuses on women's and children's rights; leader in Zambian Christian Lawyers Fellowship.
* Theresa & Francis -- first racially integrated law firm in South Africa; serving Christ with diligence; creative advocacy saved a hospice for 100's AIDS babies.
* Dieter -- nominee to South Africa's High Court; Christian Law Assn. founder.
* Reg -- planting peacemaking skills in South Africa and all over the continent; leader in pro-life efforts; director of South Africa's Christian Lawyers Assn; superb communicator and teacher; a role model!
* Christopher -- quiet, wise and articulate Ugandan; advocate for family values.
* Julia -- Ugandan Supreme Court justice; her talk on the parable of the talents gave a new meaning to stewardship in life and law; led anti-corruption commission; does justice with compassion!
* Judy -- director of the largest legal aid program in Africa run by the Kenyan Christian Lawyers' Fellowship; she signed on for a second term; servant leader!
* Ojukwu -- Vice Chair of Christian Lawyers Assn. for Nigeria, a lawyer network in 36 states that reaches nearly 10,000 law professionals; gracious!
* Amanim -- law professor, advocate, pastor and master storyteller; National Prayer Coordinator for the Christian Law Assn. for Nigeria; unbridled enthusiasm.

A Bit of His-Story Along the Way: Joining me on the journey was Bill Mauger, an Emmy award-winning videographer from Southern California. How did we first meet? In May, Bill gave a demo CD to one of our staff he met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that I received weeks later. A few days before the Africa trip, I was trying unsuccessfully to open his demo on my computer to show someone Bill's work. At that very moment, Bill, who was between meetings in Colorado Springs, called thereby enabling me to ask how to open his demo. This was the first time that we had ever talked with each other. Perfect timing! Two days later, because of his enthusiasm in wanting to tell Advocates' His-Stories, we decided that he should come along to Africa to help tell their story. Bill got his two visas a few hours before takeoff. Since his suitcase arrived in Uganda seven days after he did, Bill's one-change wardrobe shattered all stereotypes about well-dressed California video producers. "Bwana Bill" and "Simba Sam" came home changed, energized and thanking God for Africa and their law professionals. They have what matters above all else --- hope!