August 2004

August 9, 2004

Dear Friend,

RE: The Best Staff Money Can't Buy

Today was the first day that I ventured to open emails since my June 28th lung-cancer surgery and post-operation complications, including a collapsed lung and staph infection. Although our staff checked the messages daily during my absence to catch the "must do" items, there were still 500 messages to review.

As I read the messages it was exciting to see the incredible scope of activities going on globally among Christian advocates during my absence with virtually no direction from the "home office" - a term that may be a stretch since Advocates International only has three full-time staff, including me, in our Fairfax office. In addition, we have eight staff on four continents that facilitate the work among Christian advocates within their region. I consider our small team as "the best staff money can't buy!" Let me share what these competent and committed followers of Christ were doing during my six-week absence.

The Home Office: Romi Kabayashi, born in Japan, serves as our International Program Coordinator. She has primary
responsibility for our 4th Global Convocation this fall. In recent months she has sent invitations to nearly 270 delegates in 94 nations inviting them to the Convocation. When a delegate accepts the invitation, Romi prepares official invitations needed for their U.S. visas. In our post-911 world, getting visas for many of our delegates - especially those from Islamic and developing nations - will be one of our greatest hurdles. In addition to the Convocation and staying abreast of the international programs, Romi reviews our weekly Global Prayer Calendar that goes out each Friday.

Working alongside Romi is Lourdes Pisciotti, who was born in Guam. As Director of Administration, she manages the office and seeks to meet the diverse needs of our global staff. Keeping computers and phone systems going, wiring funds overseas, supervising mailings, handling public relations, keeping government and other officials happy, and responding to the countless demands on our staff keeps Lourdes busy. She is also the cheerful voice that answers the phone most often.

Our part-time staff includes Norma "Pete" Bellett, who joined us in 1994. Pete is the detail person who assists Lourdes in keeping the office organized. The newest part-timer is our daughter, Monica, who "retired" after five years as an Occupational Therapist to get ready for the birth of our first grand-child in October. Monica oversees redesigning our website www.advocatesinternational.org and helps Romi prepare for the Global Convocation. She is preparing bios on the 250 international delegates. Also, by October we hope to have printed nearly one million When Things Go Wrong cards in 25 languages, including Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Finnish, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Mongolian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Zulu. Monica is making this project a reality. We plan to equip each nation sending a delegate to the Convocation with at least 5,000 When Things Go Wrong cards to give to lawyers, pastors and other counselors back home.

Our summer intern was Rose Popova, the daughter of Latcho Popov, who directs the Rule of Law Institute in Bulgaria. Rose is a dynamic and gifted senior at Baylor University with a 3.8 grade point. She plans to go to law school. She spent the summer with us preparing the first-ever global report on what Christian lawyers are doing around the world. In 1991 there were only a couple of nations where Christian lawyers had organized across denominational lines to proactively address religious freedom and related issues. Today there are about 70 nations with active or emerging Christian lawyer groups. Rose's report, Go and Do Likewise! will share the activities of Christian lawyers in these nations. It will be ready for the Global Convocation and available to all who want to see how God uses available lawyers!

Advocates Africa: Bayo Akinlade, 30, is an incredibly enthusiastic and gifted young lawyer who lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He serves as our staff Liaison with Advocates Africa which links nearly 30 African nations. In recent months, Bayo has traveled to Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda to represent Advocates International at national and regional conferences. Africa is on the move and Bayo is the catalyst! And the "home office" rejoices with the progress we see! Bayo prepares the weekly Africa Prayer Calendar sharing needs, victories, challenges and activities on the African continent.

Advocates Asia: In Mongolia, Baasankhuu Octyber, 29, directs the Rule of Law Institute. No lawyer in Mongolia has helped more churches and ministries in wrestling with the challenges bureaucrats throw their way. He has also organized over 40 Christian lawyers in a nation that had no known national believers 15 years ago! Our regional impact in Asia, especially Central Asia, is spearheaded by one of our Board members, Matt Bristol. Matt retired as an Air Force JAG Colonel and later retired as staff counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice. After the two "retirements," Matt and his wife Betty, a nurse, moved to Bishkek, Kyrghistan in 1997 to begin a new career as catalysts for getting lawyers organized throughout Asia. Matt's letters read like Acts II. He is a modern-day Paul empowered by our Lord to impact nations and continents! One exciting development in Asia is the commitment of Advocates Korea in organizing judicial conferences and other activities in several former Asian communist nations. We have links with nearly 30 Asian nations at this time.

Advocates Europe: I do not know any Christian lawyer who has had a greater impact on his nation than Latcho Popov has had on Bulgaria, a former harsh communist nation. In 1994 he began the Rule of Law Institute with four young Christian lawyers. Today the Institute links over 200 lawyers throughout Bulgaria engaged in a host of issues. A U.S. Ambassador told me once that the Institute is the most effective nongovernmental organization in the Balkans! This summer Latcho convened a conference bringing together lawyers from seven Balkan nations in Serbia. In July, as President of Advocates Europe, Latcho also hosted 45 lawyers, pastors and politicians from Europe, including representatives from the European Evangelical Alliance, to discuss ways they can work together on religious freedom and related issues. At this time, Advocates Europe links over 30 nations. Diana Daskalova works with Latcho and writes our Global Prayer Calendar and the Advocates Europe Prayer Calendar each week.

Advocates Latin America: Professor Nina Balmaceda wears many hats. She is our staff coordinator for the Latin Network. She taught human rights law at two premier Peruvian law schools. Her husband is a youth pastor currently studying at a seminary in New York. They have a four year-old son. With all this to do, Nina still found time to organize the Christian Legal Society of Peru in 2001 with four colleagues. CLS/Peru now has over 100 members. Nina also helped launch Advocates Latin America. The network now links Christian lawyers from all Latin nations. This summer she visited Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela. In August, the Latin Network will hold its 4th Regional Conference in Guatemala with 20 nations sending delegates. Thanks to Nina's leadership, Latin America now has the most effective regional network on the globe. The Latin America Network links 20 nations currently through their Prayer Calendar.

How do I feel after a six-week absence? Grateful! Encouraged! Excited! Enthused! Humbled! Hopeful! Challenged! Energized! With "the best staff money can't buy," empowered by our Lord to be His witnesses and do His work, coupled with your prayers and support, I know that we "can do all things through Christ who strengthens" us, as we continue...

Living in His-Story,

 

Samuel E. Ericsson,
President & Grateful Cheerleader

P.S. The summer months have seen a drop in giving. We understand vacations and the busyness of summer. Please keep "the best staff money can't buy" in your prayers and support this month.