December 99

Christmas, 1999

 

Dear Friend,

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they
will call him Immanuel -- which means `God with us.'" Matt. 2:23

In our hectic high-tech world, 2000 years removed from Bethlehem, it is so easy to forget that Jesus is still "Immanuel" and that he is still `God with us.' Let me share a few recent His-stories confirming this Reality in today's world.

God with us in Montana: In early October, I spoke at the Peacemaker Ministries annual conference in Montana. When I called our office for messages, I was told that a young lawyer in Los Angeles had just sent a $2,000 gift earmarked for bringing a "Messianic Jew practicing law in Israel" to our 1999 International Convocation. The only lawyer that we know of in Israel who would qualify is Marvin Kramer --- who happened to be attending the Montana conference that week-end. I told my assistant, "Wait ‘til I tell Marvin!" Less than a minute later, as I opened the door from my hotel room, there was Marvin walking by on his way to a seminar! A confirmation of `God with us.'

God with us in Israel: At the 1998 Convocation, Marvin shared about efforts in Israel's Knesset to pass a law seeking to criminalize all evangelism in Israel. During the past year, Christians around the world prayed and lobbied that this bill would fail. In the U.S. Congress, all bills die at the end of the session of Congress unless they have been enacted and must be reintroduced in the next session. In the Knesset, however, bills remain alive as long as the sponsors hold office. At the May, 1999 elections, all three Knesset members who sponsored this horrific bill lost their bid for re-election. The bill died! Marvin called it a miracle. Although a new battle may be launched on this issue, the 1999 election results were another confirmation of `God with us.'

"No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.
It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." Psalm 75:6-7.

God with us in Pakistan: At the 1998 Convocation, our Pakistani delegate, Mr. Shahani, shared his concerns and asked for our prayers about efforts in Pakistan's Parliament to make the Koran the Supreme Law of the land. In every country where the Koran rules, true religious freedom ceases to exist. At the 1999 Convocation, Mr. Shahani reported that the October 12, 1999 military coup dissolved the Parliament. Thus, the efforts to impose the Koran as law on all Pakistanis, including Christians, dissolved as well. The battle is not over on this issue, but it again confirms `God with us.' Reread Psalm 75: 6-7 about who is really in control.

God with us in San Antonio: On August 6, our General Counsel, Wally Cheney, secured our hotel reservations in San Antonio for the 110 guests attending the International Convocation. He had several confirming communications with various sales managers at the hotel during the months leading up to the conference. One week before the beginning of the conference, the hotel informed us that the computer had no record of any reservations at all for Advocates International and that the hotel was full. Needless to say, Wally and I were not happy. We told them that we would call them the following day, Tuesday. Between 4:00 and 4:15 AM Tuesday morning, the announcer on the Christian radio station that Bobby and I keep on during the night (to help cover-up my snoring) read three times (!) the following passage from Exodus 14: 13-14:

"Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord
will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you: you need only to be still."

I said, "OK, Lord, I'm back to sleep." The next morning I shared the verses with Wally who then spent an hour by phone working with --- and listening --- as the hotel's manager worked out a solution enabling us to get all of our rooms back! And the final bill was $10,000 less than budgeted! `God with us!'

God with us in Washington, DC: Parking spaces in Washington, DC are always hard to find. This is especially true in the mornings when most street parking is prohibited until 9:30 AM. Typically a few minutes before 9:30 there is a mad scramble for these precious slots. On November 2, we had a full day planned for our Convocation guests that included sessions with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Congressmen Joe Pitts and Don Manzullo, Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Robert Seiple, Federal Appeals Judge Paul Michel and Federal District Court Judge Eric Bruggink. The morning traffic delayed our arrival downtown by 15 minutes, and I knew there was no hope for parking spaces near the Federal Court building by the White House. As I turned left off 15th Street onto Eye Street at 9:40 AM, I saw a "miracle" --- four contiguous open spaces one block from the Courthouse --- just enough to accommodate our three stretch-vans and station wagon!! `God with us.'

God with us in Virginia: Until my bout with cancer this summer, I had been blessed with excellent health all my life. The bladder cancer episode came as a total surprise. My specialist had cleared me to travel to Eastern Europe and had found nothing wrong. Two days before my planned departure, I passed out after having dinner with Bobby at a local restaurant. Again, the doctors found nothing wrong. A week later my new urologist discovered the largest mass of malignant tumors he had ever encountered in a bladder. He also found that the tumors put my left kidney at risk. The miracle is that the cancer appears contained. Equally miraculous was to discover that if I had not fainted but proceeded to Eastern Europe as planned, I would have lost the kidney -- or worse. God is truly with us as we continue at this Christmas season ...

Living in His-story,

Samuel E. Ericsson
President

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December 22, 1999

 

Dear Friends,


Subject: Who Speaks for Persecuted Christians in Egypt?

As you know, Christians in Egypt (Copts), face perhaps the most difficult hardships and violation of their basic human rights in history. They have become second-class citizens. The best hope of securing the Copts' basic civil liberties and ending their persecution is to establish a truly stable, integrated and democratic Egyptian society. A stable Egypt where all its citizens enjoy basic human rights is good for Egypt, good for the Middle East, and good for the United States. But until that happens, persecuted believers must have advocates who speak fearlessly and professionally on their behalf.

Advocates International is a global network reaching into nearly 100 nations. Central to its mission is advocacy for persecuted Christians worldwide. This past year, two highly qualified Egyptians who are considered by many as among the most prominent and effective voices for the persecuted in Egypt joined our staff. Their tireless work over the past decade on behalf of persecuted Christians in Egypt has helped make it an international issue.

Mr. Nagi Kheir has served as the Spokesman for several years for the American Coptic Association --- the world's largest organization of Egyptian Christians living abroad. He is also a member of the International Coptic Congress. In July, 1999, he was appointed Director of Middle East Affairs for Advocates International with a special focus on Egypt. In my 20 years in Washington, DC, engaged in human rights matters, I have never met anyone who commands greater respect in our Capitol on the Egyptian crisis and related issues than Nagi. He is thorough, knowledgeable, articulate and very diplomatic. He advises the State Department, the Congress and the White House frequently.

Mr. Morris Sadik is one of Egypt's leading human rights advocates. He is President of the Egyptian Center of Human Rights for National Unity in Cairo. In October 1999, he became Advocates' Counsel for Middle East Affairs with a special focus on Egypt, as well as a director of our International Institute for Law. He is a fearless scholar and a recognized expert in constitutional and human rights law.

Working as a team, Morris and Nagi have already scored a major victory this October when they joined forces to defend Adly Shakir, a Christian sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. As a result of Morris's advocacy before the Supreme Court in Egypt and Nagi's networking in Washington on Capitol Hill and among the diplomatic community, Mr. Shakir's death sentence was reversed. But the battle for Mr. Shakir's life is not over. A new trial is set for January. In addition, Nagi and Morris are working on the infamous Al-Kosheh incident, in which 1,200 Christians were tortured.

Advocates International is a small non-profit organization with a principal staff of four in its headquarters near Washington. It also has full-time offices in China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. It receives no government funding and depends solely on the gifts of friends committed to its mission and methods as spelled out in the enclosed card on our Team 2000.

Advocates International is providing office space, personnel and other resources to enable Nagi and Morris to develop a support base of Egyptian Christians and others concerned about the persecution in Egypt. Advocates International will turn over 100% of your gifts earmarked for "Egypt" to support Nagi and Morris's efforts in Egypt.

To help launch Nagi and Morris's joint efforts, Advocates International will provide a $10,000 matching gift so that every $100 you give for "Egypt" will be worth $200 to Nagi and Morris. And $500 will be worth $1,000 for their crucial work. Your gifts are fully tax-deductible. Please use the enclosed envelope for your gift. Simply write "Egypt" on your check, and we will pass it on for the matching gift.

Thank you for joining Nagi and Morris as they seek to be an effective voice at this crucial time for Christians in Egypt. As Jesus taught in his last parable which dealt with social responsibility for those less fortunate than ourselves, including those in prison:

"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matt. 25:40

May our Living Lord and Savior bless you and yours during the Christmas season, and throughout the New Year and into the New Millennium, as we continue....

Living in His-story,

Samuel E. Ericsson
President and CEO

P.S. Your year-end matching gift will provide the funds for Morris to fly to Egypt in January for Adly Shakir's trial.