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June 28, 1999
The bombing has finally stopped in the Balkans. What shall we do? What would you do? For the answer, it helps to know our job description and a bit of His-story.
"And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though
God were making his appeal through us." II Cor. 5:19-20
Let me recap our involvement in the Balkans. I left my ten-year tenure at Christian Legal Society on June 1, 1991 deeply concerned about helping in the transition in Eastern Europe. On June 20, 1991, my friend and colleague, Roger Sherrard, called unexpectedly from Seattle asking if I could go to Sofia to meet the dean of Sofia University Law School to discuss ethics. I had never given any thought of going to Bulgaria, so I asked for some time to think about it.
The next day, June 21, Paul Popov - a stranger to me at the time -- called from Los Angeles asking if I could go to Sofia to meet the President of the Bulgarian Bar Association who wanted to discuss ethics with a Christian lawyer. Paul and I soon discovered that forty years earlier -- in 1952 -- my dad and his mom worked at the same publishing house in Stockholm, Sweden. After those unusual back-to-back invitations, Roger and I decided that we should go together to Bulgaria -- often referred to as The 16th Soviet Republic because of its hostile human rights and religious liberty record and its allegiance to the Soviet Union. We were in Sofia on July 8, 1991.
For our second visit to Sofia in mid-January, 1992, Roger and I chose Esther's verse "for such a time as this" as our theme. On March 22, Roger's law partner, John Johnson and his wife Laurie, read in the Sunday paper about Albania's first democratic election to be held that day. They prayed for Albania and the election. At their office two days later, Roger and John discovered two back-to-back faxes --- one from Vienna, Austria and the other from Kona, Hawaii --- sent ten minutes and 12,000 miles apart inviting Roger and me to go to Tirana, Albania to meet the Minister of Justice. The second fax ended with "for such a time as this!" We decided there was no need to wait for a third fax. On July 8, 1992 Roger and I were in Tirana, Albania on our first visit to a nation where a ten-year prison term had been the penalty in the 70's and 80's for merely having a Bible or cross hidden in your home.
On July 8, 1999 Roger and I will once again be back in Albania. We will lead a delegation from several major evangelical relief organizations that want to help post-war Albania. We will meet with President Meidani, Prime Minister Majko and Chief Justice Kondi, all of whom have become good friends. In addition, we will spend time with our lawyer colleague, Toni Gogu, who was part of the 1998 International Convocation. None of us could ever have dreamed in 1991 what doors would be open to us by 1999.
Since 1991, we have had the opportunity to meet several heads of state and Patriarchs, as well as scores of justices, ambassadors and parliamentarians in over 40 nations. Even though Advocates is a small organization with only four regular staff we approach every trip with the knowledge that we go as Christ's Ambassador. What a portfolio! What an honor! What a responsibility! This impacts our tone and our tactics. It is easy to demonize those in authority who do evil abroad - as well as at home. There is no cost for demonizing. In fact it usually brings votes and funds. But as Christ's Ambassador, we march to the beat of a Different Drummer.
The enclosed Prayer Itinerary for the Summer of 1999 and the flyer on our first European-wide conference to be held in Sofia in September is a current day manifestation of Christ's teaching in Luke 19 that "because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities." This summer we will be engaged in significant ways in at least ten cities around the globe, particularly in the Balkans. The summer schedule in Africa and Europe are fruit from our investment in 51 internationals from 26 nations who came to the USA as our guests last October.
I want to add one recent bit of His-story. Basaankhuu October is a bright, dedicated young lawyer in Mongolia who launched the Deuteronomy Law Group in 1998 (it means "Popular Law" in Mongolian). We provide the funding. He is doing remarkable religious freedom work in a nation where there may have been no believers until the late 1980's. But Basaankhuu needs some very substantial dental work that would cost $8-10,000 in the U.S.
Recently, as Bobby and I were driving to church one Sunday morning she told me that she had forgotten her purse at a Subway fast food store in Fairfax the previous day. When she called the store to check on the purse, it was gone. That Saturday evening, Bobby received a call from Ann Thomas, whose husband, Steve, is our family dentist. Ann told Bobby she saw the purse after Bobby left the store, but Bobby was long gone by the time Ann tried to find her. As Bobby told me this story, she did not know that I had put Steve's name on the top of my "to call" list for Monday morning to talk to him about Basaankhuu. When I stopped by to retrieve the purse, Steve said, "Sam, I've been praying about how I can help Advocates and want to donate my services." I told him about Basaankhuu. Steve accepted the offer. All we need now are the funds to cover the lab costs as we continue to serve as Christ's Ambassadors...
Living in His-story,
Samuel E. Ericsson,
P.S. The summer months are usually the leanest when it comes to giving. Your gifts will help us substantially in Africa and Europe this summer. Thanks for retaining us.
Prayer Itinerary for the Summer of 1999
Advocates has a very full 1999 summer itinerary, reaping significant fruit from the 1998 Convocation of 51 internationals from 26 nations. Please pray for safe journeys, productive meetings, and the resources needed for each of these opportunities:
§ Albania - heading a July 7-12 delegation of relief agency administrators from World Vision and similar groups to establish a long-term program working with the evangelical community.
§ France - July 13, addressing lawyers and law students in Strasbourg on the "Samaritan Strategy" of dealing with religious liberty issues.
§ Vietnam - strategic meetings in Washington, D.C. in July to address practical ways to advance the cause of religious liberty in Vietnam.
§ South Africa -co-sponsoring with the Christian Lawyers Association of South Africa and Peacemakers Ministries a conference on conflict resolution and reconciliation attended by African lawyers, pastors, and others in August. The organizer is Reg Joubert, an alumnus of the 1998 Convocation.
§ Uganda - August meetings with the Minister of Justice and Chief Justice as well as the Christian Lawyers Fellowship in Kampala organized by Michael Chibita, an advisor to Uganda's President, a 1998 alumnus.
§ Zambia - August meetings with the Minister of Justice and Chief Justice as well as the Christian Lawyers Foundation in Lusaka. The organizer is Andrew Munyinda, a participant in the 1998 Convocation.
§ Kenya - August meetings with the Christian Lawyers Fellowship in Nairobi, organized by Kamotho Waiganjo and David Mwaura, 1998 alumni.
§ Greece - August 21-23 meetings with Christian lawyers in Athens focusing on the role Christian lawyers can play in the Balkan reconciliation process. The organizer is Vassilios Tsirbas, an alumnus of the 1998 Convocation.
§ Romania -hosting the first-ever retreat of Christian lawyers in Romania (Being a Christian Lawyer in the 21st Century: Integrating Your Faith with a Legal Career) with an expected 25-30 lawyers attending during August 24-28. The organizers are Board Member Roger Sherrard and Salonica Talos, a 1998 alumnus.
§ Bulgaria -hosting a conference September 3-5 in Sofia for European lawyers on Finding Common Ground -- Conflict Resolution: Law, Culture, and Faith with 75-100 attending. The organizer is Latcho Popov, the Director of the Rule of Law Institute and an alumnus of the 1998 Convocation. The speakers at the conference include Latcho, Vassilios Tsirbas from Greece, Marvin Kramer from Israel, Fernando Loja from Portugal, and Campbell University law professor Lynn Buzzard, our General Counsel, Wally Cheney, and President Sam Ericsson.