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It's tough to get any good news these days. Bad news seems to be on a roll. In the 1930s leading up toWorld War II, Great Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the beacon of sanity, perseverance and hope, understood Hitler's game plan. Churchill labeled the 1930s as "The Gathering Storm." There was a sense of dread, fear and resignation in the West. Appeasement with Hitler led to horrific consequences. Hitler made no secret of his plans to destroy the Jews and conquer the world. Western civilization was in his crosshairs.
Seventy-five years later a new crop of leaders have come on the world stage. Like Hitler, they are bent on annihilating Israel and the Jews, conquering the world and destroying Western civilization. This war is not new. It's been on the minds of many for over 1400 years. As in the 1930s, many around the globe are gripped by dread, fear and resignation. There seems to be no way out of this "clash of civilizations."
A WEAK TEAM AT THE OUTSET: In the midst of this new gathering storm, I want to share some good news. In Jesus' last words to his disciples immediately prior to his ascension, he told the small handful that they would receive power to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:7-8). But clearly all was not well with the commitment of even Jesus' disciples. During his final conversation with them, Jesus had to give "many convincing proofs that he was alive" (Acts 1:3). And although some disciples worshipped him after the resurrection, Matthew records that "some doubted" (Matthew 28:17). It did not seem that Jesus was leaving a strong team behind.
But 2,000 years later, The Crucified One has indeed drawn all men to him. The traditions around the globe that embrace Jesus as their center claim 2.5 billion followers. Although the Church is struggling in its battle with materialism and secularism in the West and elsewhere, as well as clashes with many of the world's dominant religions, it is experiencing explosive growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many claim that the number of Christians in Communist China has grown from 3 million in 1980 to well over 100 million today - perhaps the greatest revival in Church history. In some provinces in China, there are far more Christians than members of the Communist Party, a fact that makes the Party very nervous. This is great news!
CHINA'S LEGAL EAGLES: In the September 2006 issue of Christianity Today, China expert Tony Carnes writes an excellent piece entitled "China's New Legal Eagles: Evangelical lawyers spur civil rights movement forward." He reports that the Human Rights Protection Movement was launched in 2002 with 24 lawyers. It has grown to over 300 members today. One of its leaders, Fan Yafeng, an influential constitutional scholar in Beijing says, "We are seeing the intersection of law and religion in China. More and more Chinese public intellectuals say that only Christianity can provide a solid foundation for the rule of law in China." More great news!!
THE GLOBAL MISSION: The mission statement of Advocates International is grounded in Jesus' final words (recorded in Acts 1:7-8): "Bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession by encouraging and enabling advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally." In our short 15-year His-Story, we have seen Christian lawyers meeting locally in hundreds of towns and cities around the globe. There are close to 100 nations with active or emerging Christian lawyer groups that did not exist in 1991. The six regional networks, especially those in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, have linked nearly 130 nations and are seeing exciting developments. This is great news!!
ADVOCATES AFRICA: In 1987, a group of Muslim leaders met in Nigeria to launch a three-prong strategy to win Africa: 1) impact law; 2) impact education; and 3) place Muslims in strategic government positions. They are making good progress.
At the 1998 Convocation, a group of 10 African lawyers organized the African Christian Lawyers Network, now called Advocates Africa. As you can see from the report, Advocates Africa has had phenomenal growth in its short 8-year existence. It links Christian lawyers in 35 of the 53 African nations on the continent. AA President Teresa Conradie, assisted by her Board and our Liaison, Nigerian lawyer Bayo Akinlade, are knitting a strong network strategically placed to serve the Church and the African continent in the years ahead. This is great news!
ADVOCATES ASIA: Nearly half of mankind lives in Asia. No continent is more diverse. No continent has more major religions and ideologies tugging at each other: Buddhism, Christianity, Communism, Confucism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. The 300-member Christian Lawyer Association of India (founded in 2000 after our Convocation) will host Advocates Asia's 6th Regional Conference in New Delhi. There are about 35 Asian nations informally linked in Asia. The 600-member Advocates Korea has provided excellent leadership, along with lawyers from Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, India and Pakistan. They hope to see several Chinese colleagues attend the Delhi conference. This is more great news!
ADVOCATES LATIN AMERICA: Perhaps the most dynamic regional network is in Latin America. ALA links all 21 Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America. Their Board has regular conference calls led by the President of ALA and Guatemala's Christian Lawyer Fellowship, Elizabeth De Larios, and assisted by our Coordinator, Peru's Law Professor Nina Balmaceda. ALA is planning its 6th Regional Conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, during October 18-23. ALA has hosted many seminars on topics of special concern to Christians. Great news!
ADVOCATES EUROPE: During 2006, lawyers from 19 European nations sent reports, prayer needs, activities and other items to the Advocates Europe Prayer Calendar, similar to the Prayer Calendars in Africa, Asia and Latin America . There are bright spots in Europe . Recently, three Bulgarian lawyers and the president of the European Evangelical Alliance told me that on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 = hell and 10 = heaven) that religious freedom in former Communist Bulgaria is a strong 9. Prior to 1989, Bulgaria was one of the most hostile to religious freedom. There is no doubt that our 15-year investment in the Rule of Law Institute led by Latcho Popov has borne great fruit.
One major strength of the regional networks is that their leadership is 100% regional. Our role is to facilitate what they are doing by providing facilitators such as Bayo, Nina and Latcho. The agendas, activities, conferences and vision are generated regionally.
There is no doubt that there is plenty of bad news in the world, but the counter is that "greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4). Thank you for your prayers and support that encourage and enable us to serve a troubled world and report great news, while...
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
REPORT BY ADVOCATES INTERNATIONAL & ADVOCATES AFRICA
ON PROGRESS MADE IN AFRICA FROM JULY 2005 TO JULY 2006
MEASURABLE PROJECT GOALS: The Freedom in Africa Project sought to mobilize African Christian lawyers to bear witness of Jesus Christ by helping the African Church face local, national, and regional challenges. Goals and accomplishments include:
GOAL #1: Increase the number of countries with lawyer contacts from the current 30 to 40 by the end of 2005 and 50 by the end of 2006.
* ADVOCATES AFRICA CONTACTS EXTENDED TO 35 of 53 AFRICAN NATIONS: By July 2006, Advocates Africa's network linked the following 35 nations: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivore (Ivory Coast), Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
* There are 53 nations on the African continent with about 16 having a strong Muslim influence making it very difficult to identify Christian lawyers. By July 2006, Advocates Africa had contacts in about 90% of the nations where Islam is not the dominant religion. The network continues to seek out contacts in the remaining 18 African nations but it is unlikely that any Christian lawyers will be identified in 10-15 Muslim nations by the end of 2006.
GOAL #2: AI/AA staff or its officers will visit 24 cities in 12 nations in 2005 and 2006 to encourage Christian lawyers to meet, organize and cooperate.
* ADVOCATES' AFRICA LIAISON VISITED 17 NATIONS: Advocates Africa's Liaison, Bayo Akinlade, visited 17 nations during the past 16 months including: Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, AA President Teresa Conradie visited Namibia and AA Board member Cameroon Justice Rose participated in the Uganda Christian Lawyer Fellowship conference.
* Another goal for Advocates' Liaison and the AA officers and Board members - to visit at least two cities or towns in each country and to facilitate starting local meetings of Christian lawyers - was met. At least two cities or towns were visited in the 17 nations visited by Mr. Akinlade, AA President Conradie and Board members.
GOAL #3: Help launch local meetings by Christian lawyers in 6 new countries in 2005 and 6 countries in 2006 where there are no activities at this time.
* LOCAL MEETINGS LAUNCHED: As a result of the visits by Advocates' Africa Liaison, AA's President and Board member, as well as the impact of the 6th Regional Conference, there were local meetings launched in well over a dozen cities and towns during the past 16 months.
GOAL #4: Add 9 countries to the current list of 14 with organized national Christian lawyer fellowships in 2005 and another 9 in 2006 for a total of 32 by the end of 2006.
* ADVOCATES AFRICA FACILITATED ORGANIZING AT LEAST 9 NEW NATIONAL GROUPS AND STRENGTHENED OTHERS: The new national groups organized over the past 12 months include: Burundi, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Tanzania.
GOAL #5: Hold the 6th Advocates Africa regional conference in October 2005 with delegates from at least 30 African countries participating.
* SUCCESSFUL 6th ADVOCATES AFRICA CONVOCATION: The 6th Advocates Africa Convocation was held October 12-16, 2005, in Pretoria, South Africa, with 21 nations sending 162 delegates. Among the attendees was former Advocates International Board Chairman, John Langlois, from the UK. He reported that it was the most energizing lawyers conference he had ever attended in his life. Nations that sent delegates to the regional convocation for the first time included: Botswana, Cameroon, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Swaziland and Tanzania. Over $40,000 was raised from African sources that helped underwrite nearly 75% of the overhead cost of the Convocation - the highest commitment by African nationals since they began holding regional conferences in 1999.
OTHER GOALS: Strengthen communications and networking among African advocates through the AA Web site and see Advocates Africa strengthen organizationally.
* STRENGTHENING REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS AND NETWORKING: The Advocates Africa Liaison prepares bi-weekly Prayer Calendars that serve as the glue that keeps the network together. The Prayer Calendar shares legal challenges and victories; conferences and national programs; health needs and "family news." In addition, Advocates Africa receives the weekly Global Prayer Calendar prepared by Advocates International. Although many AA lawyers do not have their own computers, most have access to the Internet through local Internet Cafés where they can stay abreast of regional and global Prayer Calendars.
* CONSTITUTION ADOPTED: At the 6th Advocates Africa Convocation the regional network adopted its Constitution.
* BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTED: Following the adoption of the Constitution, Advocates Africa elected its first Board of Directors with two representatives each from Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Francophone Africa, plus two representatives from Kenya which will host the 7th Advocates Africa Convocation in 2007. There is currently no representative from North Africa because of the dominance of Islam.
* PROJECT NEHEMIAH FOR 2007: At the 6th Advocates Africa Convocation, the network decided to plan for a major project for 2007 called "Project Nehemiah." The Project would challenge each member country to engage creatively in a single legal project that will effectively "rebuild the walls of justice" in their nation. Each nation would set aside a 52-day span for the project - the length of time it took the Jews to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem as recorded in the book of Nehemiah.
August 25, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Seven years ago next week I discovered that I had massive bladder cancer. Bobby and I were stunned! I had been healthy for 55 years. Bobby and I had lived a very healthy lifestyle -- compared to the vast majority of Americans -- avoiding refined sugar, white flour, red meat and toxins in our home. But then my specialist informed us that my cancer was the most he had seen in 30 years and was 20 times worse than typical. He did not give us any encouraging statistics as to the likelihood of survival. As a statistical matter, I should have died many years ago. But God had different plans.
Seven years later, thank God, my body may be in the best condition that it has been in for 30 years. I jog about 2-3 miles four times per week and am now a trim 80 kilos = 176 pounds with a body fat of only 17%. Bobby and I have focused on strengthening my God-designed immune system to fight the cancer by living the daily lifestyle I set out at the end of my "Where Is God When You Have Cancer?" piece on the home page of Advocates' website (www.advocatesinternational.org).
The two times my doctor tried chemo my body reacted and fought the toxic chemicals. The doctor concluded that it was too dangerous to continue. There are no drugs that work either. Radiation is out for many reasons.
This week I had my first scoping in 14 months. The doctor reports that there is new growth and that, in his opinion, my bladder is "programmed for cancer." He wants to do more surgeries and try chemo again.
When I asked him how the current cancer compared to my condition 7 years ago with 1999 being a 10 on a 1-10 scale, he said it is now a 1 or 2, but he remains very concerned. Any cancer can spread. Mine did to the lungs in 2003, but God let me fall and break 7 ribs and puncture my right lung so that the doctors discovered the cancer in my left lung. Of course, as a result of the fall, we have distributed over 650,000 When Things Go Wrong cards in 24 languages. Again, thank God for good falls and breaking healthy ribs!
Bobby and I firmly believe that The Programmer of my body did not program cancer. Although the cancer has been a challenge, it has brought countless blessings. The prayer for Advocates' networks in the USA and around the globe shot up as soon as my cancer was discovered. Also the regional networks have taken more and more responsibility for their programs realizing that it is not good to depend or trust in one man but rather to "trust in the Lord with all your heart."
Another blessing is that -- working closely with Bobby who is an expert in nutrition -- I now spend 20-35% of my time helping people in our church, community and around the globe who are wrestling with serious health issues. Jesus said that one of the distinctive characteristics of his followers was "I was sick and you looked after me" Matthew 25:36. We have several friends who may see the Lord soon, and we are able to be encouragers in ways that someone who has always been healthy cannot be.
Thank you for your prayers. Bobby and I are prayerfully weighing our options. I have no doubt that the Great Physician is in full control of my life every minute of every day.
My favorite Swedish hymn goes like this: "Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here. Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear."
I enjoy nothing more than hearing from you from time-to-time. As I shared at our church's prayer meeting last night, to be an encourager costs you nothing, but it has incredible power, while...
Living in His-Story,
Mother's Home Going
September 5, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I was blessed having my mom with me for 62 years and one day.
Shortly after midnight on September 5, the Lord graciously called mom home. She was 90+.
She had lost the physical joy of her journey on Planet Earth many years ago. The last 10 months were a great physical and painful trial for her, my dad and our family. Her home going is a time of rejoicing for her and the family.
Thank you for your years of praying for her and us.
We have absolutely no doubt that we will see her again, while...
Living in His-Story,