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Over the past three decades, I've met hundreds of Christian lawyers who have had a great impact both inside and outside their nations. I want to briefly share the stories of two such servant leaders. One is a seasoned American lawyer who has served in the Balkans "from the outside" for the past 17 years while maintaining a general practice at home. The other is a young Nigerian who has impacted nations in Africa "from the inside" for the past 7 years. They both model Advocates' mission of bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession.
THE INVITATIONS: After stepping down from my ten-year tenure at Christian Legal Society on June 1, 1991, my first invitation to travel overseas came from CLS member, Roger Sherrard. Roger is a West Point grad whom God protected in miraculous ways during his tour in Vietnam. He has had a small general practice in picturesque Poulsbo, Washington since 1972. On Wednesday, June 20, Roger called asking if I was interested in an invitation he had received from the dean of a law school in Sofia, Bulgaria who wanted to meet a Christian lawyer to discuss ethics. Roger did not know that my focus had shifted from working within the USA to doing something overseas. My initial response was a lighthearted, "Roger, who wants to go to Sofia, Bulgaria? Why not Paris, Bermuda or the Bahamas?" I said I would think it over.
I did not have to do much thinking. The answer came the next day, Thursday, June 21, when I received a call from Pasadena, California from a man I had never met, asking if I could travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to meet the president of the bar association who wanted to meet an American lawyer to discuss ethics. As we talked, we discovered that 40 years earlier, the caller's mother and my father had worked in the same offices in Stockholm, Sweden! The handwriting on the wall said, "Go to Bulgaria!" I called Roger to tell him about the second call and suggested that we should travel to the Balkans together. He agreed. It began a 17-year adventure for us.
While my journey expanded far beyond the Balkans since that first visit, Roger has focused on Albania. The Albanian doors opened on March 24, 1992 when he received two faxes within 10 minutes. One was from a friend in Vienna, Austria and another from a stranger in Kona, Hawaii. Both had heard that Roger and I had been to Bulgaria. Both asked Roger if we could visit Tirana, Albania to meet the Minister of Justice to discuss ethics. When Roger read the faxes to me and asked what we should do, I suggested that when you get two faxes within 10 minutes from two separate places, 12,000 miles apart, inviting you to a country you've never thought to visit, a city you couldn't name to meet a person you don't know, you don't wait for a third fax.
THE IMPACT: Since those faxes in 1992, Roger has visited Albania about 30 times. He has helped organize teams of American judges and lawyers to help strengthen an independent judiciary in Albania. He has also worked with lawyers, parliamentarians and religious leaders to promote religious freedom in a nation that is 65% Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic, 10% Eastern Orthodox and 1% Protestant. For decades, Albania suffered under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxia who declared in 1967 that Atheism was to be the official religion. Anyone caught with a Bible, cross or crucifix could spend 10 years in prison. Today, Hoxia's former official residence houses Grace Church of Tirana, as well as the first-ever evangelical seminary in Albania. The Helsinki Commission of the US Congress has called Albania the model for religious freedom in the Balkans. There is no doubt that Roger's quiet and patient servanthood has had its impact.
THIS MONTH: In April 2008, we host the fourth visit of justices from Albania's Supreme Court. Federal District Court Judge Paul Magnuson from Minnesota (the former chairman of the International Committee of the Federal Judiciary) who has participated in many Advocates' activities in Albania, has provided invaluable assistance in organizing this latest visit that includes stops in Washington, DC, the States of Washington and Minnesota. One of my roles will be to chauffer the justices around DC in a borrowed 11-seat church van. One of the perks that goes with that job is to sit in on a meeting with US Chief Justice John Roberts!
THANK YOU: Roger has demonstrated that you can have a great impact for Christ outside the USA while also maintaining an active practice at home. He has not only served Albania but has been on Advocates' Board from the beginning and was our first chairman. Only God knows the thousands of hours and great personal investment Roger and Katoo have made in serving Christ in Albania from the outside. There is no doubt it is bearing great fruit. Thank you, Roger!
THE INSIDER: While Roger has had an impact on Albania from the outside, Nigerian lawyer Bayo Akinlade has had a significant impact on the African continent from the inside. Bayo first visited our home in September 2003. By the time he returned home two months later, Bayo had become our "Nigerian son." Bayo's father was a Muslim medical doctor who had five wives. Bayo's mother was a Christian. Bayo has 29 siblings - quite a list to remember for birthdays!
I met Bayo the first time at Advocates Africa's 3rd Regional Conference in Accra, Ghana in 2002. He was the energetic 27-year old National Field Representative of the Christian Lawyers Association for Nigeria - Africa's largest national Christian lawyer organization with about 2,000 students and 4,000 lawyers linked together. Bayo showed great people and leadership skills.
During his stay in our home a year later, Bayo caught Advocates' vision of networking Christian lawyers. Bayo was contemplating a career move and asked if we could use him at Advocates. I said, "Yes!" and he became our Liaison to Advocates Africa on January 1, 2004.
THE IMPACT: Over the past four years, Bayo has helped carry out Advocates' mission on the African continent. He's had remarkable success working Africa "from the inside." He has traveled to over 30 nations and helped identify Christian lawyer leaders in 42 of Africa's 53 nations (see enclosed). He has helped organize many national groups.
MORE OPEN DOORS: Recently, Bayo was invited by leaders of the 53-member African Commission of Human & People's Rights to take an active role in their crucial work. Likewise, thanks to Bayo's skills, at a meeting in January 2008 of the African Union - Africa's version of the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States - Advocates International and Advocates Africa were invited to apply for "observer status." Thank you, Bayo!
Whether you're working "from the outside" like Roger, or "from the inside" like Bayo, God uses available servants to bear witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession, while...
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
National Christian Lawyer Group Leaders in 42 African Nations
List Compiled by Bayo Akinlade
Liaison for Advocates International to Advocates Africa
The global strategy of Advocates International is to put practical legs to Jesus' final words to his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:8). The L-O-R-D implementation of the strategy is to encourage Christian lawyers to meet locally [L = their Jerusalem], organize nationally [O = their Judea], cooperate regionally on their continent [R = their Samaria] and disciple globally [D = to the ends of the earth]. The objective is thereby to promote religious freedom, justice, reconciliation and integrity.
When Advocates International began in 1991, the Christian Lawyers Association for Nigeria (CLASFON) was the only registered national Christian lawyer group in Africa. Today, Advocates Africa, launched in 1998, has informally linked well over 6,000 Christian lawyers and students in 42 African nations, including 29 nations with active or emerging groups. The hope is to enable at least two delegates from each of the following nations to attend the 5th Global Convocation in Washington, DC, during October 6-12, 2008, for strategizing, training and networking.
I. ADVOCATES AFRICA NATIONAL LEADERS
- ANGOLA: Armando Palanga
- BENIN: Jean-Marc Kodja
- BOTSWANA: Prof. Kwame Frimpong
- BURKINA FASO: Paul Dipama
- BURUNDI: Longin Baranyizigiye
- CAMEROON: Justice Rose Mbah-Acha
- CENTRALAFRICANREPUBLIC: Anatole Maitovo
- CHAD: Pasteur Bako Ngarndeye
- CONGO: Justice Jocelyne Milandou
- COTE D'IVOIRE (IVORY COAST): Josue Tchimou
- DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Jean Alain Kasonga
- EGYPT: Emad Felix Moubarak
- ERITREA: Tedla Aradom
- ETHIOPIA: Nardos Lemma
- GABON: Moutou David
- GAMBIA: Merley Woods
- GHANA: Emmanuel Goka
- GUINEA: Joel Matho Loramou
- KENYA: Paul Ndemo
- LESOTHO: Tsabo Matooni
- LIBERIA: Othello Payman/ Judge James Jones
- LYBIA: unlisted
- MALAWI: Pacharo Kayira
- MALI: Alison Diarra
- MAURITIUS: J. Ramtohul
- MOROCCO: unlisted
- MOZAMBIQUE: Cauio Carlos Alberto
- NAMIBIA: Masiza Shakespeare
- NIGER: Issaka Moussa
- NIGERIA: Kish Adamu
- RWANDA: Jean Musafiri
- SENEGAL: Joseph Nassakou
- SIERRA LEONE: Ibrahim Koroma
- SOUTH AFRICA: Teresa Conradie
- SUDAN: Mary James Ajith
- SWAZILAND: Advocate B.A. Dube
- TANZANIA: Sylvia Balwire Leonard
- TOGO: Komi Luc Devotsu
- UGANDA: Mike Chibita
- ZAMBIA: Musa Mwenya
- ZANZIBAR: Yussuf Sulieman
- ZIMBABWE: Davison Kanokanga
II. African Countries visited by AI's Liaison Bayo Akinlade during 2004-2008:
1. BENIN (2002, 2007)
2. BOTSWANA (2005)
3. BURKINA FASO (2007)
4. BURUNDI (2006)
5. CAMEROON (2004, 2008)
6. CENTRAL AFRICA REP. (2008)
7. CONGO (DRC) (2007)
8. CONGO (October 2007)
9. COTE D'IVOIRE (2006, 2007)
10. ETHIOPIA (2004, 2008)
11. GABON (2007)
12. GAMBIA (2007)
13. GHANA (2002, 2005)
14. KENYA (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
15. LIBERIA (2007)
16. MALAWI (2005)
17. MALI (2005, 2007)
18. MOZAMBIQUE (2005)
19. NAMIBIA (2006)
20. NIGERIA (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
21. RWANDA (2006)
22. SENEGAL (2007)
23. SIERRA LEONE (2006)
24. SOUTH AFRICA (2004 - Currently Resident)
25. SWAZILAND (2005)
26. TANZANIA (2005)
27. TOGO (2002, 2007)
28. UGANDA (2004, 2005, 2006)
29. ZAMBIA (2005)
30. ZIMBABWE (2005)