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Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18
At this Thanksgiving season, we need to focus on the truth of the Apostle Paul's words of encouragement to his friends in Greece 2000 years ago. It is easy to give thanks when all is well. It is easy to celebrate birthdays, weddings, graduations, promotions and victories. Even the ungodly celebrate at such times. But, according to Paul, followers of Christ must march to a different beat: we should give thanks not only when things go well, but also when circumstances prove disappointing, discouraging, even devastating. Christ's brother, James, took Paul's admonition a step further:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2
Some say that there is good news and bad news. I suggest that there is good news and other news. Often we do not know whether news is good or bad until we have all the facts. Thus, initially, the first Good Friday was anything but good as far as the disciples were concerned. Their best friend, Jesus, had been crucified after a mockery of a trial. It was not until Resurrection morning that the disciples began to see the crucifixion in a different light.
My wife, Bobby, is very creative in her gifts. Last Christmas, she framed a magazine cover for me showing the world's foremost cyclist, Lance Armstrong. He had been successful in a four-year battle with cancer. Bobby's gift hangs in our office displaying Armstrong's quote:
I take nothing for granted. I now have only good days and great days.
This Thanksgiving there is great pain and sadness in America and throughout the world. Evil is fully engaged. But so are followers of Christ. For those who know the Author of His-Story, circumstances can never erase the facts of the empty tomb and God's sovereignty. Advocates International was blessed with its share of disappointing circumstances and setbacks in 2001. Yet, as always, the scales this year were tipped decisively toward thanksgiving. We had plenty of good days and even more great days. Some highlights:
- African Christian Lawyers Network has grown from a roundtable of ten in 1998 to a fellowship linking over 10,000 law professionals throughout Africa. Their goal for 2002 is to reach colleagues in each of the 53 African nations. We believe it will happen.
- Red Latinoamericana de Abogadas y Abogados Cristianos was launched by delegates from 14 Latin nations at their first conference in Peru in September. In 1999, we had only two nations on board; today the network embraces over 5,000 law professionals who follow Christ throughout Latin America. The goal for 2002 is to see delegates from all 34 nations in the Americas, plus Cuba! We believe it will happen.
- Advocates Europe was launched by delegates from 14 European nations meeting in Portugal. The hope is to see participants from all 55 European nations participate in the 2002 conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. We believe it will happen.
- Advocates Asia was launched by delegates from 20 Asian nations participating in an historic conference in Korea. It was thrilling to see followers of Christ from nine current and former communist nations, including Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, China and Mongolia, join together in fellowship and build relationships that will last a lifetime. The hope is to see 35 nations participate in the 2002 conference. We believe it will happen.
- Australia may be the most secular continent on the planet. Thus, it is cause for great thanksgiving to see a handful of Christian lawyers develop a network over the past year that reaches 250 colleagues. The 2002 conference hopes to bring together lawyers from a dozen island nations in the South Pacific. We believe it will happen.
- Christian lawyers in Australia, Canada, England, India, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa and the U.S. held conferences this year. We are thankful for the leadership and commitment demonstrated by these national fellowships.
- Roger Sherrard has been a Board member since 1992 and practices law in Poulsbo, Washington. In 2001, at the invitation of Albania's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, Roger helped organize three strategic conferences in Albania for hundreds of judges. We thank God for Roger and so many others who have given sacrificially of their time, talent and treasure this year in order to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly" with God.
In sum, linking together the existing lawyer networks around the globe, there are an estimated 30,000 followers of Christ within the legal profession. Imagine the great potential impact for Christ as these men and women continue to be salt and light locally and regionally!
We thank each of you for your prayers and gifts. Above all, we thank our one and only Client, our Lord Jesus Christ, without Whom there would be no opportunity of ...
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
President & CEO
P.S. Although our expenses remain below budget, the giving is down 10% this year. This is great news because it forces us to put our trust in God. We invite your Thanksgiving gift. Thank you!