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It is hard for me to recall a time when I have been more thankful to God for his blessings to our family, the ministry of Advocates International and me. Advocates International 2003 Global Thanksgiving Report highlights the six regional conferences held this fall. During the past two years we have seen 3,000 Christian lawyers, judges and national leaders attend conferences. In addition, at least another 2,000 lawyers have attended the Christian Legal Society/USA and CLF of Canada meetings during 2001-2003.
What good does it do to bring together 5,000 Christian lawyers globally? Consider the crucial "abortion rights" battle going on currently in Uruguay, Latin America's most secular nation. Pro-abortion forces have targeted Uruguay's Congress to pass Latin America's first "abortion rights" law. If they win there, it will grease the skids for similar laws throughout Latin America.
In 2000, we invited Peruvian Law Professor Nina Balmaceda and attorney Carlos Carrasco to our Third Convocation in Washington DC. They returned to Lima and organized CLS of Peru. It now has 100 members. A few months after launching CLS/Peru, Nina accepted the challenge to organize the Latin America Christian Lawyers Network. It held its first conference in September 2001. By 2003, the Latin Network linked lawyers and judges in 17 of 20 Latin nations. They hope to be 20/20 by early 2004!
This fall, the Latin Network held its third conference in Cartagena, Colombia with 12 Latin nations sending over 120 delegates. The four Uruguayans who came had just organized the Christian Legal Institute of Uruguay. When they returned home, they discovered the pro-abortion legislative effort had gone into high gear. CLI/Uruguay began sharing with members of their Congress helpful pro-life information they had accessed through Advocates' networks. The Latin Board, chaired by Peru's Carlos Carrasco, sent a letter to Uruguay's Senate Health Commission on behalf of delegates from the 17 Latin networking nations. Nina, our Liaison to the Latin Network, helped facilitate the process. The battle is far from over, but none of this would have been possible if Advocates had not brought lawyers together. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." Hebrews 10:24-25.
What if there had been a similar network in place in 1973 when Roe Vs. Wade was making its way through the U.S. courts? Sadly, most of the U.S. evangelical community at the time viewed abortion/pro-life as a "Catholic issue" and refused to engage. Advocates International seeks to encourage and enable lawyers to be salt and light locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
We are now planning our 2004 International Convocation for October 27-31 in McLean, Virginia. A Thanksgiving Season Prayer Roster lists the 300+ hoped-for participants from 128 nations who will join 800 U.S. colleagues for the historic meeting. This Thanksgiving, please remember to pray for CLI/Uruguay, the Latin Network, and our global leadership team and staff, as we continue....
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & CEO
Advocates International 2003
Global Thanksgiving Report
By Samuel E. Ericsson
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will
for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:18
- We are thankful for the African Christian Lawyers Network's 5th regional conference held in Lagos, Nigeria. We thank the conference organizers, Judy Kalinga of Kenya and Bayo Akinlade of Nigeria for their superb work. Over 200 delegates from 14 nations attended the conference. The theme was "Establishing the Nations in Righteousness." There are 22 African nations with active or emerging fellowships, up from three in 1991!
- We are thankful for the African leadership provided this year for ACLN. Ghanaian lawyer, Sam Okudzeto, served as President until the baton was passed to Bankole Sodipo of Lagos, Nigeria. Jonelle Tetteh-Ocloo served as AI's staff counsel and Liaison to Africa for nearly two years and organized the African Network. Judy Kalinga of Kenya has served as the Coordinator for the Africa Network since June.
- We are thankful for the Latin American Christian Lawyers Network 3rd regional conference held in Cartagena, Colombia. The conference was organized by David Perez of Colombia and his able team. Over 120 delegates from 12 Latin nations attended, including two lawyers following Christ in Cuba. The theme was "Peace and Justice Perspectives in Latin America." The Latin Network was launched two years ago and already includes 17 of the 20 Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America. By 2004, they expect to have all 20 nations linked. They are excited and energized!!
- We are thankful for the superb leadership provided by Peruvian Law Professor Nina Balmaceda during 2001-2003 in Latin America. After helping launch the Christian Legal Society of Peru in 2001, Nina began organizing the Latin Network. Assisted by Carlitos Zelada for 18 months, Nina helped link 17 nations within the Latin Network. When Carlitos became a Fullbright Scholar at Harvard Law School this August, Nina assumed the role as the Latin America Network Liaison. The new Coordinator of the Latin Network is Carlos Carrasco of Lima, Peru.
- We are thankful that Advocates Europe was able to join the Lawyers Christian Fellowship of the U.K. at their conference in England in September. The theme was "What Manner of People Ought We to Be?" Among the 130 participants were 20 internationals from a dozen nations. Several British colleagues caught the vision as to what they can do together throughout Europe and around the globe. Advocates Europe was organized on 9/11/01 during their first regional conference. The European network now links Christian lawyers from 40 nations, including 26 that have active or emerging Christian lawyer groups.
- We are thankful for the diligent leadership of Bulgaria's Latcho Popov who served as President of Advocates Europe for the past year under the chairmanship of John Langlois of the Channel Islands. Latcho has seen the Rule of Law Institute in Bulgaria grow from a small group of four in 1994 to a productive team of 200 engaged in over 20 projects.
- We are thankful for a successful Advocates Asia Northeast and Central Asia conference hosted by AI's Rule of Law Institute in Mongolia. Fifteen years ago there were no known national Christians in Mongolia. Today the Institute has over 40 Christian lawyers! The conference drew 120 Christian lawyers from Asia, including 40 from South Korea. Countries that were in communism's grasp for 70 years sent delegates, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. There were also brothers and sisters in Christ from China, Japan, Australia, Bulgaria and the U.S. Several reported that this conference was the best they had ever attended - of any kind!
- We are thankful for the able leadership of Baasankhuu Octybari, the director of AI's Rule of Law Institute in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Fresh out of law school at age 23, he launched the Institute in 1998. The Institute links 40 followers of Christ in the legal profession and is the leading religious freedom advocacy group in Mongolia.
- We are thankful for the initiative taken by Dongsub Sim, the East Asia facilitator and a founder of Advocates Korea. The Korean fellowship provided significant resources for the Northeast Asia conference. They also helped arrange life-saving medical help for Dr. Tumur, the Chairman of the Northeast Asia conference and a Member of Monglia's Parliament. Dr. Tumur suffered from a severe liver disease that was not treatable in Mongolia. Advocates Korea arranged for the crucial medical treatment in Seoul, Korea.
- We are thankful for the Christian Legal Society/USA conference held in October in Destin, Florida. Nearly 700 attended, including Advocates' "ambassadors" from Africa, Asia and Europe. We are now building for the 2004 International Convocation to be held October 27-31, 2004 in Northern Virginia. We are hoping to see 300 delegates from over 100 nations join 800 American Christian lawyers, judges and national leaders.
- We are thankful for the Advocates Asia Southeast Asia conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia hosted by the lawyer fellowship in Malaysia in November. Over 80 delegates from Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and the U.S. attended the conference that had as its theme "God @ Work".
- We are thankful for the exemplary leadership of Malaysian lawyer, Min Choon Lee, who has served as the President of Advocates Asia this past year. He has brought together through AA's weekly Prayer Calendar over 500 Christian lawyers throughout Asia. The President's baton has been passed to South Korea for the next year. A person has not yet been named by South Korea to serve as President.
- We are thankful for "the best staff money can't buy" this past year. The three in the "home office" and the nine scattered on four continents are true servant leaders.
- We are thankful for AI's Board of Directors and the Regional Leadership Network that have given of their time, talent and treasure to enable this ministry in 2003.
- Above all, we are thankful to Jesus Christ, our one and only Client, for enabling us to serve Him and His Church this past year, as we continue living in His-Story.