Giveback

ACN (Aid to the Church in Need – churchinneed.org) is a charitable organization that assists poor, vulnerable families throughout the world. ACN seeks to lift up those suffering in over 139 countries. This aid is effectively provided through trusted, local networks established in its more than 70 years of operation. This means ACN is there when all else may fail and hope is faltering.

In war torn Iraq, a local leader said the following of ACN:

“In these past years our people have been promised many things by many people, but those who actually stayed on our side and delivered on their promises are but very few. I am most grateful to you and your office for being amongst these few, and I pray in fullest thankfulness for this.”

We believe in the immeasurable value and dignity of each person. We support ACN to protect this value and dignity when most fragile.

Our Story – Choosing to do “Something”

“You don’t understand. It is not like here.”

I heard that many times in discussions with my client. At the time, I was serving as a pro bono attorney for a woman seeking asylum in the United States (Ms. X). Ms. X had suffered terrible persecution at the hands of a brutal, dictatorial regime.

Ms. X’s father had been a high-ranking government official who pushed hard for democratic reforms to respect the dignity and rights of each citizen. Because of this, he was captured and killed in the regime’s ascent to power. Execution teams were soon sent after his surviving family members. They killed her mother and brother. After surviving a terrible beating, she was able to flee to the United States.

Asylum was not then within my area of legal expertise. I was part of a successful legal team that specialized in providing transactional advice to top private equity funds. I loved working with these clients to understand and capture value in a variety of industries – from convenience stores to international manufacturing companies.

In a chance conversation with a friend, I learned of Ms. X’s situation. At that time, she had an asylum proceeding pending. However, because she fled her country with little more than the clothes she was wearing, she could not afford legal representation. I was informed that, without legal representation, she had very little chance of being granted asylum. This would mean return to the regime she fled and almost certain death. I, of course, sympathized but didn’t think there was anything I could do.

My friend then gave me the best lesson in value I have ever heard. She simply replied: “you are better than nothing.” Being told I was better than nothing wasn’t exactly the professional stature I was working toward. Yet, those words were profound. I thought about them often in the next couple of years that the proceeding lasted. And, I continue to remind myself of them today – Your value is not limited by what you have not yet learned or experienced but only by your choice to do more than “nothing”.

On our first court date, the Immigration Judge posed many challenging questions regarding proof of Ms. X’s identity and grounds for asylum. We had only been allotted a couple of hours for that particular day. The time elapsed before all of the evidence could be given. I assumed it would be continued until the following day. I was shocked when the Judge announced It would be continued to the next available date – a year later.

The interim period involved considerable work to gather information to respond to the Judge’s questions. Given the executions, records of identity and pro-democracy networks were purposefully hard to attain. Our best hope for evidence that would carry considerable weight in a U.S. proceeding was to reach the exiled, democratically elected President of the country from which Ms. X escaped. He could confirm Ms. X’s identity and her family’s pro-democracy work.

This was not an easy task. The President’s life was under constant threat by the current regime. The regime was under global pressure to recognize the election. They thought this might go away if only they could make the President go away. His location changed often and was known only to a small group of trusted advisors. Fortunately, my client remembered some of the communication codes utilized by her father.

It was a surreal experience to finally speak with the President on a conference call. He respected Ms. X’s father and gladly gave information confirming both his and Ms. X’s identity and pro-democracy work. On the next court date, Ms. X was granted asylum. In rendering her decision, the Judge cited the level of work and documentation provided – not a particular legal theory. It was action that won the day. Doing something was far, far better than nothing.

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