Updated: Jan 27
Brisbane | 27 January 2021 | Leilehua Fa'onevai
With picturesque sunrises and dreamy sunsets, Fiji provided the perfect backdrop to a timely conference for the Christian lawyer.
As 2021 gets underway, I am reminded of where I was this time last year. In January 2020, I participated in the Kingdom International Legal Network Conference 2020 (KILN 2020). At the time, I did not know that I was about to embark on my most difficult year to date, which was to live through a global pandemic and lose our beloved son, Fatulisi Ngalu Nathan Fa'onevai at 7 weeks, 3 days to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). I did not realise that stories and lessons heard during this Conference would hold me in the not too distant future, bring me comfort during a season of grief and loss, and remind me of a higher purpose, a higher calling.
My little family and I arrived into Fiji following a month's vacation in the Kingdom of Tonga. My husband and I, originally from Tonga, were blessed with the opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy life in Brisbane. We saw the rest stop in Fiji as an opportunity to renew our spirit and prepare for the year ahead.
We were expectant for 2020 and expecting our second child in July 2020. Having been to numerous legal conferences in Australia, I was excited at the prospect of KILN. A Christian legal conference and an opportunity to meet and mingle with like-minded lawyers trying to make head or tail and live out our Calling as best we can. The conference did not disappoint with delegates from across the Pacific, Kenya, Singapore, the United States and Australia sharing their experiences.
The KILN 2020 theme was ‘Re-Imagining Legal Culture: in pursuit of trust and truth’. The theme resonated as it reminded me to strengthen my faith in God's calling, to act with integrity, no matter the cost and to trust in His promises. His word says:
"... He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside." Job 23:10-11
An online survey by Princeton University, says "lawyers are viewed as highly competent and capable, but low in warmth and trustworthiness". In short, we earn respect but struggle to maintain trust.
The conference emphasised a re-imaging of our ourselves, as a new culture. It was a reminder that maintaining integrity, developing authentic relationships while serving others is noble and true.
It also highlighted looking after our mental health and wellbeing as lawyers. As you grow in law, this is often the first to give way. I was reminded that whether acting in the best interest of our client, upholding our duty to the court - being an Ambassador of Christ means no greater act than sharing His love and gift of salvation in some way or form. As a Christian, I believe there is always opportunity for this, especially in our marketplace. When you’re given the grace of God - overcoming obstacles, building trust/bridges with colleagues and clients, being truthful and speaking with candour shall become your natural setting.
I was honoured to represent the Pasifika Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc. (PLAQ) as moderator for Session Four: The importance of mentoring - developing integrity and trust. My panel was Brent McBurney, President/CEO of Advocates International; Wati Seeto, Manager Financial System Compliance at the Reserve Bank of Fiji; and our very own Andrew Fa'avale, Chairman & Founder of MANA Pasifika / MANA Mentoring and also a co-founder of PLAQ. This session reminded me of the PLAQ objective to mentor. We have created pathways for interns to develop their professional socialisation and support our student and early career lawyers. This would be tested in days to come when creative ways of maintaining contact, building rapport and sharing knowledge would need to transcend restrictions, as our world went into lockdown.
In an era of accelerated technological advancement and transformation, I saw this first hand as I made ‘electronic’ appearances in a number of court hearings before the Federal Court of Australia (via MS Teams), worked from home for a number of months before commencing maternity leave before I gave birth in July 2020. At PLAQ, we launched our first series of Sounds of Our Oceans and held a Trivia event via Zoom. Our PLAQ team is always willing and able to assist law students, law graduates, newly admitted lawyers navigate their journey in the law. Nothing is impossible if we have a heart for service and combine our talents to give back to our community.
To begin the year at KILN 2020 was a blessing, because within months we were in a pandemic, where 2.1 million people lost their lives as a result of the coronavirus, with over 99 million cases worldwide.
2020 reminded me of how precious time is with our loved ones.
This hit home when we woke up one September morning to find our 7 week old son had suddenly passed while we were all asleep. Like Job we cried out to the Lord in pain, not fully understanding but holding onto the hope that God knows and his comfort is not far. During this time we focused on His purpose for our lives, to counteract the grief. We continue to mourn our loss, but we have learnt to live with the hope that can only be found through Christ. It was our year to endure refiner's fire, purifying our heart, and in its own mysterious way, renew our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of our pain, we trusted that through our tears we would reap joy (Psalm 126:5).
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
To that end, if my year can teach you anything, surround yourselves with those who will speak life, love and purpose into you. As iron sharpens iron, find people who will encourage you, help build a firm and unshakeable foundation and support you in becoming a better version of who you are today.
I have renewed hope for 2021 and highly recommend joining PLAQ, and if permitted, attend KILN 2022 in Kenya. God knows and I trust that He will equip you in due season.
'Ofa lahi atu (Love) & blessings,
For more information, check out the KILN website at http://kiln.online/
For more information on Pasifika Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc, see tabs above via our website www.plaqld.org
Find out more about Leilehua at:
Trinity York Legal & Migration: www.trinityyork.com.au
Listen to Leilehua's interview with one of our founding members, Andrew Fa'avale, the Director of The Global Pasifika Success Podcast or watch on YouTube via link.