Vestrate '96 - Everyday Faith
The legal profession needs
more Christians," Christopher Verstrate '96 said. "We're like missionaries:
we have to work from the inside to turn things around."
And like missionaries,
Christian lawyers need the proper training and preparation if they are
to effect change within their environments. Verstrate has the proper training,
preparation, and attitude.
Upon graduating from Trinity
six years ago, he completed Northwestern University's law program in 1999
and began a career in a field that appears to operate under questionable
morals and values. While it may be convenient to penalize the whole for
the sins of a few, he tries to exhibit a mindset and work ethic that sets
him apart from his peers.
"I want to do my job as competently
as possible and make minimal complaints," he said. "If people see that
I do my job promptly and I don't complain, they will see the Christian
principles that I believe. I don't have to engage in lunchroom evangelism
if people can see how I live and work."
Married to Kadie (Hurley
'96) and working for the law firm Ross & Hardies in Chicago, Verstrate
handles corporate transactions and intellectual property such as trademarks
and copyrights. The fallout from the collapses of Enron and WorldCom due
to fraudulent accounting practices has brought the manner in which companies
handle their legal affairs under greater scrutiny. Verstrate's beliefs
help him avoid such circumstances before they evolve.
"I face situations in which
business owners try to take advantage of loopholes," he noted. "Since I
work with small- to mid-sized companies, I can talk to the owners directly
in most cases and advise them about the honesty and integrity necessary
to run a business successfully. A lot of people want to take the easy way
out, but I want to share the Christian perspective of operating a business."
Trinity proved to be instrumental
to Verstrate's development as he sharpened his people skills, which come
in handy as a lawyer.
"My interactions with others,
particularly my involvement with student government, taught me how to deal
with different situations and people. The experiences of conducting meetings
and leading negotiations are relevant because they make up a lot of what
I do at the firm."
Besides preparing him for
a career, the College also groomed him to defend his faith in law school.
He felt more confident when discussing volatile topics and sharing his
"When those religiously-charged
subjects arose in class, I could present my perspective from the Reformed
worldview," he said. "My classes included Christians, people who followed
other faiths, and atheists. Those times of listening to their points of
view and then offering mine have yielded great benefits for me professionally."
Working in such a dynamic
vocation will test one's spiritual beliefs, and Verstrate faced such a
test while working his first job, just one year out of school. He stood
steadfast and did not waver from the truth.
"A former classmate called
to ask for my help setting up an Internet gambling site," he recalled.
"As a lawyer, if you don't have any clients, then the bills don't get paid.
The temptation lay in the chance to secure a client with a potentially
lucrative business, but those are the times when you have to hold fast
to what you believe."
Verstrate also declined to
work with Planned Parenthood, the organization that favors legal abortion.
He made it known that his "spiritual convictions contradicted the basic
fundamentals of that group, and they understood that I could not work with
His spiritual lifestyle impacts
Verstrate's service outside the walls of his office as well. His training
and expertise affords opportunities to meet the needs of others that may
have remained unmet otherwise.
"Helping people outside of
my 9-to-5 is critical," he conceded. "I helped a neighbor write a will
and some friends buy a house by reviewing the legal documents. Those are
examples of ways that I can give back to my community, which is what God
wants us to do."
That kind of humility and
availability motivates Verstrate to stretch beyond normal boundaries. Serving
the Lord requires a commitment and assurance that ought to be apparent
without drawing too much attention to itself.
"I don't need a cross hanging
on my door for people to know I'm a Christian," Verstrate said. "I enjoy
helping people, and if I treat people according to godly principles, I
believe God is pleased."
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