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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Entries in poverty (13)

Friday
Nov292013

Remembering the life and witness of Dorothy Day

Today many Christians will commemorate the life of Dorothy Day. She was the co-founder of the Catholic worker movement, a deeply committed pacifist and servant of the poor.
Her life was shaped by a contemplative faith, out of which arose her quest for peace and justice in the world.

As with many great leaders she was not free from controversy. 

I have often considered that in order to bring about a substantial and lasting change in society there needs to be a family significant disruption of the status-quo. The 'powers' of every structure and age are resistant to change. It is seldom an easy process, but I do think that a peaceable approach, emanating from a position of deep faith, soaked in grace, stands the best chance of bringing change without resulting in significant brokenness.

My prayer is that I, and many others, will embrace the discipline of daily faithfulness to the Gospel of grace and peace, that in our prayer, our action and our words we will serve in small ways that contribute to the positive transformation and renewal of the world.
Saturday
Jul272013

Back from Nigeria! Off to Johannesburg - FastForward leadership conference

The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism.  We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.

This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church!  This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem.  Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world.  Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here.  I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship.  Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.

I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.

Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'.  This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions.  Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?

People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.

Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)

 

Friday
Jun072013

The Church and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's)

Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation at the Stellenbosch University Winter school on the role of the Church in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).  Here are the slides from that presentation.

The good news is that there has been some great progress towards achieving the 8 MDG's and addressing extreme poverty across the world.  However, it is critical that we finish well! It would seem that some early strides were made, and that now many governments have slowed their progress on more difficult issues.

The role of the Church is crucial in this process.  My reasoning was quite simple:

1.  The Christian faith is the largest faith on earth.

2.  Our scriptures are clear that we should work for justice for all people.  The earth is the Lords, we have stewardship of it and we need to do a better job of caring for one another and the plant.

3.  There are simple and practical things that we can do.  They begin with prayer but must move to action.

4.  I encouraged the listeners to move through the 4 stages of engagement (as mentioned by David Korten in his research), namely from A) Charity B) Projects C) Advocacy and Policy engagement to D) Social movements for change (e.g., like the suffigen movement in the last century).

I gave three examples:

- Micah Challenge Australia and the 'Finish the race' campaign at http://www.micahchallenge.org.au

- Unashamedly Ethical which is a global ethics advocacy community with support and encouragement http://www.unashamedlyethical.com

- Promising life, a South African project to work for the maternal health care and the reduction of infant mortality in South Africa (we have one of the best policy frameworks for basic health care, and great allocation of resources, yet delivery and implementation by the Department of Health in South Africa is dismal!) join them here http://www.micahchallenge.org.za

Of course I would encourage you please to sign up to EXPOSED and send a strong message to the leaders of the G20 that global corruption is not acceptable!  Go to the website or sing up below http://www.exposed2013.com

Thursday
Feb142013

Franco and Sophie - a story of grace

God gave me a wonderful gift this week. It has been an exceptionally busy couple of months with my work at 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption', Unashamedly Ethical and the University. Between travel, meetings, conference calls, speaking engagements, writing and supervision I hardly felt like I was touching sides.

The busyness of life has a way of drawing me away from what matters most. I begin to adopt a functional, rather than a reflective, orientation towards life. My days are spent on tasks rather than prayer and people. This can quickly lead to disconnection from God and God's wonderful world, and the people in it.

Last week was no different. We had a great contact week with our Master of Theology students who are doing the course in missional spirituality. Rev Trevor Hudson and Prof Robert Vosloo came and did the input sessions with our students. I sat in on most of the lectures, and also spent time with the individual students and the group helping them to work towards their research tasks and assignments. At the end of the week the examinations began for the group of students from last year's MTh course. In all 12 students had an opportunity to give a defence of their Masters research projects. This is an exciting time where the students present their ideas and the faculty (lecturers) get to engage with them. Whilst it is an exam, it is also a great time of learning and sharing.

On Monday afternoon one of my Masters students did his defence and did a great job. He has passed and will get his degree. It felt good to celebrate this significant milestone with him! However, as I left the University to rush home in order to go onto a conference call with colleagues in the UK for EXPOSED my mind was already focussed on tasks.

I drove out of Stellenbosch and as I passed Stellenbosch square I saw two people on the side of the road, a young boy and his mother. The mother was clearly very drunk. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not stand or walk without stumbling. She was dangerously close to the moving cars and her little son was applying all of his weight to try and pull her out of the road. My heart was touched. Seeing a little 6 year old boy struggling to help his mother in this situation left me very bruised. So, I turned my car around to the other side of the road and stopped to pick them up.

God had given me the gift of Franco and Sophie. Franco is six years old and has just started school. Sophie is his mother. Her husband died of HIV/AIDS a while ago and she has a drinking problem. Franco was trying to help his mother home.

After I had put Sophie in the front seat of the car, and get Franco securely fastened in the back (in Liam's 'booster seat') I took them home. I discovered that Franco has a brother - he is 9 years old. How sad it is that these two boys bear the responsibility of caring for themselves and their mother. Of course this event touched a very tender part of my own life and brought back memories from my early childhood.

I couldn't do too much for them. After getting Sophie and Franco safely home we talked for a while. I first spoke with Sophie about her life and her struggles. I encouraged her to seek help and prayed with her. It was a hopelessly inadequate response to this very serious situation. I then spent some time with Franco. I told him how beautiful and brave he is. I reminded him that God had made him a very special boy and that God has a wonderful plan for his life! I reminded him that he is loved and that God had sent me to collect him and his mom that afternoon. All that I had in the car to give him was an apple, a banana and one of Liam's story books. He was over the moon with the book.

Franco and Sophie have been living in my heart and mind all of this week. As I go to meetings, as I meet people, as I speak at events, as I plan, as I write, as I pray... God has given me a gift. It is a sad gift, but it is important.

The Bible says "Learn to do what is right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1.17)

Please can I ask you to pray for Franco, Sophie and Franco's little brother? Please ask God to care for them. Please pray that Sophie will find the help that she needs, and the Franco and his brother will be spared from neglect or abuse. Please pray that they may reach the beauty of potential that God has placed in them. Please don't make the mistake that I make and get so busy that you neglect the opportunity to be wounded by suffering.

Saturday
Aug042012

A Biblical mandate for advocacy on poverty and corruption - ABLI presentation

Yesterday I had the great honour of speaking in the Plenary and conducting a workshop session at the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) forum in Uganda.

I was invited to present on our campaign 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. A number of the participants asked me to upload the slides from the presentation.

You can view the slides online below (please note that the first slide is blank, there is content from slide two).

If you would like to download a copy of the slides you can download them in PowerPoint format here.  They are in PPTX format and the file size is about 7.5MB.  If you use the slides please just attribute their source.

I told three stories to make the point that Christians have a responsibility, a ministry, to advocate for justice (speaking out against corruption and working with and for the poor).

Story 1 was called Philip's story.  It asks a powerful theological question:  If God has made the earth plentiful.  If Africa is so fertile and rich in natural and human resources, then why is he, and so many other Africans, stuck in abject poverty?

I used this wonderful video from NURU international.

Story 2 is a Biblical story.  I give some Biblical and Theological input on God's Economy (the oikos [household] nomos [management]).  The etymology of the contemporary English word 'economics' derives from two Greek words that mean the 'management of the household of God'.  The basic point here is that God desires a different standard of equity, justice and the management of the earth's resources so that every person can have a share of God's loving provision to flourish and live in blessing.

Some participants challenged a statement that I made in which I said that the prosperity 'gospel' is  not Biblical.  I stand by that statement.  I do not believe that God is an 'investment banker' where if one follows certain deterministic principles God is contractually bound to make one rich.  Moreover, it is simply not possible for the world to all live at the same standard of consumption that is expounded by prosperity preachers.  We can sustain that level of consumption of the natural resources of the earth.  If every person on earth lived at the standards of the average first world citizen the planet would depleted in a few short years.

However, I also do NOT believe that it is God's desire that the poor should remain in poverty.  I also do not believe that all wealth is evil and wrong.  I believe that what God wants is greater equity between the poor and the rich. In God's economy no child should have too much while another child has too little.  Of course there would be some who have more (e.g., persons who pursue business) and some who have less (persons such as myself who follow a life of service in the academy or in ministry).  However, no one should have too little and no one should have too much.

I do believe that part of the ministry of the Church is to develop the nation.  We should be involved in economic development.  We should be encouraging entrepreneurship.  However, we should also be encouraging responsible stewardship.  We should be encouraging simple and responsible living.

Aman, and a visiting Bishop from Zambia, both put their finger on the problem.  They both suggested that the problem is the terminology that we use.  For me, and many 'westernised' Christians the word prosperity has connations of excess (i.e., how does one get a bigger house, a better car, a higher salary than the good one already has).  However, for most poor persons prosperity means being able to meet the needs of your family and live with a reasonable measure of economic and social freedom.

Just to give some credit, I used a slide from my colleauge at the University of Stellenbosch, Dr Marius Nel, in this section.  It traces the development of the Historical Jesus scholarship.  I basically ask the question 'which Jesus shapes your faith?'  In short, the kind of Jesus that one finds preached by popular television preachers does not resemble the Jesus of the Bible very much.  If you want to find out what the Jesus of scripture cared about do yourself a favor and JUST read the red letters of the Gospels (the words of Jesus) for a month or so and see what Jesus thinks about, talks about, and cares about.  You may be surprised that he cares more about justice, economics, gender relations, systems of power in society than you thought.

Story 3 is our story.  I used the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign as an example of  advocacy on corruption and poverty. In this section I drew on the great work of my colleague, Amanda Jackson, on advocacy.

I used this video.

I hope there may be something of use here.  Please let me know what you think.  God bless, Dion

Wednesday
Jul112012

Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis

Our friends in the United Nations Development Program put toget a wonderful report entitled 'Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis' a while ago.

In this report they show that there are varying levels in which the access to water impacts upon the poor.  

First is the issue of access (scarcity).  If one cannot get water, a most basic of needs, you will suffer a great deal.  Not only can you not meet the basic needs of your body, to hydrate yourself.  It also denies your human dignity.  You cannot clean yourself.

Second, this report highlights that it is not only access to water that impacts the poor, it is also the way in which the water is delivered that can compound the suffering of the poor.  In the report they highlight how frequently the delivery mechanisms pollute the scarce water that is so desperately needed. When the water is polluted and consumed it causes disease that quickly leads to people dying, since the poor seldom have access to basic health care.

I would encourage you to watch the video below.  It is well done, very informative and can be a great source of information to direct your prayers and Christian response to the issue of poverty.

As a Christian what could you do, and pray, to see this situation changed where you live?  How about praying, or acting, on behalf of Christians in other parts of the world (such as India, Nigeria, or Rio)?

You can join 100 million other Christians who are adding their voices to show God's love for the poor, and God's desire to transform those who are caught in corruption - sing up for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' at http://www.exposed2013.com

Saturday
Jul072012

Consultation on Christian Advocacy Poverty and Corruption

Today I have the joy of speaking at the CANOPI gathering here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Consultation on Christian Advocacy Poverty and Corruption is being hosted by Malaysian Care, a Christian aid and advocacy agency in Malaysia - see http://www.malaysiancare.org/

They have a great model of Christian care through development - as I have met with their staff and listened to their programs I am left with a sense that they care about what the Gospel of Christ looks like (and feels like) in society. Jesus own 'mission statement' in Luke 4 comes to mind - feeding the hungry, developing the poor, working for the liberation of the oppressed.

What is equally encouraging is that their work is ecumenical. They are wise enough to know that the solution to many social challenges doesn't lie with only one Church grouping. Rather, the whole of the community needs to be involved in working for God's loving Kingdom to be established.

Please could I encourage you to visit their website and also to pray for and support their wonderful work? If you live or work in Malaysia please join CANOPI. I am pleased to say that they are a partner of our 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign - see http://www.exposed2013.com

Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Friday
Mar302012

Uganda - from the pavement to the palace

It is just after 6 am in Uganda. Graham Power and I have just returned from speaking on Power FM, the radio station of Watoto Church.

This truly is a Church that is being salt AND light! By this I mean that they have a consistent Christian witness, giving expression to God's love in ways that are traditionally associated with being 'the Church' i.e., preaching the good news of God's love for people and the world, gathering for worship, discipling their members etc. However, they are also being salt (in the sense that this phrase 'salt and light' was used in the New Testament). Salt was used to prevent the decay of food stuffs in the days before we had refrigerators. Watoto Church is a Church that is actively 'salty'. They serve the poor, they care for the orphans and the vulnerable. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how they give expression to the Good News - they not only preach what the 'gospel sounds likes', they also 'show what the Gospel looks like'.

In a few hours Graham and I will be speaking at the Makerere University on Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED. We end our time in Uganda by speaking at a Watoto Church to a group of about 1000 business people tonight. From there we fly to Rwanda for some more speaking engagements and the grand finale of the East African reality TV series - Inspire Africa (a show that is quite similar to Donald Trump series 'The Apprentice').

What prompted this post, however, was a series of experiences I had yesterday.

After arriving in Kampala just after midnight I slept for a short while before going to a business breakfast at the Africana Hotel. A couple hundred entrepreneurs had gathered to hear Graham Power and Mrs Janet Museveni - the First Lady of Uganda. It was a wonderful time. It is always deeply inspiring to hear Graham's testimony, and it was wonderful to see so many passionate and talented business people with an interest in Ethics and business. It is a great honor to share some encouragement and challenge with them. Mrs Museveni is an inspiring woman of faith - her love for God and her people is deeply moving.

Later in the morning I needed to walk into Kampala to buy some supplies. My friend Graham Vermooten and I were walked through the busy streets, dodging the boda boda motorcycles and taxis! Kampala is a bustling city with a great deal of emerging wealth and a seemingly growing economy. The familiar sights of South African retail and commerce are evident here - MTN, Standard Bank, Nando's, Mr Price etc.

However, as we rounded the corner I saw a little girl, no more than two and a half years old sitting all alone in the middle of the pavement begging for food or money. I was arrested in my steps. I felt such a sense of pain and shame rise up within me. How sad it is that a child of that age should be begging for enough food just to survive! Poverty is frequently associated with laziness and poor choices in adults. However, a young child, in fact a baby, is a victim of poverty. There is no other way to put it.

As we walked a little further there was a group of four or so women and girls - clearly street people - sleeping in the grass on the pavement. I wondered if the baby belonged to one of them? Regardless, I was so moved by what I had seen I could not get it out of my mind. Rounding the corner there once again signs of emerging wealth, an upmarket shopping mall with a parking lot filled with luxury 4x4 vehicles, busy shoppers, stores filled with food, clothing and all sorts of unnecessary distractions. The contrast is just so stark!

What shall we do with the poor? I choose that phrase deliberately 'with the poor'. I am certain that the solution to poverty is not to keep a person enslaved and dependent on others. That thought had crossed my mind - the little girl, if she survived into her teens, would most likely become enslaved in sex work, or at best dependent upon the alms of others. It is highly unlikely that she would end up differently from the four women fast asleep on the grass.

Indeed, what shall we do with the poor? How shall we work alongside them, with them, to engender a change of heart and mind that will break the cycle of poverty?

This post is entitled From the pavement to the palace because the day ended on the opposite extreme - our team was invited to dinner at the Presidential residence in Kampala. A beautiful compound with lush gardens. Not extravagant by any means (I have certainly seen more ostentatious homes in Bryanston, and Somerset West where I live). The President and First Lady live in a beautiful but modest home. Of course security was extremely tight and no cell phones or cameras were allowed. However, we did take our camera crew (with permission) to film Mrs Museveni for the Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED campaigns.

It was Mrs Museveni who stated so clearly that poverty is frequently entrenched in the mindsets of individuals and upheld through structures in society. Injustice and corruption are frequently the primary cause, and the ongoing catalyst, of poverty. However, a solution to poverty is not only to be found in handouts and charitable work. She eloquently stated that the solution is to be found in restoring human dignity and worth, in helping persons to see and discover their human potential. In releasing untapped ability, creativity and opportunity in both individuals and communities. Enterprise development, education, and spiritual and moral formation are all necessary elements in working alongside the poor for transformation and renewal.

I am still haunted by the sight of that little girl.

However, I am encouraged and thankful that God is placing persons throughout the various strata of society to partner with Him in bringing renewal, healing and transformation in the world. From the ordinary person like me, to the first lady of a nation, God has planted within us the capacity for care. The ability to make difficult and sacrificial choices about our time, our money, our space, and our energy. The Watoto Church is a testimony to that! These are not wealthy people, but the wealth of their love is extravagant for the poor!

Please can I ask you to pray with me for those who awoke today hungry? Please will you pray for that little girl? Graham and I fed her something as we walked back to our lodgings. It was something small, another little bit of sustenance that would take her a step further in her life. Please pray that she would not only have food today, but be nourished in her body, mind and spirit so that she may grow to become just like the first lady of her nation. God's desire is that we should all become fully human. We can be a part of that wonderful work!

Please join us in shining a light on poverty - a positive light of care! Please join the EXPOSED campaign and start planning what you will do during EXPOSED week 14-20 October in 2013. Share your story on our Facebook page and encourage others to join you in God's work of renewing the earth and its people.

Friday
Oct142011

Occupy Grahamstown! The poor, the state and the Church?

Last week I posted a video and reflection on the growing discontent with global poverty and the manner in which the enfranchised and powerful persons and organs of society are dealing with the poor. Remember what I said about the gini coefficient? The gap between the rich and the poor is not only an affront to God, it is serious challenge to national stability and safety.  Where some people have too much and others have too little a revolution is inevitable.  It is even more volatile in a nation like South Africa where the majority of the people are poor.  Since the Church is called by God to be an agent of healing, transformation and service to society I wonder what role the Church should be playing in reforming the global (and local) economy?  I am sure of one thing, there will be members of various Churches in the crowds that participate in riots, protests and marches.  Others are the sons, daughters, family and friends of Christians.  Of course it is also true that those who occupy positions of power and influence (politicians, economists, business persons, lawyers, police officers etc.) are also members of our Churches!  Surely we have a role to play!

Today I received the following email about an 'people's uprising' that is planned for the City of Grahamstown.  I would encourage you to read the statement - regardless of your political views or your perspective on poverty.  This statement gives a vivid insight into the growing discontent among ordinary South Africans.

What is the role of the Church in such a situation?  What should we be doing, saying and praying?

13 October 2011

Unemployed People's Movement Press Statement

Occupy Grahamstown!

Recapitalise the Poor!

As a movement of the poor we have taken great inspiration from the rebellion that has spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Syntagma Square in Athens, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and now Liberty Plaza in New York. Our comrades in Students for Social Justice have been just as inspired by the growing spirit of rebellion that is jumping, like a fire, from country to country.

 On Saturday we will occupy Grahamstown. The students will march into town from the Botanical Gardens. We will march into town from the township and the squatter camps. We will meet on the square at the Cathedral. We will turn that square into a people's university, a people's kitchen and a space of people's power. Our aim is to bring the rebellion of the poor, the rebellion that has put thousands and thousands on the streets of South Africa in recent years, into dialogue with this global rebellion. The alliance between organised students and the organised unemployed is strong in Grahamstown. Together we can build strong foundations for the struggles to come.

 We have been inspired by this global rebellion because the comrades in Tahrir Square showed the world the strength of a united and determined people. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the bankers that their time of ruling the world is over. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the politicians that from Cairo to New York people are determined to rule themselves and to build their own power from the ground up.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of freedom. We insist that all people have the right to organise themselves according to their own free choices. We denounce the ANC for the murder of Andries Tatane and all the others. We denounce the ANC for the repression of the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Landless People's Movement, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and all the others. We denounce the ANC for their attempts to censor the media. We denounce the ANC for continuing to claim that the movements of the poor are a Third Force. The ANC insult us by making us live like pigs and excluding us from all decision making and then, when we rebel, they insult us again by saying that it must be a white academic that is making us rebel. The ANC is incapable of understanding that poor black people can, like all other people, think for ourselves. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they do not and have never had a monopoly on struggle. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they are the real counter-revolutionaries.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of real democracy. We join the people of the world in showing our anger at the way that the capitalists have bought the politicians and the whole system. We will join the people of the world in insisting that democracy will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Democracy is something that you do. It is not something that you watch on TV. Democracy is something that everyone can do. It is not something that experts like politicians or NGOs must do for the people.

 We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of justice. We join the people of the world in insisting that we will not pay for the crisis caused by the bankers. Their wealth must be expropriated and returned to the people. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. The predatory elite are publicly gorging themselves while the poor are starving, desperate and frightened. Last week Transnet advertised for 30 jobs - 30 boring and badly paid jobs. Ten thousand people came to apply. Forty people were injured when the gates were opened. The contempt with which the poor are treated in this country is incredible.

 It is not just the ANC that treats the poor with such gross contempt. Business is just as bad. We have not forgotten how the big companies colluded, in the midst of mass unemployment, to fix the price of bread. When we are strong enough we will fix the price of bread from below. We will take the struggle for bread that was started in Durban forward. Imagine one day when people around the country enter the supermarkets and begin eating the bread without paying. That will be the last day on which the capitalists fix the price of bread.

 We are not asking for higher taxes to increase funding for the state. Our municipality is a notorious kleptocracy. The ANC is corrupt from top to bottom. We do not want to struggle to buy Blade Nzimande a new car or more houses, cars, watches and sushi parties for Julius Malema and his friends. We do not want to struggle to finance Kebbelism. What is the point of the ANC getting more money to build houses when the houses that they build are unfit for human habitation, fall down in the first wind and are only given to ANC members?

 We are not anti-state. But our state is rotten to the core. Until we can build enough people's power to be able to discipline the state from below we will have to treat it as what it is, a vehicle from the predatory elite to feed off society.

 The capitalists in Europe are saying that the people must pay for the banks to be recapitalised. We say that it is time to stop all public subsidies for the rich. We say that it is time for the banks to recapitalise the people. Abahlali baseMjondolo has correctly insisted that the poor were made poor by the same economic system that made the rich rich. Therefore it is only logical that the billions and billions held in the banks on Wall Street must be used to recapitalise the poor. We are calling for a universal guaranteed income. It must be at least R2000 per month and it must be paid to all people without going through local councillors or party structures.

 Some of the comrades that were amongst the ten thousand in Bloemfontein are coming to Grahamstowm to learn from our struggle. Ayanda Kota was recently in Durban to be at the Abahlali baseMjondolo AGM. We are, day by day, building a national movement of the poor, by the poor and for the poor from the ground up. Every day our struggles and our movements are drawing closer.

Sekwanele!

Genoeg!

Enough!

Liziwe Gqotolo 073 440 5536

Siyanda Centwa 078 571 5507

Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462

I'd love to hear your feedback! If you're in Grahamstown (a city in which I lived for 4 years!) and plan to participate in this gathering please let me know.  God bless, Dion

Thursday
Oct062011

A reflection on being a Christian in the world economic crisis

This morning I was struck by the news on the riots, unrest, protests and unhappiness at the world economic situation.

In this video I reflect on what I believe a Christian response should be to the economic, social and political inequalities in the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  By the way, you can find out about the gini coefficient here. Also, in the video I made mention of the book '44 sermons to serve the present age' - I accidentally said that my friend Lisa Withrow was the editor (while she contributed it was in fact Dr Angela Shier-Jones who edited the book.  Sorry for fumbling that one Angie!  Jetlag brain!)

God bless from Malaysia!

Dion

Monday
Sep172007

Unemployed in Cape Town - preparation for the General Annual Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

This post comes from the promised land - Cape Town! I am very fortunate to fly into this place of blessing and grace every few weeks. It is one of the great blessings of my vocation. If you are short of time could I ask you simply to skip the next few paragraphs and read the quote below? It is moving, wortwhile, and a poignant reminder of the task that lies before us as a Church that seeks to match our personal piety with acts of Kingdom Building social holiness? Of course if you have more time you are welcome to read my other personal reflections below!

As many would know I spent 6 very happy years as a circuit minister in Somerset West, and in fact our first child, Courtney, was born there. Sadly, she is the only one in the family who has defected and become a 'Bluebull' supporter since our move to Pretoria 4 years ago - there you go Joch Seeliger!

Each time that I return to Cape Town I feel a ache deep down in my heart. My time here truly was one of the most blessed and wonderful times in my life! The Church we served was vibrant, growing, and alive with possibility. I had a wonderful colleagueship and ministry with my good friend Philip Buckland, our lay leaders were a 'dream team' - I remember many blessed days with Richard Steele, Beulah Durheim, Nicolene van Vuuren, Hester Pike, Wendy Coles, and Debbie Lown! We are very fortunate still to own a little piece of heaven - a two bedroom apartment on the side of the Helderberg Mountain. The ache that I feel is a result of my longing for the friends, fellowship, and great blessing that we experienced during those happy years.

However, as I returned to the Cape last night I felt an ache of a very different kind. The occasion was a joyous one - we had gathered in Somerset West with the student ministers who are about to be Ordained this coming Sunday. From our meeting we made our way to the Elgin Country club for dinner with the Ordinands and the Bishops - a start to the Ordinands retreat. The dinner itself was wonderful! I sat at the table with my friends Juan Smith and Bonginkosi Mathenjwa (both of whom were students at John Wesley College in my first year there in 2004), as well as Bishops Paul Verryn, Brian Jennings, Andrew Hefkie, and Professor Richardson. As part of the dinner our Presiding Bishop reminded us all that we have a great responsibility before us in the week that lies ahead. Many of us (the EMMU staff and Bishops) are permanent members of the General Conference that meets annually. It is our task to direct and guide the Church in its policy, mission and decision making.

Among the items on the Agenda are the all important resolutions on the same-sex matter. However, Bishop Ivan Abrahams reminded us that there are many other very important issues, that often seem to get silenced by the more glamorous issues. Bishop Ivan read a real life account of a woman who is a Methodist, in fact a member of the Church in which he had served as a younger pastor. The story served to remind us of our responsibility and the importance of the work that lies before us.

As he read the story my longing turned to sorrow - my only prayer is that the energy of this emotion would be transferred into action, loving action that would in some way change the plight of so many in our poverty ravaged land. This story is called "Unemployed in Cape Town" and comes from the book "Uprooting Poverty: The South African Challenge. Report for the second Carnegie inquiry into poverty and development in Southern Africa" by Wilson, F and Mamphela, R (Cape Town: David Philip Publishers).

My husband lost his job about give months ago. It was big shock but we though we could cope. I was earning a reasonably good wage. We had to cut a few corners thought. We had to eat less meat. We had to save on all kinds of things. I had to now catch the train to work, 'cause it was cheaper than the bus even though it took a lot longer even though it took longer. I also took in other people's washing. There are a few people here who pay you a little bit to wash their clothes. I used to wash clothes every Sunday.

Then two months ago I lost my job. We were desperate. There was no money coming in now.

We had to spend everything we had in the time my husband was without a job. Now they've cut off the electricity and we're two months in arrears with rent. They're going to evict us I'm sure, we just can't pay though. My husband decided to go to Jo'burg. he went a month ago. He said he would get a job there. He sent some money the first week. But I haven't had any more money since. I don't know where he is. I haven't been able to get hold of him. I would like to go to Jo'burg to look for him but what can I do with the children?

Before he left we used to take turns to look for work because the children can't go to creche because there's no money.

Sometimes they lie awake at night crying. I know they are crying because they are hungry. I feel like feedin them Rattex [a rat poison]. When your children cry hunger-crying, your heart wants to break. It will be better if they were dead. When I think things like that I feel worse. It's terrible when a mother wants to kill her own children. But what can I do, I'm not a mother worth having.

I worry about my husband. I think he might have run away with someone else. Maybe he's got a job and just doesn't want to come home. But why isn't he sending any money? I'm sick I'm sick because of the cold. I can't take my children to the doctor when they're sick because there's no money. My mother and father said they would try to help. But they've got very little money and my brother and sister to support. It's a hard time for all of us. We're just not cared to find jobs. What can one do? You must start looking.

You can also pray to God that he will keep you from killing your children.

Last night I lay awake and I prayed. I prayed that God would make me courageous enough to make a difference. Perhaps we can do something to help people like this. I know that's what Jesus would do. I thank God for reminding me why we are meeting this week - not to make new policy and amend unnecessary laws, but to find ways to feed the hungry and bring hope to the hopeless. To find a way of helping a desperate mother so that she doesn't have to kill her children.