[notice]A monthly column in which we share testimonies of some of South Africa’s ‘True Champions’ who bring glory to God and bless their fellow-citizens, by opposing the tide of corruption and taking a strong stand for ethics in their spheres of influence.
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Your greatest joy, fulfillment and blessing are close to where you are says theologian and author Dr Dion Forster, who is Chairperson of EXPOSED, an international campaign that tackles the global issue of corruption and its devastating impact on the world’s poorest people. I was talking to Forster, who is Senior Researcher in Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology at the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University at the end of a recent Winter School presented by the university’s Faculty of Theology in collaboration with the Centre, Communitas and Ekklesia.
Forster who was one of the keynote speakers at the Winter School told me that most people don’t have the privilege of discovering their true calling but this does not mean God does not have a plan for everybody. “People need to realize that they can transform the situation they are in to use it for God’s glory,” he said, illustrating his point with the example of Global Day of Prayer (2001) and Unashamedly Ethical (2009) founder Graham Power (See last month’s True Champions column) who God has been using while he remained in the construction industry, as opposed to calling him into ‘fulltime ministry’.
Life changing meeting
Forster says that his own life was radically altered following a conversation with Power who approached him after a service at a church he was pastoring in 1999. He shared Power’s marketplace ministry journey becoming chaplain to the Power Group of Companies as well as the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical movements.
UE is a global partner of the EXPOSED campaign, which has offices in Cape Town, London, New York and Malaysia, and as Chairman of EXPOSED, Forster has been around the world meeting church and business leaders, as well as heads of state and the United Nations with the aim of securing their support in fighting corruption by mobilising the world’s massive Christian population. .He says, “We have achieved a global reach of 153 countries with 150 million people participating in the campaign. It will culminate with a global call to end corruption that will be presented at the G20 Leaders Summit in Australia. We will hand over the global call to end corruption, which includes a call for policy changes. There will also be a public press event involving the youth who are a key focus of the campaign.”
Forefront of fight against corruption
Forster considers being at the forefront of the fight against corruption a privilege, saying it has allowed him to express his faith in a tangible way. He adds: “Principles of justice and equity are a core of our faith; the Bible deals with very strong social issues.” On the role of the church, Forster says the focus should not be on the church or politics but rather on being obedient to God and serving communities and the world according to the will of Christ. This was the thrust of his presentation at the Winter School, which he says was like getting a remarkable glimpse of the Kingdom of God with several hundred people representing a wide range of denominations and races together for three days discussing the issue of the role of the church in Africa over the next 20 years.
Reflecting on the 15 years since his post-service meeting with Power, Forster says he cannot believe how fortunate he has been — especially considering his childhood. Born in Zimbabwe to parents who divorced when he was only two years old, he says growing up with an unstable childhood he never considered the possibility of ever leaving the area of his birth. This changed when his father obtained custody of his brother and himself after moving to Cape Town. He visited a church because of a girlfriend but Forster says: “I experienced such love in the church, like I never experienced before, and I knew in an instant that I would spend my life in ministry. That was while I was still in high school.” Although no longer in fulltime church ministry, Forster has remained true to his calling to serve and lead people out of darkness, albeit as a theologian, marketplace minister and global anti-corruption activist.