CAPE TOWN: Billionaire Businessman Says Christians Can Have Biblical Ethics
Global Day of Prayer Rocks the World
While in Cape Town covering the Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization, I interviewed a number of persons who I believe offer stories of changed lives through the power of the gospel. These stories are about faith and the struggle to be faithful often in difficult circumstances. This is the first of several stories we will bring to VOL's readers. We hope you will be inspired by their testimonies and struggles.
By David W. Virtue
November 18, 2010
Business is business, or so the refrain goes. The subtext is that while Christian businessmen should pay their taxes, perhaps hide money in the Cayman Islands or a Swiss bank account, even tithe, under no circumstances should God be allowed to interfere in the running of a business. In short, the ethics of how a business should be run is not God's business. Business is about making money regardless of the cost to people. The name of the game is profits, profits, and more profits. If it means cutting a few corners here and there to enhance profits so be it.
For 27 years, that was the basic philosophy of Graham Power, 55, a South African businessman who was then a nominal Methodist. "I started making money and the first part of my life was about chasing success. I started numerous companies, saw more turnover, established more game farms bought more boats and had all the material things of life including a loving wife."
Power began his working career working inauspiciously at a construction company. He launched out on his own in 1983 and started what became one of the most successful highway construction and real estate development companies in South Africa, now doing approximately R1.5 billion Rand turnover per annum. No small achievement indeed.
Power discovered he had the Midas touch. Within a short space of time, he had 1,700 employees and was making money hand over fist. His business expanded across all the provinces in South Africa, and now expanding into Kenya, Ghana and other Southern African countries.
What hung over him as a white man was the changing political face of South Africa. Apartheid was drawing to an end, and, like many of his business friends, he felt it prudent to stash funds offshore in case South Africa collapsed. This involved millions of Rand.
By putting money in an offshore bank account beyond the allowable limit amid the snooping eyes of tax agents in South Africa, Power accumulated enough to buy a luxury home and a boat in Majorca.
It didn't. South Africa transitioned peacefully out of Apartheid. Life went on.
But something happened to Power. He found that the good life wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He had become enormously successful. He was rich, had a loving family and much more. But an emptiness gnawed away at him.
"I was a nominal Christian. My father was a Roman Catholic, my mother was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. I went to a Methodist Church, but my heart was not in it. Once married, I was merely a Sunday Christian."
All that changed one day in 1998 when he was invited to a Christian breakfast meeting to hear Michael Cassidy, a well-known South African evangelist, preach. Power was introduced to the Scriptures at a level he had never experienced. For the first time, he heard the Good News of God's salvation and, also for the first time, he heard about the power of the Holy Spirit.
"It was a sort of return to my spiritual life but at a deeper level. My life began to change. In Feb. 1999, I made a 24/7 commitment of my life, my family and my business to serving God.
"And so in my study, late one evening, I went down on my knees and surrendered my life to Christ."
It was a powerful and defining moment for the hard bitten, super successful businessman. His life and his business would never be the same again.
Power found himself transitioning in his thinking about how one should be a businessman who was now a deeply committed Christian. One day he discovered something he called Biblical Principles of Business. He came to believe you could have ethics in the work place and there was no need to cheat to win.
In 1999, he began to clean up his act. His highway construction and real estate development company was, by any definition, a success.
With his new found faith in hand, Power set about asking critical questions about how he should live. "I said the first thing in my business was how we would conduct ourselves ethically. I challenged all our company directors and told them we could not collude with competing contractors, price fixing and tax evasion.
"The second thing I did was to say to our competitors that we were no longer prepared to discuss these issues that involved in participating in any form of price fixing. That was not a popular thing to do at the time.
"I then challenged our Board that we would start our meetings with prayer and that we would pay our fair share of taxes. We would no longer put our personal gardening services through the business and many other smaller things. We had lots of debate and discussion and then I made one of the toughest decisions of my life. As a majority stock holding 80% of the company's stock I told them I would step aside if in the Board were not to agree to this new direction. I told them I was firm in my decision and there was no turning back."
The directors agreed to go along with Power even though some were skeptical that one could do business with such transparency. Power's honesty paid off.
Now, more than a decade later 8,400 individual signatories, and some 1700 companies have signed on to the Unashamedly Ethical campaign. People are doing business across the board across all racial divides in a biblically ethical fashion.
"Since 1999 when I committed my whole life to Christ in 1999 I had done my best to clean up everything that I was aware of that was sinful. With this done I still had one thing that I realised was illegal. I had established an overseas bank account during the Apartheid years. I had a fear of the country collapsing like Zimbabwe. I had bought a holiday home and boat on Majorca on the Spanish coast some 12 years earlier, and then I end up sitting at a gala dinner and we were doing a fund raiser for the Global Day of Prayer and sitting at this function was Bruce Wilkinson who was a keynote speaker. He challenged us to contribute funds for the event. I told my wife we needed to sell and contribute money to the Prayer Day if it meant so much to us.
"Some months later, at a similar dinner in Johannesburg, I felt convinced to share a challenge and testimony with the 600 people present, telling them how God had led me to clean up my act. I had taken $2 million out of the country illegally, and the Lord had convicted me to set that right.
On the Wednesday before the Friday function, the Minister of Finance announced an amnesty. They were giving South Africans an opportunity to bring back the money that we illegally taken out of the country, paying 10% and all would be forgiven.
"So, on that Friday night, we were at the gala dinner and I talked about accountability and about our overseas accounts. I wanted to challenge my business hearers to do the right thing, as I had already done. On Monday morning the headlines in the local newspapers screamed, 'Christian Businessman Rapes Country of Millions.'
"The deal was to pay 10% and keep the properties there, or pay 5% and sell everything up and bring the money back. My wife and I opted for the former and paid the 10%.
"It has become part of my testimony. Businessmen did not know what prompted us to come clean. Eight years later everyone knows why I did it."
A New Beginning - Global Day of Prayer
In July 2000 God captured the heart of Power with a vision based on 2 Chron. 7:14. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The vision had three clear instructions:
1. To call Christians from all denominations in Cape Town for a Day of Repentance and Prayer at Newlands Rugby Stadium.
2. To challenge Christians across the rest of South Africa to unite in a Day of Repentance and Prayer.
3. To challenge Christians in Southern Africa to unite in a Day of Repentance and Prayer.
"In 1999 I took an ALPHA course with my wife who then made her own commitment to Christ. "The ten week course changed our lives. Some months later, at the end of my annual vacation, I woke up at 4am with a clear instruction from the Lord; hire the stadium at Newlands (the biggest rugby stadium in Cape Town) and challenge the Christians from all the denominations to come together for a day of repentance and prayer. That was in July 2000.
"I woke up that day with absolute clarity to challenge the rest of South Africa and to spread abroad the Africa Day of Prayer and Repentance. I phoned the Managing Director of the stadium and told him what I wanted to do. He said that in 102 years the only thing that had ever happened at the stadium was rugby. The chairman of the board was Jewish and the vice-president of the Union was a Muslim. Then a small miracle occurred - the board agreed."
In March of 2001, more than 45 000 Christians united for a Day of Repentance and Prayer at the Rugby Stadium in Cape Town. It was a day of intense intercession that transformed lives and was reflected by a changing city in the months to come. Testimonies of transformation caused the vision to be spread into the rest of South Africa and planning immediately started for similar prayer gatherings in eight provinces of South Africa for 2002.
"We had no big name speakers, just ordinary people with a passion for particular issues like youth, AIDS, leadership among church leaders, political and business leaders. We prayed for HIV/AIDS leaders of the country and for people on drugs."
The following year in February 2002, Power said he was about to have a second day of prayer (it was three weeks away), when he ended up going to a men's gathering in the wine growing district of Cape Town. "About 15 men showed up. A particular speaker from the Cape Flats - a 28-year old young man - spoke and his topic was the Holy Spirit. He had been a gangster from the age of 15 to 19 but had a radical conversion and here he was that morning chatting with 15 farmers and business men. I had a radio interview and after doing it I came back I found eight men lying on the floor...slain in the Spirit.
"The former gangster said 'I will pray for you.' I hit the deck and after five minutes I jumped up and felt electricity going through for me for over one and half hours. I was having the most dynamic experience in my life. I kept hearing God booming through my body, "I am the spine, I am the head of the spine, I am the King of Kings". The pain up my back felt like pins and needles and a picture of Cape Town formed around my body. God was showing me the next step - the whole of southern Africa would participate in a Day of Prayer.
"As I felt pins and needles go through my shoulders and head, I suddenly understood that God desired to spread the Global Day of Prayer throughout the whole of Africa.. I saw God's arms reaching around the globe and that Africa with all its problems was the center of a spiritual revival and that Africa would be a light to the world in my life time.
"This vision had an even bigger challenge: The whole of Africa was to gather in a Day of Repentance and Prayer, changing Africa to become a "light to the world". Eventually, Africa was to invite all the nations of the globe to unite in this move of transformational prayer."
In May of 2002, Christians in South Africa gathered in eight different venues for a Day of Repentance and Prayer. Again, the testimonies of church unity and the healing of communities inspired leaders to expand the vision into the rest of Africa. At a Summit in September 2002, leaders of nine African countries agreed on the vision "Africa for Christ".
At the same time, it was clear that different prayer streams from across the globe were flowing in the same direction with a similar vision of community transformation through prayer. God was busy raising up a church of intercession in order to prepare communities for the revelation of His glory.
Across the African continent millions of Christians were inspired to participate in the process of transforming Africa. 77 South African regions and 27 African countries committed to a Day of Repentance and Prayer for Africa on the 1st of May 2003.
On May 2, 2004, history was made when Christians from all 56 nations of Africa participated in the first ever continental Day of Repentance and Prayer for Africa. Numerous communities, villages, towns and cities united in non-denominational prayer gatherings at different venues. In South Africa, 277 communities participated. A flame of prayer was burning in Africa.
At a meeting of the International Prayer Council in Thailand in November 2004, the invitation from Africa went out to the nations of the world to participate in a Global Day of Prayer process.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2005, Christians from 156 of the 220 nations of the world united across denominational and cultural borders for the first Global Day of Prayer. In the months following this day, Christians were overwhelmed by the testimonies of God's powerful work in answer to these prayers.
In 2008, millions of Christians from 214 nations united in prayer and on May 31, 2009, a miracle happened when this initiative miraculously expanded to 220 countries in the world. Together with the 10 Days leading up to and the 90 Days of Blessing following the Global Day of Prayer, there was a sense that the call to unity and repentance was deepening. This lay the foundation for God to fill the nations with His glory as His children from around the world cried out to him in unity.
May 23, 2010 saw the 10-year celebration of the Global Day of Prayer. Whilst Christians from around the world united in prayer in Cape Town, where everything started, millions from 220 nations once again gathered in their own nations. The urgent call from Joel 2 echoed throughout the nations to return to God with repentance on a level never seen before. Yes, this was a time of rendering our hearts to God and to see the fulfilment of the promise of the Holy Spirit on all flesh.
"The growing momentum of the last 10 years has now laid the foundation to saturate nations in prayer. It's time to shift our focus from 220 nations to facilitate a lifestyle of prayer with as many people in as many places as possible. In this new season, we will no longer aim at the goal of having organized events in every single country of the world, but rather to increase the number of gatherings on Pentecost Sunday in smaller settings, such as local churches, family homes and businesses instead of stadiums and assembly halls."
Power wants to see the world celebrate the Global Day of Prayer. On June 12, 2011, he hopes to see the fulfilment of Hab. 2:14: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
"We will host the Global Day of Prayer from Jacksonville, Florida in 2011, and in 2012 we plan to anchor the Global Day of Prayer in the UK (where the Olympics will take place) on Pentecost Sunday."
Power has launched www.unashamedley.com to challenge the world to values, ethics and clean living.
His book, "Transform Your Work Life" can be purchased here: http://www.christianrepublic.co.za/catalogue/Transform-Your-Work-Life.htm
To read a few chapters go here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/files/Transform%20your%20work%20life%20promo.pdf
"Not by Might Nor by Power" by Graham Power can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Might-Nor-Power-Graham/dp/1599797216
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