LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DLGP

Mapmaking in China for ministry in Canada

Written by: on April 21, 2019

When I was just a boy, I came up with the unusual idea of writing letters to all the embassies in Ottawa requesting they mail me a copy of their country’s map. Who could refuse the request of a 10-year-old? Soon, my bedroom wall became a patchwork of oceans and mountains, roads and rail lines from places like the Netherlands, India, and Ghana. At our Hong Kong Advance, when Jason brought up the metaphor of mapmaking, my ears perked up.

Maps aren’t perfect and are only partial interpretations to discovery. Thankfully we haven’t resorted to maps at the scale of 1:1. But in maps one has enough information to get from here to there. Too much detail gets in the way of navigation. Our Advance and this LGP journey are like that. We are given signposts to guide us in ministry fruitfulness. This post will outline a five indicators from the Hong Kong Advance.


1st signpost: Rev. Stephen Miller of the Mission to Seafarers revealed how his work provides a home away from home to mariners and is open to all.

This group aren’t Bible thumpers – the Good Book is in their back pocket. They resist proselytizing, offering only empty hands to help. In our postmodern, globalized world, the Seafarers live out James Davison Hunter’s contextual plea for Christ-followers to be faithfully present.[1] Likewise, Canadian context is both postmodern and post-Christian having long ago abolished any pretense of paying attention to the church. The work I am doing with our liberal arts university is being built on this notion of faithful presence in a world where words are a tired way of communicating and where only actions speak in earnest.


2nd signpost: The fourth biggest law firm in the world is Linklaters.[2] We visited their Hong Kong branch and heard Hwang Hwa Sim state that while they are a global firm, “law is local”.[3]

From this presentation we learn the value of strategy. The British recognized that China could cut off their fresh water supply, and while they had a right to Hong Kong Island, it was better to cut their losses and exit Asia. Sometimes one must accept the inevitable which appears to be a loss, rather than stubbornly insist on repeating the same action. It is said that insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. In my work assisting a small university to fundraise, I am taking the strategy of cutting our losses with existing donors and what I call the tired, time-worn strategy of schmoozing that isn’t bearing fruit; instead we are crafting a new approach to development that will – I trust – be more organic for the institution, authentic to its stakeholders, and sustainable over the long term.


3rd signpost: We visited a large institution, begun as a Christian entity, but as it professionalized and received government funding, it strayed from its faith-based identity. (Name/photo withheld to protect identity.)

People of faith in this institution, such as the speaker, must resort to clandestine actions such as “closing the door” to prevent themselves from being called out. It shocked me to walk into a courtyard and find the building opposite was named for my philanthropy client’s father.[4] Their family’s foundation funded the initial expansion of the institution; today, they are dismayed with the direction it is going. The lesson for me, and clients I tend to is this: a donation is a gift, and when you give a gift, you have to let go.


4th signpost: Another signpost came with our visit to Saddleback Hong Kong.  Founder Steven Lee offered this wisdom:

We often approach our vocation as if we are the only ones with this dream. But in isolation, and as individuals, our impact is minimal unless we leverage the power of institutions to steward it. Affiliating with and working through broader organizational structures permits grander scale. That said, I struggled with the lack of Asian contextualization in this ministry, and as Simon Chan presents in Grassroots Asian Theology, “a theology that ignores the grassroots is not likely to go very far”.[5] I suspect that while Saddleback’s impact seems influential, the work being done is only a veneer of change when American models are only translated and not contextualized for the local grassroots.


5th signpost: I was strangely moved by the visit to Wong Tai Sin Temple.

I have been trained to consider visits to religious sites outside Christian ones to be the devil’s playground, and something to be avoided rather than learned from. Yet as I watched worshipers kneeling in supplication, shaking boxes with fortunes, and letting their fortune fall to the ground, I saw myself in them. I also began to wonder about Thomas Merton eventually identifying as a Buddhist Christian. How different are these Buddhist rites from Christians who yearn for a word from the Lord, receiving guidance from a scripture passage or a prophetic utterance? We all seek God’s guidance, and I believe that pure hearts seeking God eventually find him, even if in unconventional ways.

Five indicators on this Chinese map help guide me in Canadian ministry. These are imperfect guideposts to fruitfulness, yet they do indicate a way forward. May I humbly seek God’s leading and empowering in the days ahead thanks to our Hong Kong experience.

(Hearty thanks to Trisha Welstad for the audio recordings.)


[1]James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 237.

[2] Ranker.com. “100 Largest Law Firms in the World”. Accessed October 14, 2018. https://www.ranker.com/list/100-largest-law-firms-in-the-world/business-and-company-info.

[3] Hwang Hwa Sim, “Hong Kong, Financial Systems, Law and Ethics” (lecture, Linklaters, Hong Kong, September 28, 2018).

[4] I have a photo but will refrain from posting it here for confidentiality reasons.

[5] Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 72.



About the Author

Mark Petersen

Mark Petersen is the CEO of Stronger Philanthropy, a Canadian firm specializing in maximizing family philanthropy. He leads a diverse group of visionary individuals, foundations and organizations to collaborate in leveraging wealth for charitable impact.

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