Peter Lim, Former China Mission Specialist for The Outreach Foundation
Installment 10 of the History of The Outreach Foundation in China
by Jefferson Ritchie, Mission Advocate
In a couple of earlier installments of the history of The Outreach Foundation in China we have spoken of the impact of our trips to China on the U.S. participants. In this installment we want to speak of the impact of one of our trip participants upon The Outreach Foundation itself. He is the Rev. Dr. Peter Lim, a participant in our 2002 trip who became the China Mission Specialist of The Outreach Foundation from 2008-2015.
Peter Lim was a native of Singapore. He grew up speaking four Chinese languages. Peter was nurtured in the Presbyterian Church of Singapore, and as a young adult he spent time with the Navigators, an international ministry focused on evangelism and discipleship among college students and young adults. After emigrating to the U.S., Peter went to seminary and became pastor of one of the Chinese congregations in Portland.
As pastor, the Rev. Lim made an unusual request of his congregation. He asked them to let him “tithe” his ministry time among them so that it would include up to five weeks a year to serve the Lord in other countries. They agreed, and by the time we met him, he had been to Russia, Central Asia, and China on short-term missions.
A member of the congregation Peter served learned about our 2002 China trip and planned to participate. When she was unable to do so, she suggested to her pastor that he go instead. Peter agreed and a long and fruitful relationship between The Outreach Foundation and Peter began.
Early in the trip when we were in Harbin, Peter had a conversation with the clergy couple to whom we have referred many times, the Rev. Lu Dezhi and the Rev. Li Meilan, two of the main church leaders in Harbin. Through that conversation, Peter learned of a need in the Chinese Church we had not heard verbalized before. Revs. Li and Lu said that they lacked appropriate materials to train the many new believers who were coming to the churches. “Can you help us?” they asked Peter.
Peter thought of the way he had grown in his own faith through a discipleship training program of the Navigators known as the “2:7 Series” (named after Colossians 2:7, which speaks of being rooted and grounded in Christ). He also knew that some Chinese Christians from a Navigator background were at work on a version of the 2:7 Series that would be appropriate to the Chinese context. He told our friends in Harbin about this material and sent them a rough draft of some of the work that had already been done. They liked it and said, “Please provide this for us when it is complete.”
After our trip, Peter conferred with me to see if The Outreach Foundation would join him in getting this material published. He would be the interface between the translation team and the international Navigators organization to obtain permission to publish this contextualized version of the 2:7 Series. He also was the main negotiator with a Christian publishing organization in Hong Kong, Christian Communications, Ltd. (CCL). The Outreach Foundation would be responsible for raising $140,000 for the publication of the first 20,000 volumes by CCL.
Thanks to the strong advocacy from people who have already been mentioned in this history of The Outreach Foundation in China, Walter Lewis and Lynne Quinn, the necessary funds were raised and 20,000 copies of the 2:7 Series were distributed through the CCL to key churches in China. As wonderful as this resource was, however, The Outreach Foundation had found an equally fine resource for the Church in China in the person of Peter Lim.
In the years following this trip, Peter and I corresponded regularly. We met in the U.S. at forums for U.S. churches and ministries to learn about the Church in China. We invited Peter to join trips to China as our cultural and linguistic informant on five occasions between 2004 and 2007. As early as 2004 I began hoping that Peter would join The Outreach Foundation team to expand and deepen our work in China, and I spoke to him about it. He was interested but was committed to another mission.
After five years of our informal partnership with Peter Lim, he shared that he felt his work with the other mission was coming to an end and was ready to explore a formal relationship with The Outreach Foundation. In the summer of 2008 he met with the Rev. Dr. Rob Weingartner, Executive Director of The Outreach Foundation and was interviewed by members of the Board of Trustees. As a result, in the fall of 2008 the Rev. Dr. Peter Lim was invited to become the China Mission Specialist of The Outreach Foundation.
From 2008-2015, Peter Lim coordinated all Outreach Foundation trips to China and several visits of Chinese delegations to the U.S. He was responsible for two major projects, the “2:7 Series” and a Sunday School Curriculum project. Peter planned and carried out a significant program in Jiangsu Province, the “English Exchange Program,” which will be the subject of another installment. Finally, he taught short-term courses in the Jiangsu Theological Seminary.
Over and above these programs and projects, Peter Lim was an amazing source of information and insight into China, the Chinese society and the Chinese Church. His extensive network of Chinese contacts in church, government, and business provided us with discernment which helped us maximize our positive contributions to the Church in China and minimize our mistakes.
The Rev. Peter Lim loved teaching and had a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies. As the years went on, he expressed the hope that he could do more teaching as part of his ministry. Such an opportunity came in 2015 when Fuller Seminary invited him be part of the Global Leadership Program of their School of Intercultural Studies. We wished him well and asked only that he remain an unofficial advisor to us for our continuing work in China, which he was happy to do.
Peter Lim would often speak of our work in China as “people, programs, and projects.” He embodied the “people” part of our work. Our Chinese friends knew they could count on his frequent presence with them and his understanding, advocacy, and love for them. The Outreach Foundation is grateful for his service.