By Kelsey McFaul
Michael Chan on stewarding opportunity in Hong Kong
“I’ve been put into different business positions, not for my asking but that’s the door that was opened for me and I just stepped forward. The ambition I have is not to seek whatever the so-called worldly position is. I just live as I am, and God will take care of the opportunity.”
Leaders in the business world, ministry, nonprofits, and almost any other field make their living by seeking out opportunity. Their ability to see and create openings is what helps them envision the future, identify market niches and client needs, and inspire those they lead.
But for Michael Chan, who’s had his fair share of leadership roles, steward leadership suggests a different framework for approaching opportunity. While traditional leadership can become consumed with pursuing advancement and growth, a steward leader makes themselves available to the openings God provides.
“Time and time again, I find that…you don’t have to ask for opportunities. The opportunities seek you. As long as you say, ‘I’m willing,’ and that’s just another way of saying, ‘God, teach me to be a good steward.’”
Michael speaks with the authority of his own leadership pedigree in the oil, gas, and power industry. A resident of Hong Kong, he’s served as the Executive Vice President of BP China, President and Chief Representative of Amoco China, and Executive Director of CLP Enterprises.
But following his retirement, he’s found his most recent stewardship opportunities in the park.
“For all my life, I wake up early in the morning. In fact, now it’s earlier. I used to wake up at 5am, and now it’s 4:30am. I go to the park and I fast walk, then do my yoga.”
In the early days, Michael’s efforts to be friendly seemed to fall on deaf ears.
“When I first started going to the park many years ago, these guys looked at me when I said hi to them. No one says hi back. No one. They all mind their business. Now we’ve gotten to the stage where I have nicknames for all of them and they reply back, they call me tall guy.
“I don’t want to sound preachy, but relationship takes time. I don’t push it. But when those opportunities come, I take advantage of it.”
Michael didn’t go to the park trying to create an opportunity to make friends, but his ability to step up and embrace the opening when it arrived provided him with new relationships to steward. Before long, the morning greetings turned into something more.
“Little did I know, suddenly someone came to me and said, ‘Can I follow you?’ And I said ok. I coached him, and one person led to another. I have a dozen people following me, doing all my poses.”
Nevertheless, Michael still didn’t consider his early morning exercise routine as an opportunity to share about his faith.
“I was thinking this was only for good health and early morning workouts, but God has a different spin. One day, someone came and asked me about God out of the blue. They know I’m a Christian because I only go up six days a week. On Sundays I don’t go there because I go to church early. And they asked me, why were there so many gods? What was the difference with my god?
“We talked about it and later I was like, ‘Wow! That’s the neighbor.’ It took a long time, years, for people to open up. But if I had stopped responding and said, ‘Oh you’re not saying hi to me? I’m not going to say hi to you,’ then I would have lost that opportunity.”
Michael was stewarding his relationships with the people in the park long before he could call them friends. And, he says, the opportunity to share his faith with them wasn’t his creation but God’s. He merely stepped into the door God had opened for him.
“It’s not me. It’s God speaking through me. That is not I, but He lives in me. And I would say, hopefully, that’s my understanding of stewardship.”
Michael’s stewardship of opportunity extends to his life in the church as well. After his retirement, he served as the Administrative Director of an English-speaking church in Hong Kong, a placement that perfectly aligned with his stage in life at the time.
“Right after I finished in the business world, right after my two children finished college, right after all my heavy financial needs are taken care of, here is the opportunity to serve him and in a different capacity where the financial needs are not so stressful.
“I’m thankful that to be a good steward, it’s whatever condition we’re in. We follow His lead and we give ourselves and all our resources…in whatever situation.”
In Michael’s case, his presence in the church office not only allowed him to pursue stewardship in a new stage of life, but also opened up the ability to steward further opportunities.
“There’s a few asylum seeker families coming to our church from different countries–Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India. Basically they have nothing. The Hong Kong government takes care of them in a way, but many of them have been here for over 10 years waiting to be placed in western countries by the United Nations. It’s an opportunity for us to hook up with these families.
We cannot close the doors on these people because that’s where God put us, in a situation where you see the needs and you step forward.”
In other words, opportunities for steward leadership aren’t carefully crafted or created by us. They often come in the most unexpected places, like the park or a church office, at unexpected and yet opportune times. Stewards aren’t responsible for creating the apparatus of their stewardship, just their willingness to respond.
“It’s amazing how as we live our lives being good stewards of our resources, of our sentiment, of our belongings, of our time, somehow I sense that God will take care of it. God will open up. As long as I’m willing, opportunities abound. Opportunities will come. Am I willing?”