During the pandemic, watching the spread of COVID-19 creep across the world map, it’s easy to see a world in dire need of hope.
That’s why Silicone Valley entrepreneur Mike Del Ponte decided to create The Map of Hope
: a way for the world's community of believers to join together in prayer.
The Map of Hope is an online platform that tracks – and encourages – the spread of hope and prayer around the world. Users begin by tagging their location, which places a dot on the map, then posting their prayer intentions. The dot grows according to how many people are praying in the area.
And so far, hope has been contagious.
The platform launched on 28 April, and within their first week, the site registered more than 4,800 prayer intentions in over 130 countries, with its popularity solely reliant on word of mouth publicity.
Based in San Fransisco, Del Ponte also founded socially-minded start-ups like Soma, which produces sustainable water filters, and Sparkseed, a non-profit that invests in young social entrepreneurs.
Melbourne Catholic spoke with Mike Del Ponte about The Map of Hope and what this means for online expressions of faith.
Melbourne Catholic: Given that we're daily provided with many reasons to despair, hope is something we can all use a little more of. Can you outline the genesis of the Map of Hope? And how long has this project been in development?
Mike Del Ponte: The Map of Hope came together quickly in large part due to the feelings of sadness we all felt following the maps showing the coronavirus spreading exponentially. We wanted to combat this by building something that gives people hope. We designed and built the website in a few weeks, launching the site on April 28th. Since then, we have had 9,0000 prayer requests from 150 countries.
Can you explain the balance you've struck between ecumenism and focusing specifically on praying the rosary?
We chose the rosary because it is simple in form but deep in reflection. It is substantial, meaning you have dedicate around 15 minutes to completing it. And yet it is accessible. Its beautiful rhythm and repetition make the prayer approachable, whether you have prayed it your whole life or started during this pandemic crisis.
We also chose the rosary because there have been so many miracles attributed to it. We highlight some of them on www.themapofhope.com
. We welcome everyone to use the Map of Hope regardless of their spiritual background.
The Map of Hope is evidence that expressions of faith are evolving alongside technology. As people live more of their lives online, especially in isolation, do you imagine that tools like the Map of Hope will become more crucial to people's faith journeys over the coming years?
We could not be more grateful to live and worship in a time where we have access to the digital technology that continues to evolve. Tools like the Map of Hope can help usher in unique faith experiences that offer thoughtful engagement and connection across the Christian landscape.
The power is in aligning our faith and worship with others in a community effort. Today's digital tools allow us not only to connect with members of our local community, but across all geographic areas.
And how do you think that will affect faith?
People battle daily to strengthen their faith. Quite often we can find that strength when we feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether it is congregating with other believers for communal prayer or simply belonging to a group that validates our faith goals. Historically our faith has been based on what we feel. Believing in the things we can not see, strengthened by our neighbours and local church leaders for the most part.
What inspires us is the visual aspect of faith. We can now look, listen and see the faith of others in real time as we connect the faces, feelings and emotional situations to individual prayers worldwide. We can not help but think this will build faith in ways we have yet to experience, regardless of where you are located or if you are living in isolation.
What's been the response to the Map of Hope so far?
The global interest has been humbling. Tens of thousands of people across 150 countries have visited the Map of Hope and posted 9,000 prayer intentions. The prayers that are posted are so personal and touching. We get emails thanking us for giving people hope and spreading the rosary.
The beautiful prayers and sheer numbers of prayer intentions so early in this process have truly given us the motivation to continue to build new ways to connect our prayer community.
Is the Map of Hope linked to any specific church? And was it created with the assistance of any backers?
The Map of Hope is a labour of love. It is built purely to spread positivity in every corner we can reach. It is a self-funded collaboration between friends spread around the United States. We are not building a specific entity, but rather an all-inclusive community strengthened by hope, love and faith.
Is this the beginning of a journey to create a suite of digital faith-formation products?
We will follow the journey where God takes us. If we continue to see success in the outreach and strength the Map of Hope provides to so many who need it, then I can only imagine we will naturally continue to work on elements that uplift our community and opportunities to engage much more with others.
And how far off is Australia from joining the map?
Australia ranks #6 in terms of the top countries that have sent visitors to the Map of Hope. Due to the incredible engagement we received early on outside of the U.S., we are already enhancing our map to show prayers from all countries. It will be updated by the end of May.
Visit The Map of Hope here.