Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Listen, Hear and Go.

Written by: on May 31, 2018

Jackie Pullinger is one of those rare individuals who has done something more than just pray. Jackie has put her faith into action by following the voice of God that she sensed was leading her to Hong Kong, the Walled City. There she was faced with the most significant needs of this earth, humans who were not only lost to this world but lost spiritually. Through Jackie’s life and ministry, they found the power of God who loved them deeply and Spirit of God who empowered them to go beyond drug addiction and the bondage of a destructive lifestyle to a new life in Christ. This is the story of Jackie Pullinger as told in the book Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness 0f Hong Kong’s Drug Dens. [1]

The preceeding paragraph more-or-less summarizes this inspiriting story. But as we look within, we find those elements that form the framework for this story. It is in that framework we see the deeper truths of Godly leadership in any generation. It is the person of Jackie Pullinger who saw a need, heard the call and acted on that call. All authintic and Spirit-led leadership begins and ends with these three components.

The call is an intersting thing. Books have been written, articles published and disserations defended on the subject of the call. It is something that I know a bit about and I related to the story of Jackie as she felt the Holy Spirit directing her to go. When I’m asked about the call I often respond by saying, “90 percent of the call of God is getting out of bed in the morning. The other 10 percent is doing what you see needs to be done to help people, spiritually, socially and physically. 

In the context of the call, Jackie briefly mentions her finances as a small bump in the road. The call often begins with questions of possibily and inadaquecy. The story of Gedion in Judges 6 is an example of someone questioning possibily and inadaquecy. However, possiblity and inadaquecy are not the only questions. Consider some of Jackie’s questions.

 “Of course, there were my parents and friends and other to deal with. Understandably, some were skeptical. My father, very rightly, insisited that I think long and carefully on my “slow boat to China.” What right had I to give my religion to people in other countires when they had perfectly good religions of their own? [2]

Adding to the question of the call, a missions expert said that it was foolish for Jackie to listen to a vacar who said he had heard from God and it was irresponsible for the vacar to advise Jackie in this way. Her answer is brilliant and goes to the focal point of her personhood. She says, “I suppose that it would have been [poor advice] had it not been the Holy Spirit who gave Richard Thomason the words.” [3]

Here we have two (Ala Tanya Luthermann) God-speaks-to-me people, Jackie Pullman and Richard Thomason. [4] And, here we are faced with the listening and the hearing. It’s been said that listen and hearing are two different things; one is done with the ear, one is done with the heart. 

I remenber the elementary school teaching saying, “I know you can hear me, but are you listening?” Jackie begins chapter 15 with a story of an American sailor, “who once took [her] to task about her praying in tongues..” [5] She took him on a tour of Hong Kong and all along prayed with him. In one case they prayed for Mau Wong who was a drug addict and very ill. They both laid hands on him and prayed “in the Spirit for his healing. Very quickly his pain vanished and a look of great surprise came cross his features.” [6] Ninty percent of the will of God is getting out of bed in the morning, the other 10 percent is doing what you see needs to be done to help people, spiritually, socially and physically. I am Pentecostal, and therefore I believe that there is no better guide in this type of call than the Holy Spirit. 

Stories of this kind fill the book. However, the miracle is not the stories of the miraculous, as incredible as they are. The miracle of the story is Jackie Pullinger. Without her and her listining, hearing and going, it is clear that the pages would be rather empty.  As an aside, I spoke with a friend of mine who lived in Hong Kong for many years. He tells me that Jackie’s ministry and the St. Steven’s society continues to impact many. 


  1. Jackie Pullinger, and Andrew Quicke, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, Ada, MI: Chosen Books, 2007.
  2. Ibid., 36.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Tanya M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God. Reprint ed. New York, NY: Vintage, 2012.
  5. Pullinger, Chasing the Dragon, 226. 
  6. Ibid., 228.

About the Author

Jim Sabella

13 responses to “Listen, Hear and Go.”

  1. Katy Drage Lines says:

    I appreciate the charismatic emphasis on listening to the Holy Spirit– listening AND responding, which is something Pullinger seemed/s to take to heart.

    I’m always curious when someone writes their autobiography (rather than using a biographer), as her character is told from her perspective. She must be a good leader if St Stephen’s has continued and expanded to the extent that it has (check out their website– their ministry is alive and well). I’d be curious what those who’ve worked with her would say about her leadership; reading into the text, I imagine she might tend towards micromanaging and not necessarily a good organizer. Which, I suppose, just reminds us that we all have a dark side in our leadership.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks, Katie. I know someone who spent years in Hong Kong and has met Pullinger on several occasions, although he has not worked directly with her. He says that she is the “real” thing. In other words, she not buying $54 million planes with money that could otherwise be used for feed and cloth people! Did, I just say that? I’m happy to hear that because, as we all know, that’s not always the case.

  2. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “Without her and her listining, hearing and going, it is clear that the pages would be rather empty.”

    Yes. The thing that made the greatest impact on me was not the miracles. It was the grit of that 20 year old single woman.

  3. Mary Walker says:

    Andrew Stanley said in his book on “visioneering” that you know what the will of God is for you by what breaks your heart. Jackie saw the need and responded. And like you say Jim, she gets out of bed and helps people but in her case it seems to be 100% helping people!

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks, Mary. Andrew Stanley makes a good point. I do believe that much of the will of God is both born in us and in our desire to somehow help people. Also, I don’t believe that every Christian is a missionary nor is everyone called to be a missionary. But we are all called to impact our world. That usually begins with compassion for others who suffer spiritually, physically, or both.

  4. Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Yes, Jim- “faith without works is dead” is the scripture that reminds me of the life of Jackie. She operated in faith and love, allowing them to dominate the most oppressive and devastating circumstances. It was beautiful to be reminded of how powerful God really is, and the power of prayer.
    What a legacy she has left that still stands today. I hope we get to visit her ministry.
    Thanks for your post.

  5. Lynda Gittens says:

    Yes Jim, the call. People are always curious as to how you know you have the call. I like your comment, “90 percent of the call of God is getting out of bed in the morning. The other 10 percent is doing what you see needs to be done to help people, spiritually, socially and physically.”
    That gets me to thinking. Here I thought I was doing the bulk of the work.

  6. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Great post Jim! So often to we confuse hearing and listening! Our listening should invoke action. Jackie did just that when she heard from God she responded. That is what made her ministry so powerful. She had enough discernment and faith to know when she heard from Him and did not hesitate to move.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks, Christal! That is the key and the harder part—knowing when we’ve heard from him. I think there is a community aspect in the call of God that we don’t often think about or consider. Doing the work of God is seldom if ever done alone. I think that applies to the call of God too. Confirmation is an important step. In any case, you have to know that you know, most times, that’s the greatest step of faith, and sometimes the greatest miracle of all.

  7. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Jim, THANK YOU! Thank you for reminding me that one of the greatest miracles is when we persist in our calling. We really only do that by the miraculous work of the Spirit.

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