Jackie Pullinger, author of Chasing Dragons1, gave her life in service of the Lord working, living, and struggling with those many would consider beyond hope in the slums of Hong Kong. In this book, we journeyed with her through her calling, denials from other organizations, the perceptions of other missionaries of a single woman, and finally her seeing her faithfulness through both the human and spiritual obstacles. Even though there were some things that I didn’t like about the book, I was drawn in by the faithfulness of God that can see the potential in us all and purify the sin, the addiction, and the life of anyone that believes.
When reading this book I went through a roller coaster of emotions. I read this book as I traveled by train and plane cross country having many reminders of the new security designed to “protect us” and as well as how it is hindering. In a time of political crackdowns and ministry coming to a halt as we wait and see what the new paradigms will be I am not sure I was in the right place to hear about Pullinger’s life. Admittedly hearing stories of success after success it felt a little like a slap in the face. Like I was supposed to compare what God does in my life to what she experienced. Don’t worry those were fleeting thoughts but I wondered how else she could have written this book. A Goodreads reviewer named Julie said, “Unfortunately I found it rather repetitive – I would go as far as suggesting it to be a holy version of “50 shades of grey”! …the constant barrage of success after success after success could have been summed up in one number of how many young men had either stopped being drug addicts or drug barons – job done.”2 The Problem might be that a simple number of how many addicts were healed might not have been seen as successful to a western audience.
In ministry, I know there are successes and we get to see the power of God move in mighty ways. I also know there are many ordinary times or times of failure. I kept wishing for a more in-depth understanding of people, their walk, and the journey they were on. What were the lessons learned by failure and how can others not walk that walk? I believe this book would have been better if she had taken 2 or 3 life changing stories and described the daily walk they had with God. Pullinger took us through the journey of her successes but didn’t take us on the journey through her failures.
As I read I kept reminding myself that she was telling a 30 year long story of how the power of God overcame the darkness she was in. Relationships in Asia take a long time. Pullinger said that some of the drug barons were watching her for many years to see if she was one of those that came and went or would stay and thus show they cared. I was reminded of those that come to help a ministry for 2 to 3 years and expect to see themselves as the hand of God. When it is not what they envisioned some will say that they feel God is telling them to move on to other work in another location. I do believe that God moves us where we need to go but also know many of us are looking for the next adventure. I do think we have lost the concept of living and journeying with individuals knowing that quality and quantity can not be separated. I found that Jackie’s story kept reminding me of people that I continue to walk with, continue to struggle with the decisions they make, and have given them over to God to ultimately direct them to the path he has for them. I don’t want to diminish what God did and continues to do in Hong Kong, however I struggled with several aspects of this story. Not being a charismatic, I find that the push for speaking in tongues as seemingly the only mode for healing, a little troubling. I believe that for Jackie this was the mode of transformation that took place but also believe that God can and has used many avenues to bring about his will and glory.
As I related this book to my research on understanding the major barriers for working in a Chinese context, I was drawn to the time where Jackie invited several Chinese young men to her group home to live and train those she was helping off the street. 3 They quickly realized that these men were not there to learn and adapt. Many of us teach the way we were taught. Our christian lives are often lived out the way it was modeled to us. These two men were taught that a teacher should be respected and served rather than being the servant. They came in with their own agendas on how to teach and how to develop new Christians. We have seen that one of the biggest obstacles to working cross culturally is our own self. We are not humble enough to learn what the culture can teach us and to unlearn some of our own western techniques in order to bring the root of the Gospel rather than bring our favorite leadership developing ideas and make them work.
When we search for the quick results, the short term mission trips4 that bring us great stories, or when we seek the power of God rather than God himself we have let the world influence us. Jackie Pullinger writes, “I needed to find Christian workers who loved the people they were working with more than the activity through which they were trying to reach them.”5 Later she goes on to say, “What is important is whether we have loved in a real way—not preached in an impassioned way from a pulpit.”6 Pullinger was a “success”-not because of the book she wrote- because she heard the call, responded despite the barriers she had to overcome, and she trusted in God to transform not only her ways but those that God led her to.
1Pullinger, Jackie. Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens.(Baker Publishing Group). Kindle Edition.
2Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1366694678?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1 accessed May 21, 2018
3Pullinger, Jackie. Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens.( Baker Publishing Group). Kindle Edition. 129