DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Story Bigger Than a Book

Written by: on May 22, 2018

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.

3Pullinger, Jackie. Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens.( Baker Publishing Group). Kindle Edition. 129

4Ibid, 237

5Ibid, 88

6Ibid, 237

About the Author

Greg

Greg has a wife and 3 children. He has lived and work in Asia for over 12 years. He is currently the Asia Director of Imanna Laboratories, which tests and inspects marine products seeking US Coast Guard certification. His company Is also involved in teaching and leadership development.

11 responses to “A Story Bigger Than a Book”

  1. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Greg,

    I was looking forward to reading your post on this book. You came at it with a more critical and connected understanding than I. I appreciate your critique of the success only style of her writing and the focus on one aspect of transformation. I noticed these as well but being so removed from the context I wondered if there was something to the speaking in tongues aspect in Hong Kong. Do you know what denomination/agency she hails from? Also, it seems to me more of this ‘success driven’ focus and style of writing is a bit generational and I can see American male counterparts in the boomer generation.

    What do you think of her focus on not building an organization as much as sending people out to do the same? To me this was a hallmark although not the primary focus of her work.

    • Greg says:

      When reading this book I keep thinking this is a small snapshot of the work that is still being done. I hated to be too critical knowing that normally a book is not able to convey all that has gone on. I think she ended up partnering with an Assembly of God couple. Not sure her upbringing.

      Again I don’t know exactly how she is organized today, what they do or how they function. The book was about her view on ministry and how she was involved so I would assume that there are others that have come alongside her through the years to help her manage an organization. That not being her giftedness she would need other to help. That is a lot to say that I don’t know 🙂

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Greg,

    Very thought provoking final graphic. Stopped me in the rush of my day, and made me question which I was. Thank you for including that.

    For what it is worth, I think you are the second one!

    To God Be The Glory.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Greg,
    I wondered how you would relate to Pullinger. Believing is key, like you say, for the purification from the Adamic effects on peoples lives. I think the “tongues” aspect of her outreach “worked for her” but not a requirement or condition of G’s success in my experience. G gives us a lot of tools to use.
    I did find some areas where Pullinger felt like a failure in some of the conversions and regretted when some lives were lost; asking herself if she did enough. I can relate. I helped start a cops-n-cons weekly study that has x-cons, paroles, probationers, retired and full time public safety all meeting to share the good word and fellowship. I know failure and regret in ministry. Once I had to help arrest and imprison one of our members for returning to his addictive narcotic lifestyle, only to have him get out a few years later and die a violent death, shot 27 times for trying to check on the welfare of his child. He was my friend and brother, but the consequences of his earlier life chased him, like the dragon metaphor in Pullinger’s book on ministry to addicts.
    Excellent post Greg. Thanks for your service and work and I appreciate your cross-cultural context and perspective in your writing.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Greg says:

      Mike,
      As you well know, this world is messy and who God calls us to seems more complicated than we can handle. Thanks for being His willing servant and advocate for each of our walks with God.

  4. Great post as always Greg! I so appreciated your perspective of the success only orientation of the book and how that could make other missionaries feel like they are slackers or are not working in the power of the Holy Spirit. By the way, I have a huge respect for all missionaries (including you and your wife) no matter how they measure success!

    • Greg says:

      Jake,
      I believe your mission field is as difficult as any ones. We all glorify other places and other work and see our own as more mundane. I do think the daily walking with someone often has longer lasting effects.

  5. Greg,

    Thanks for your honest observations on this book. I can understand how in the midst of your vocational incertitude it would be a challenge.

    The recounting of victory stories makes me reflect on the various media ministries we have partnered with in the past. Media is challenging – one must tell stories that draw people to Jesus. But it is often very one-sided where one only hears the celebratory accounts, and not the painful, drawn-out struggle.

    Trisha mentioned this is a characteristic of boomer ministry. I would concur. Perhaps one of the gifts of X-ers like yourself is throwing down the realism that is interwoven into all the great acts of the Spirit we see celebrated. Keep struggling ahead. Your work is not in vain. And we need this more realistic perspective in ministry.

    • Greg says:

      Thanks Mark.

      I agree that this style of writing is more focused on boomers and what gets them excited. I do see it as realism and not pessimism. Finding that balance is sometimes a hard thing. Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Greg, I appreciate the fact that I was not the only one that struggled with various parts of this book. Apart from the “miracle” struggle I expressed in my post, I also thought that there was such an excess of perfect outcomes that I longed to hear about the disappointments of ministry. Today we had a baptism at church that is always of great joy for me as a minister; however, there are many more Sundays that bring challenges rather than triumphs. I believe it is the challenges that help show the real nature of ministry. Furthermore, I feel that if we only talk about the successes, we have deceived others on the true nature of ministry. I think of the story of the “rich young ruler,” and cannot help but realize that this one just one of many that Jesus did not convert in His ministry. I mean if anyone was going to have a perfect salvation record, you’d think the Son of God would.

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