The Ghetto, the hood, the projects, and slums, are all names of places that conjure up images of darkness that nobody chooses to go, and certainly not to go and live in by choice. I did not grow up in the ghetto, but I grew up close enough to it that I knew the trappings and problems of ghetto life. Just a few blocks away from my house, across the park, were “the projects”. Although many of the homes in the projects were very nice when I grew up in the late 1960’s, warnings were constantly given by our parents to stay out of the projects.
Venturing into the projects a few times to visit friends, I could see the problems associated with ghetto life. Many lived in crowded conditions, some used heroin or others drugs, and alcoholism seemed to be one of the most prevalent evils of the day. Ultimately, my goal was to go to college, get an education, and stay as far as possible from ghetto life.
After being saved in college, graduating, and working a career, I often wondered how to minister to those stuck in the ghetto. Many churches, such as my own, have programs to assist those who are in need. We often see people faced with some of the same problems as those in Jackie Pullinger’s book, Chasing the Dragon, including, drug addiction, inadequate housing, and mental illness. Although we minister to many by praying for them, by providing food for them, and giving out clothing, the needs of the people never seem to end. It seems like the modern church is not really making a dent in the problems faced by those in urban communities.
Jackie Pullinger gives a clear pattern on how to make a difference and minister to those trapped in a vicious cycle of drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness while living in the ghetto. First, Pullinger chooses to minister to the people in the “Walled City”, Hong Kong’s own ghetto, by dwelling among them and ministering to their needs. John 1:14 states, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. While many churches wait for people to come to them for help, Pullinger went to where the people were and brought the glory of God to the darkness of the Walled City. Pullinger states, “My mission was to help the Walled City people to understand who Christ was. If they could not understand the words about Jesus, then we Christians were to show them what He was like by the way we lived” (Pullinger and Quicke 2007, 56).
The second thing that Pullinger did to break the bonds over people’s lives was using the power of the Holy Spirit. Pullinger relied on the Holy Spirit to see people saved, deliver people from addiction, and help them grow in the faith. Pullinger states, “Instead of my deciding what I wanted to do for God and asking His blessing, I was asking Him to do His will through me as I prayed in the language He gave me.” (Pullinger and Quicke 2007, 65). Pullinger was able to make headway into the problems facing the people of the Walled City by the power of the Holy Spirit, something the Western church has seemed to ignore.
Finally, Pullinger not only dwelled with the people of the Walled City to show the incarnate Christ, and used the power of the Holy Spirit to break the bonds over people’s lives; she also demonstrated her faith in Christ by providing for the physical needs of the people.
Pullinger provided housing and jobs to the people trapped in a cycle of poverty and addiction. As the Apostle James says in James 2:14-17, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Pullinger exemplified that faith needs works to go with it to show those of the world’s ghettos that God is real. Pullinger further speaks about those she provided housing for stating, “Their faith did not depend on any understanding of theological concepts but on seeing Jesus working in others and on their willingness to let Him work in their lives” (Pullinger and Quicke 2007, 159).
Jesus is real and He cares about those caught in the bondage of sin and poverty just as He did thousands of years ago.
It seems crazy to go to live in the Walled City of Hong Kong, one of the world’s worst ghettos imaginable, but this is what Pullinger did. Maybe if we chose to show the incarnate Jesus Christ to the dying world, we can break down the “Walled Cities” that exists all over the world by all of the other names. Maybe if we used the power of the Holy Spirit we would see many in the Western world delivered from the power of opioids, other drugs, and mental illness, plaguing our society. Maybe, if we have the faith to provide for the needs of those crippled by years of addiction, broken by sin, yet trying to recover, will the world see that our faith is real.
Maybe if we would venture into the ghettos of the world, with the Word of God and power of the Holy Spirit, maybe we might slay some dragons.
Pullinger, Jackie, and Andrew Quicke. Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens. Ada, Michigan: Chosen Books, 2007.