Jackie Pullinger quickly discovered that she needed the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit for her work among addicts in the Walled City.
“Jesus did not promise running shoes in the hereafter to the lame man. He made him walk. He not only preached but also demonstrated that he was God. He made blind men see, deaf men hear and dead men return to life.”
I am fascinated how Jackie’s amazing faith in “God showing up” to save, deliver, and often miraculously heal individuals often happened in the most unlikely circumstances in the most unlikely places. These encounters did not take place in an organized church service but rather on the streets and in the drug dens, prisons, and cramped hovels of the Walled City. These encounters happened every day of the week at all hours of the day and often at night. The individuals who experienced these encounters would have failed our (or perhaps my) “minimum theological litmus test” expected of those wanting to draw closer to Jesus. That is, they often were only motivated by their unconditional desperation to finally try Jesus’ power in a last-ditch effort to overcome the life-controlling and life-destroying “demonic” forces of heroin and opium that had reduced them to living corpses.
And yet the resultant changes in their lives and health were unquestionable, to themselves, to their friends and families, to law enforcement officials, and even their enemies. So undeniable and verifiable were these resultant changes, these brand-new (Holy Spirit power) encountered individuals became the indisputable evidence for Jackie’s witness of her God and her Christian faith. While not all continued in the faith (much to Jackie’s frustration and heartache), many did over many decades. These power encounters became known both as the common catalyst and the working definition of what it meant to be a transformed Christian coming out of the broken lifestyle of the Walled City.
While not extensively covered in her book, I appreciate Jackie’s reflections of having to press through the sectarian differences in non-essential issues surrounding expressions of the Holy Spirit (including speaking in tongues.)
One example of this was, “Some missionaries had cultural hang-ups that infected me, until I found myself worrying over such questions as to whether I should wear sleeveless summer dresses and whether it was wrong to go bathing on Sundays.”
My faith journey started in a Pentecostal branch of the church (the Assemblies of God). While deeply appreciating my Pentecostal roots, I deeply regret the wasted time and energy I often spent in my ministry on many non-essential issues that I now feel detracted from God’s singular desire to miraculously change the life and the eternal destination of an individual. And similar to Jackie’s “boys,” all those who could be influenced by this freshly transformed individual’s life.
I also deeply appreciate Jackie’s reflection of pursuing the reality of the power of the Spirit despite others who didn’t want to “rock the boat” or simply play it “safe.”
“Even more surprising, the Pentecostal churches would not talk about it. I went to their services – they still retained the noise, the handclapping and the repeated amens and hallelujahs – but the gifts of the Spirit were absent. The Pentecostal missionaries explained that they had made a pact with the Evangelicals not to discuss these things because they could not agree about them.”
With no judgment, I grieve that often we who allegedly believe in and desire the reality of the Spirit’s power, continue to have the “noise” without the actual presence of the Spirit’s gifts. While our reasons for “noise” without power may differ, in this reflective moment, I am sure our (my) grief pale in comparison to God’s grief who desires his kingdom to be extended, both corporately and individually, by the life-transforming power of the Spirit.
The inaugurated eschatology of my Vineyard movement accommodates the inbreaking of the power of the Spirit in the lives of individuals. Our seminal theological construct is the “already, not yet” motif of George Eldon Ladd. That is, we theologically invite and expect the Holy Spirit to “show up” and dramatically (as he chooses to) impact the lives of those who avail themselves of the Spirit’s power. Unfortunately, my fear of little or no effect or the prospective disappointment, disillusion of the individual causes me to draw back and play it “safe.” That is, be kind and gracious and affirming while leaving the “minimal” results to God.
Jackie Pullinger’s work and ministry challenge me to be more daring, more consistent in allowing myself to do my part while always expecting the Holy Spirit to do his part (and yes, it probably took her years to start gaining traction, seeing results.) I am somewhat surprised that Chasing the Dragon is one of our required leadership texts. While not a scholarly work, it certainly is inspirational and challenging. That is, I am inspired and challenged to allow the messiness of the Holy Spirit to be at work in and through me along with continuing to develop a robust and comprehensive pragmatic theological grid.
 Jackie Pullinger, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, rev.ed. (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2006), 60.
 Pullinger, Chasing the Dragon, 65.