The Redemption of the Students
“Ah Ping could really talk when he got warmed up. I respected his honesty, for few Chinese ever tell Westerners what they really feel about them. ‘You Westerners – you come here and tell us about Jesus. You can stay for a year or two, and your conscience will feel good, and then you can go away. Your Jesus will call you to other work back home. It’s true that some of you can raise a lot of money on behalf of us underprivilidged people. But you’ll still be living in your nice houses with your refrigerators and servants, and we’ll still be living here. What you are doing really has nothing to do with us. You’ll go home anyhow, sooner or later’” (Pullinger, 59)
Each year, I set out to mobilize over 250 college-aged students around the globe, and each year, I pray the same prayer. I generally utter something to the effect of, “Lord, open their eyes to see the things you see. Make their hands open when they want to be closed. Make their feet move when they want to stand still. And above all, help them see how this fits into the grander story you are writing in their life, and the lives of those they will come in contact with.”
In reading Chasing the Dragon, by Jackie Pullinger, I saw what a weird dichotomy ministry can be. It revealed to me even more so what it looks like when my students get it all wrong. I saw in the eyes of Ah Ping what it looks like when my students “bring” Jesus with them, or when they close off to something foreign when they should open up. Or when they stand still and gawk, rather than stoop as Jesus stooped. A significant part of my heart breaks when I read the words above because I think of the damage that has been done over and over and over again in the name of Jesus. Can God really redeem all things that have been broken unto Godself once more?
But when you look at Ah Ping’s story, in light of the bigger story of the life of Jackie Pullinger, you see just how contrary to this man’s understanding of missionaries she was. Ah Pings critiques of Westerners coming in and out of the country, raising a lot of money, and living in nice houses could not hold a candle to the life of Pullinger. The fact that she eventually moved to just outside the Walled City showed her fortitude to stay within the community when if would have been easier and safer for her to remain far removed. In fact, Goko, a very significant Triad gang leader, even remarked of her ministry of stability. He said,
“We’ve been watching you. Many missionaries come to Hong Kong to help us poor people. They put us in sociological boxes and analyze us…We find ways to discourage them until they have no heart to continue…What we want to know is if you are concerned with us. Now you have been here for four years, and we have decided that maybe you mean what you say.” (Pullinger, p 89)
Furthermore, Pullinger’s entire life, but especially the start of the Society of Stephen houses was a testament to her living by faith, and nothing having to do with money only. I was incredibly struck by the story of their faithfulness to have another home by the end of the year, and after praying all night on New Years Eve, they signed a new lease at 11:30pm
. It seemed as though over and over God showed up, with white envelopes full of money at just the right time.
When you view the work that Pullinger did, and continues to do in Hong Kong in light of the grand narrative that God is writing in her life, and the life of so many others, you see once again the goodness of God. I am reminded that God can and will redeem all things for God’s glory, as Pullinger continually tried to redeem one person at a time. Maybe my students might not get it right every time. Maybe they stand still when they should be walking. Or maybe the close their hands, when they should be opening them. But maybe God meets them with their feet planted, and arms closed, and reminds them of the great story God is writing in their life. Maybe God will redeem them too.