30 April 2013
Chasing the dragon
Joanne Appleton meets Jackie Pullinger MBE – a fiery missionary who has ministered in Hong Kong and seen more than 500 drug addicts saved from their addiction. She is also the founder of the St Stephen's Society.
When Jackie Pullinger left the UK to be a missionary, she was only22, with a degree in music. She had been turned down by several mission agencies as unqualified, but still she felt compelled to 'go'. "It was very plain every time I prayed or read the Bible that God was telling me to go," she says. "The only thing I did was to decide where and how."
The 'where' was Hong Kong, and the 'how' slowly became clear as she began to work with Triad gang members in the notorious Walled City – an area where drugs, prostitution and crime were everyday activities and the police had a limited presence. Overtime, Jackie learned that drug addicts could be healed from their addiction through intensive prayer; people could turn their backs on a life of crime through discovering the love of Jesus, and most of all, God had a purpose and plan for every life, no matter how much brokenness they had experienced in their past.
So, from her perspective, what is the gospel?
"I believe that preaching the word without the actions of Jesus is invalid – just invalid," she says. "Jesus did what he preached. So in Luke 4:18 there is the proclamation about good news of the freedom for the captives, release for the oppressed, opening the eyes of the blind, announcing the year of jubilee, but this message was followed by miracles. I don't believe that a gospel that is simply words is a gospel, otherwise God would have sent a Bible instead of a man."
So does she ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of need around her?
"Yes and no," she admits. "I am moved by the fact that we are called to go but it is not my job to meet everybody's needs. I suppose that if everybody answers this command the Lord will meet the needs of the whole world through us – that has to be possible. Nobody is called to stay where they are – it may be that they remain in the house where they live, but we are all called to go somewhere, somehow.
"What I try to do is to concentrate on one person at a time. I prefer to speak to one or two people than a crowd of a thousand because I am not sure I can minster to thousands. I can understand the one poor man – I am not convinced that because you speak to thousands it is therefore a thousand times blessed – it may be my message is for just one man in the audience, and I am speaking to him."
Even so, following the success of her book Chasing the Dragon,Jackie has spoken to thousands across the world. From 3-6 May,she will be in the UK at the GO2013 mission festival at Bulstrodein Gerrards Cross. The theme is 'Healing a Broken World'. But Jackie is adamant our motivation to bring healing to others must be more than just 'making a difference'. She reads from Jeremiah12.5: "If you get tired while racing against people, how can you race against horses? If you stumble in a country that is safe, what will you do in the thick thorn bushes along the Jordan River?"
She continues: "I have great concern for the upcoming generation.Although many are very willing to go short-term, it is a very hard thing for them to persevere. We have people landing here to help usand all their friends know how they feel on Facebook by the time they have landed. So, effectively, most of them have not 'left' their country to go anywhere else. This means they are not used to seeking God in a situation, because they are more used to seeking their friends' advice.
"The phrase that attracts young people is 'make a difference'. They want to do this – to make a difference – but they don't know about making disciples. And that's what we are called to do.Going somewhere for two weeks makes a difference to you, but it might not make a difference at the other end. When we focus on discipleship, we are thinking more about what it does for that person, rather than what the experience does for us."
To find out more about GO2013 mission festival (and read the full interview) visit go2013.org.uk