I'm getting older. I'm due to celebrate my last year of my 20s, and so I am off for 24 hours in a hermitage--just me myself and Jesus for 24 long, silent, electricity-free hours. I know I'm getting older because this makes me positively giddy.
But for my (early) Monday post I wanted to highlight a book that was extremely formative for me in my growing-up years: Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger. Pullinger was/is a missionary to Hong Kong, and her story is pretty incredible. In late 60s and 70s there was some pretty crazy stuff going on in that city--opium and heroin being readily available and the inner city being run by gangs. Pullinger lived a life of faith, all the way--she never had more than a few dollars on her, and she just started praying for addicts and watched them miraculously come off drugs with barely a pang of withdrawal. I am not doing justice to the story here, so I will just tell you to get a copy and read it for yourself. Old-school missionary biographies changed the course of my life; Jackie Pullinger is someone who instantly comes to mind as a woman of valor, or a spiritual midwife.
Here's a couple of excerpts from the updated edition of her book, which I thought pertinent to our discussion on this here blog. The first one comes from an additional chapter or two at the end, where she expounds on what happened in her city after she first published the book. Her descriptions of the short-termers who came in droves to see what she wrote about really impacted me:
Over the years we have had hundreds of short-termers who want to get the pictures immediately--if possible, on video--so they can show it to their home church and have an inspired evening. I have begged them to love the people and stay, just like Sai Di did of me 30 years ago. The disadvantage of short-term missions is a wrong perspective based on this generation's need for instant results.
The visitors leave and wonder why it does not work at home. They wonder why everything seems so easy in Hong Kong. At other times nothing goes right, even here. The man who prophesied last night beats up the helper the next morning, or the whole house runs away. Then the visitors leave disillusioned. "It's nothing like her book. We had a hard time." . . .
So the voyeurs leave. They have their video clips, but they never saw. It was either all too good or all too bad, and neither is accurate. We love our people whether they turn out well or not, and the successes do not vindicate the ministry nor do the disappointments nullify it. What is important is whether we have loved in a real way--not preached in an impassioned way from a pulpit.
BOOM! This is why I love me some Jackie. In the introduction for the new edition of the book she also brings it, in a different way:
Of course, Chasing the Dragon backfired on me. I had written it in the hope of recording history and inspiring hope. Having disposed of one decade, I had hoped to get on with life. Instead I was invited to retell the story over and over again, whereas I had meant that you, the reader, might see that the same God could impart His heart and His power in your city and write your own books . . .
So where can you find us today if you visit Hong Kong? Hopefully, in all the streets and blocks. We will probably be unnamed, for we care not to extend our work but rather His kingdom. There are many more adventures to be had.
There are many more battles to be fought. It would be such fun to be a part of them. So go! Write your own books. Go!
I love everything about this. This is the tension I am currently sitting in. I don't want to write books--I want to be living them. And I am.
I'm just going to sit in that for awhile. 24 hours, to be exact.
It should hardly be noted that I don't get money or anything if you buy and read anything I suggest. I just write about them cause they are awesome.