This page in brief ….
Long term heroin and opium abuse is normally a difficult addiction to break. But Jackie Pullinger, an untrained English musician who went to Hong Kong to try to ease the plight of poor addicts and Triad gang members, found a way to take thousands of addicts through painless withdrawal, and on to a fulfilled life.
Jackie Pullinger prayed for addicts to believe in Jesus, receive the Spirit of Go, speak in a prayer language that the Spirit gave them, and use this special prayer every time they felt withdrawal pains. Some came off the drugs immediately, some took days, but all found God’s power gave them painless healing of their addiction.
The fact that this happened for thousands of addicts cannot be doubted. This is surely as strong a sign of God’s existence, love and healing power as anyone can experience, or observe.
Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong
Jackie Pullinger came to Hong Kong in 1966, just 22 years old, wanting to do something for God. She ended up in the Kowloon walled city, a dark maze of poorly built high rise buildings, densely populated by poor families, Triad gangs and all sorts of criminals.
She taught in a small Walled City school, provided a place for the homeless to sleep, helped them in one-sided court cases, and she set up a youth club to try to offer the boys an alternative to drugs and crime.
But it soon became apparent that the addicts, prostitutes, gang members and petty criminals she met there were caught in a cycle of drugs, crime, poverty and hopelessness from which they knew no escape. Many had tried to break their drug habit many times, but couldn’t.
Jackie tried to help by teaching about the love of Jesus, but she didn’t have the answers until one day, a gang member who wanted freedom from his addiction, came to the youth club. Without being given any instruction by Jackie apart from the teaching that only Jesus could help him, Winson prayed and sang for half an hour and was completely freed from his opium addiction. (You can read more of his story in “I still keep to Jesus this night”.)
Jackie felt that the key to helping people off drugs was for them to ask Jesus for help, welcome the Spirit of God, receive a new language they could use to pray fervently when they needed God’s help (known as “speaking in tongues”) and then pray in tongues whenever they felt the craving to go back to the drugs.
Following this pattern, literally thousands of addicts were healed of their addiction, began to follow Jesus and began to live a new productive life. Jackie’s success in this was recognised by the Hong Kong government, she was given government facilities to help in the former addicts’ rehabilitation, and many court cases ended in the convicted criminal being referred to her.
These are some of their stories.
Luke: changed man, changed name
Luke had been a heroin addict for 17 years, had been in prison many times, and had never had a legal job in all that time. He had tried 30 times in 10 years to get off drugs, but was unsuccessful.
He was prejudiced against westerners because one had once beaten him up and put him in hospital in a coma, but he decided to try Jackie’s approach. On the second day of withdrawal, he was in pain. The brothers prayed, he prayed, and the pain stopped. He felt at peace: “It was as if I was on a quiet beach, alone and asleep in the sand.” He never went back to the drugs.
Luke’s wife, Ah Fong, was initially sceptical of Luke’s healing and of his newfound belief in Jesus, but she visited regularly while Luke was being rehabilitated while living with Jackie’s team, and when she was healed of severe chest pain, she believed in Jesus herself.
Luke, who changed his name from his old Triad name, went on to become a leader in Jackie’s social welfare work, helping street-sleepers, the hungry and the poor.
Bibi: a long and winding road
Bibi is the younger brother of Winson, one of Jackie’s first converts. He was a heroin addict and one time came to the youth club while on the run after getting day release from prison. Jackie told him about Jesus, but told him he’d have to turn himself in. He didn’t, was later recaptured and returned to prison.
When he was released, he went straight back onto heroin, but was soon back in prison on a robbery charge that Jackie knew was false because she had been with him at the time. She appeared at his trial as his alibi, but was convicted anyway – apparently a common occurrence which police and crims accepted because everyone knew there were many crimes for which they weren’t caught.
Again when he was released he went back onto heroin and avoided Jackie. But she persisted, and Bibi’s ashamed family pleaded with her to “make him good”. She knew there was nothing she could do unless Bibi wanted to changed, and she told him she wouldn’t be chasing him any more, it was up to him to come to see her.
A week later, knowing he had no other hope of being free of the drugs, he came to see her and asked for help. Jackie prayed with him, he spoke in tongues and then asked for a bed in one of her rehabilitation homes – but none were available. Initially upset at this, Jackie told him God was with him and left him at a noodle stall. She returned half an hour later to find he had had a deep vision of Jesus calling him to follow him. This was the beginning of real change in him, as he constantly looked to God for help.
Just a day later there was room for him at one of the houses, and he came off heroin without even a headache. He stayed in the house for two years, saw his father both converted and healed in hospital after being expected to die, married and began to care for others in the houses.
Ah Ming: an unwilling convert
One of Jackie’s first converts brought Ah Ming to the centre. He was a strong-willed and powerful Triad, and not at all sure he wanted healing, or Jesus. But he was willing to come to Jackie’s annual summer camp. She had prayed for God to send the right people, but realised when she got there that the boys’ dormitory was filled with Triad members.
After a few days, Ah Ming had run out of the drugs he had brought with him, and set out with two other boys to leave the camp, which was at the top of a mountain one hour’s walk from transport. One of the christian boys followed them, urging them to return, but their addiction drove them on. Meanwhile, Jackie and the rest prayed they wouldn’t leave, and then, surprisingly, the three boys turned and returned to camp.
Jackie sat down with Ah Ming and told him the story of Jesus on the cross with the two criminals, and how one criminal received forgiveness and one didn’t. It was that simple, she said. Ah Ming, sick with withdrawal, wasn’t willing at first, but eventually he gave in and asked God to take away his sins and heal him from his addiction and take away his pain. Jackie and some of the others prayed for him to receive the Holy Spirit.
Ah Ming’s addiction was healed in a dramatic manner. He had a dream of a man knocking at the door of his hut, coming in and putting his hands on Ah Ming’s head. The withdrawal pain disappeared and never returned. “I knew He was a healer” Ah Ming said later.
His new faith was tested very soon. Soon after, Ah Ming was ambushed by a gang from a rival Triad. Without thinking, Ah Ming picked up two heavy iron poles to defend himself, then, remembering his prayers for peace, thought “I can’t fight.” He dropped his weapons and sat down in the road and began to pray. When he opened his eyes, his opponents were all standing around him, mystified. He told them about his new faith, and several later ended up at Jackie’s meetings.
Geui Jai: gang members push this fighter towards Jesus
Geui Jai was a champion kung-fu fighter among the 14K triad gang, but drugs had wrecked his fighting ability. He was one of the few educated triad brothers, and one day asked Jackie for a loan of her typewriter so he could work as a translator. She lent it to him, but Geui Jai kept deferring returning it until she realised to her chagrin that he had obviously pawned it for drug money.
It turned out that Goko, the 14K leader, had heard of Geui Jai’s deception, sent some of the brothers after him, and one day the typewriter magically appeared back in Jackie’s flat. Goko had paid to redeem the typewriter himself. Jackie spoke to Goko and told him fearlessly that she was dedicated to bringing down his empire.
Geui Jai was now more vulnerable, he had seen the changes in Winson and Ah Ming, and wanted that healing himself. He w received prayer, went into a rehabilitation home. He not only came off drugs, but went to Bible school and became a pastor.
Elfrida: light at the end of the tunnel
Elfrida had a tough life. Born into a dysfunctional family, her mother suicided when she was still young. After being used by a boy and getting pregnant at seventeen, she became a prostitute and dulled her senses with heroin.
By the time Jackie got to know Elfrida, she was in her sixties and had been a prostitute and addict for almost 50 years. She was weak, underfed and sobbing. The brothel keepers would inject her with heroin three times daily, in her back because the veins in her arms and legs had been used up.
She begged Jackie for help, but all the rooms were taken with men. But her persistence paid off, and Jackie found a small room (2m x 1.5m) for her.
She was so weak and frail that she had to be carried to a bath to be cleaned up. Afterwards that laid her back on her mattress and “spoke peace to her. She was healed from that moment.” She “worshiped Jesus … and slept a lot” and gradually she became stronger. She came to want to share what she had received.
So Elfrida began to visit the street sleepers, prostitutes and old people’s homes, washing their hair and telling them about her new life. In an echo of Jesus’ words to another woman who need his grace, Jackie comments that Elfrida loved much because she had been forgiven much.
Chi Ho and the unexpected healing
Chi Ho was a tattooed convert with spiked hair and chains hanging of his low-slung belt. He was on mission in another city when he was asked to pray for a blind woman with a pain in one leg.
Not having the faith to pray for the healing of blindness, Chi Ho laid his hands on her leg and prayed that she would be healed in Jesus’ name. The woman spoke in her own language, and Chi Ho asked the translator what had happened.
“She says she can see clearly through both eyes.”
Goko: big brother of the 14K in the Walled City
When Jackie first went to the Walled City, Goko was the shadowy figure behind much of the crime. She tried to make contact with him, but he avoided her. But he noticed that Jackie was working tirelessly for the wellbeing of his people, teaching in the small school, providing a youth club, and helping them with their court cases, and he understood that christianity was all about forgiveness.
So went he sent Winson to protect the youth club, Jackie had an opening, and pursued him all the more until eventually he agreed to meet with her. He was a big man, formerly a footballer, but now in his mid thirties and weakened through opium addiction (he had all he wanted and didn’t have to pay!). He told her he had been watching her, and could see that while he couldn’t force his little brothers off heroin (which he wanted because they were lousy fighters while addicted), he could see that her way worked.
He offered to send all his addicts to her, but Jackie at first refused. She knew he only wanted them healed so they could fight better. She told him if they came to her, and to Jesus, then he couldn’t have them back. Surprisingly he agreed, and from then on released any converts from their Triad vows.
Goko kept watching her, and sometimes intervening to help her. Finally the day came when he wanted her to help his own sons. Jackie said she couldn’t help without offering them Jesus, who was the healer (not her), and asked if he was willing to believe. He replied that he had to believe in Jesus, because he had seen so many brothers healed, but he wasn’t willing to follow him – because he wasn’t willing to give up the wealth that came with his life as a Triad leader.
Not long after, Goko was arrested on a false charge and jackie visited him in prison where he was already going through painful withdrawal from opium. She urged him to pray whenever he felt the pain. After he was convicted, she met with him again and finally he said he wanted to change and follow Jesus. he received the Holy Spirit and prayed in another language.
Eventually Goko’s conviction was overturned. He no longer directed the 14K, and when he was ambushed by a rival gang, he didn’t fight, and received severe cuts to his hands from a chopper, but his non-violent response spoke volumes to his enemies. He went to hospital, prayed to forgive his enemies and for the surgeon to do a good job. Goko regained the use of his hands and was later known as “New Paul”.
So many more
Jackie tells the stories of so many more:
- Ah Mo, who received forgiveness after his unfaithfulness led his wife to overdose, and eventually came off heroin;
- two men named Ah Ping, one young and one of Jackie’s first converts, and one much older criminal who was healed of his addictions and reconciled with his estranged family after his conversion;
- Ah Lam, a young Triad who was healed of his addiction when he asked Jesus to forgive him;
- Sui Ming, a young orphaned Triad who was referred to Jackie by his probation officer as a last resort – he refused to pray until the withdrawal pains became severe, he prayed in a new prayer language and became a deacon in the church;
- Ah Fung, whose experience of painless withdrawal was similar to Sui Ming’s;
- Stephen, who became addicted to heroin in one of his many prison terms, but saw the changes in his friends Bibi and Ah Lam, and so went to the Walled City meeting place, prayed and received peace and healing;
- Jonathan, who had been unable to break with his addiction, but felt really loved at Jackie’s centre and found: “Getting off drugs was surprisingly painless, through prayer.”
- Tiu Tong, who served 14 years in prison for murder, became addicted and couldn’t get off at any of the conventional drug rehab centres – but received prayer, peace and healing at the meeting place; and
- Angel, who was given by her mother to a man who employed her as a prostitute, was beaten, escaped to Jackie, was converted and was freed from her owner by a miraculous sequence of events involving a gang stake-out and police intervention.
God is real
These former addicts and converts, numbering several thousands, have no doubt about the existence of God, for they have experienced his healing and restoration in ways that no human program is able to achieve. Painless withdrawal is virtually unknown, and yet all these converts experienced it when they prayed.
There can be little doubt that all these healings occurred. The Hong Kong government at the time recognised her work, referring addicts to her for treatment, providing facilities for rehab, and eventually awarding her an MBE. But is there an alternative explanation?
I have not seen many sceptics attempt to explain how these painless withdrawals were not miraculous. I came across a Walled City documentary video where it was claimed that “Pullinger conjures the addicts and puts them in some form of trance”. But this “explanation” seems facile, especially as it is more often former addicts who pray for those seeking healing. If anyone had a natural method of painless withdrawal and healing, they could make a fortune.
The main criticisms I have seen of Jackie’s work comes from other christians, notably some who went to Hong Kong to join her work but found it difficult or worse. But none of these denied the effectiveness of the healings.
So what about us?
While we can accept that those experiencing such miraculous cures would find it easy to believe in God’s love for them, what about those of us who observe from a distance?
The evidence is there, thousands of times over. Prayer and faith in Jesus kept on freeing people from long term addictions painlessly, in ways no-one else has ever been able to achieve.
This is strong evidence of the truth of God’s existence, his love for us, and his power which can be called on in prayer.
Be careful about trying this at home, kids
It has to be admitted that Jackie’s ministry is unique. David Wilkerson’s work with New York gang members saw many converted and released from drug addiction, and his organisation Teen Challenge continued that work all over America, but it wasn’t nearly as much built on prayer and instant miraculous healing.
But while many christians pray for addicts, it isn’t common for more than a few to receive a quick healing. I don’t know why God works in one case and not in another, and I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone for praying for healing from addiction, but we must be realistic.
But the fact that healing isn’t common doesn’t take away from the fact that in Hong Kong, God proved himself over and over again.