Person 1 story.
In 1985 I was sent by my church to Hong Kong to serve with St. Stephen’s Society. The director is Jackie Pullinger. She had written a book called “Chasing the Dragon.” This book was circulated throughout our church and I was intrigued by its pages. Jackie started a work in Hong Kong in the infamous “Walled City.” 6 acres with 6 thousand people living in squalor. It was full of every vice. She primarily worked with Chinese Triad gang members who were addicted to heroin. Her book is full of sacrifice and miracles. I arrived in HK at night and was taxied to one of the new boy houses. I went into the flat and found a place on the floor to sleep. I was in charge of 18 men. I held the keys and was there to inspire them in the things of God as well as tell them to do things they most often did not want to do, and to do tell them they could not do many of the things they wanted to do. It was a rough year. A year of little sleep and a year of having to continuously do things that in the natural man, I would never want to do. Most of the men had been to prison and had ever killed police officers in gang fights. After being there a year, I was asked if I would continue with the society as their Financial Controller/ Administrator. I had a background in accounting. After much soul searching and the seeking of God’s will I agreed. I moved to the main centre, which was our “second stage house” a camp that housed over 100 residents. Though I was in an administrative position, I still had many extra duties involving the work.
St. Stephen’s had no official church or denominational affiliation, however there was a strong relationship with John Wimber and the Vineyard. Also, at one point, we had relationship with Mike Bickle and the Kansas City Fellowship. St. Stephen’s had regular church services with about 1000 members. These members included the wealthy and poor as well as a smaller ex-pat group.
Toward the end of my time with St. Stephen’s we had several physical sites throughout H.K. and housed over 300 people as well as several overseas trips each year where we took our recovered [recovering] addicts to minister and give their testimonies.
We lived by faith. We never solicited funds. Again, I was the Financial Controller. The Director preferred not to know about our financial situation, so the burden of that was solely with me. We did have accountability and each year we were audited by an outside firm and submitted the Financials to the government.
Toward the end we quit having a church fellowship and the existing fellowship became 3 Vineyard church plants overseen by Jackie Pullinger and Gary Best of Canada.
I am not writing this to discredit anyone. I am doing this to process lingering issues in my heart. I have been away for 8 years and yet I still have weekly reoccurring dreams. These dreams are usually always the same. In them Jackie is strongly criticizing me in front of others. In reality this type of criticism only occurred a few times, once in a church service from the podium because I had not placed our money boxes in the right places. I would say that Jackie is a micro-manager.
I want to describe the circumstances that prompted me to leave St. Stephen’s Society after 15 years. Three things happened all at once.
1. A head-hunter in our fellowship contacted me about a position with Bloombergs. I had about $500.00 a month that my church in the States was sending me each month and this Bloomberg position was way more than that. It started me considering life in a different way and I liked the way it felt. I went for the interview, but was not hired. When Jackie learned that someone had headhunted me from the fellowship, she was very upset. I was very disappointed and had now began looking at my future away from St, Stephens.
2. No money was coming in. Each day the houses would call and explain their legitimate need for money, but I could not help them because we had none. Of course this had happened many times in the past, but this was the worse time up until then. We lived by faith and expected that God would answer our needs. That is all fine, but when you are looking at rents that are dues, and property taxes and other bills, it is hard to have faith. This was extremely stressful for me, especially the regular phone calls where I became the ogre because I would not release money to these houses. It was also lonely because there was no one to tell- I had to keep it confidential. It affected my mood and people would ask me what was wrong and I could not tell them. It was also cumulative because I had been doing it for 15 years.
3. I was a reluctant house group leader. I was asked by the pastor to lead a house group and stated that I did not wish to, but he was a friend and consistent, so I reluctantly agreed. It was one of the biggest house groups in the fellowship. Primarily young professional married couples and singles. The house group had outgrown itself and it was time to make it into 2 house groups. I thought it was to place most of the married couples together in one group and the singles in another. It was apparent that their needs were different and it was a natural choice. One day the pastor and my best friend called me and asked me to come to his house after work. I went and he and his wife confronted me with the following story.
A married women in the fellowship had spread the rumour that I had gone to another church office and had asked for a single girls phone number and had began calling her and bothering her and her roommate and that they were in distress because of this. I was shocked and stated that no such thing occurred. My pastor and best friend then said that so many people could not be wrong. Apparently he had received 8 phone calls about this. The woman had called every single woman in my house group and asked them about me. It was arranged that I would meet with 3 couples from my house group and be confronted. I agreed to this and the next Monday I met with them. They confronted me about my leadership in the group and the incident with the girl. I then asked the magic question, “Did you ask the girl directly?” No they did not they just listened to a report of one single girl in out house group (she liked me but I never reciprocated). I suggested that two of the married ladies meet with the supposed victims (they were both lawyers)> they agreed. They had lunch with her and she told them that none of these things had occurred, that I had only called her once and that was to ask if she wanted to join a group of us to go to a movie (at that time she was a member of my house group). So all this occurred based on an untrue rumour that was never verified. Well I quit the house group. This 3rd thing broke my heart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But I wanted to do the right Christian thing and for many months, once a week, I met with my accusers at lunch and we prayed together, but I lost something deep within me, I no longer trusted.
These 3 things were a bombshell in my life and it has never been the same since. After that I spent a lot of time alone. I was experiencing a deep agitation in my soul. It felt like a wild man was beating on the inside of my chest wanting to get out and I also fell into sin. I went for 20 years without even kissing a girl, I even had a girl I was in a relationship ask me if I wanted to kiss her and I said yes, nut that I wouldn’t. I would go for years without masturbating and control my mind in a way that one month I did not have 1 impure thought. I spent hours in prayer and tithed my days in prayer and read and studied my Bible. before coming to the Lord I was addicted to porn magazines; Playboy, Penthouse Hustler etc. In our office, I was often alone all day and we had just gotten the internet. In this time I was doing a Living Waters Course from Exodus International, I did this because i was never able to maintain pure thoughts for over a month. Anyway, it started with sites that showed women in bathing suits and overtime it progressed to out right porn. So here I was, isolated (Jackie Pullinger had asked my pastor not to pastor me). Alone allot. Still not really dealt with all the emotional stuff from the earlier outlined events and now shame!!!!!! unfortunately the porn distracted me and seemed to appease the deep agitation in my soul (prayer didn’t seem to quiet the inner distress). So I was back to my porn addiction and a really broken man. My spiritual thirst and hunger seemed to dissipate and I was not happy. Once I even called my director and told her what I was doing and she seemed to shrug it off and was obviously nervous to talk about it with me.
One day my assistant commented on my mood and suggested that I take some months off away from the Society. I entertained this notion and it sounded wise.
I checked out some books at the library. One had aptitude tests for future careers. In the area of Critical Dissection and Verbal Skills I got superior and it stated that Law was a primary career choice. I had a friend who worked at Kaplans and he let me take an LSAT from a prior year–I did well on it. I could get into a 3rd or 2nd tier Law School. I was also looking at teaching and the Peace Corp.
I met with Jackie and explained my thinking and what I may want to pursue. She was not happy and did not address any of my thoughts on these choices. She suggested, instead of taking 3 months off why not 1 year. I readily agreed. She then commenced to chastise me about my short temper and attitudes. And how she had someone lined up for me to marry, but I had messed that up (I did not know about this). I forgot most of what she said that day, but I remember it devastated me. She later proposed that I go to San Jose and be with a church I had ministered in on a trip once. That I could undergo some therapy and work in a job for a year. I agreed. I left there and went to San Jose.
I did not go to San Jose the way I had the first time. The first time I had shared on prayer (I had done this in several countries and I prayed with many people. This time I went a broken and very needy man. I stayed with a family and attended church. I did not like the church, it was a middle class fellowship that had families in it that had been together for years. I felt out of place and there were very few singles my age. The therapy never happened ( I really wanted it to). I felt lonely and was struggling with my demons. I got a good accounting job at a high tech company and to this day my boss from them and a co-worker still e-mail me. I also became interested in a graduate program and San Jose State University. I entered an MA TESOL program that took 2 years to complete. Jackie was not happy about this. I did well at work and the graduate program and had many cherished friends in both places. In the church, I was lonely and had no real friends, not like at work or university. I wont say that there were not people in the church that did not care for me. There were some wonderful brothers and sisters who went out of their way, but my real needs never got addressed. Of course only God can truly answer our needs, but that is often done through his people. I was still addicted to porn and had looked at it on my computer at the place I stayed. I did not hide my problem with it, but the response was “pray.” Of course I prayed, but God had given me over to my base desires. The main thing in this church is that pastors wife, who leads their prayer ministry, had ostracized me and we had been very close before.
I graduated and got a position in Korea, where I am today. I lecture in an English Literature Department in a University. I do not attend church.
A few more points: Jackie has made tremendous sacrifices, of course she will say she has made none, but she has. Through the work thousand of lives have been touched by God. The weakness of the Society, in my opinion is this thing about “laying your life down for others at the exclusion of your own well being and health. I had always felt the we loved the lost more than each other. We ministered to the lost more than with one another and there has been casualties.
Also, there you are 24/7 and Jackie once told me that I should be grateful because she lets me attend the Vineyard church there and participate in an annual trekking event.
Now a disclaimer: This is totally subjective and the people involved have their own side of the story. I am not walking with the Lord-they still are. The fire in me is hardly there anymore. I don’t feel comfortable in churches and I still struggle with my demons. I think about God and dream often of being forgiven and restored, but I feel no stirring of the Spirit and my struggle persists.