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The City of Darkness, an excerpt from The Mind of a Missionary

The second time Jackie returned to the Walled City, her heart thrilled with joy, and the sensation continued over the next dozen years. “I hated what was happening,” she said of the drug abuse, violence, and prostitution,

but I wanted to be nowhere else. It was almost as if I could already see another city in its place and that city was ablaze with light. It was my dream. There was no more crying, no more death or pain… I had no idea how to bring this about but with ‘visionary zeal’ imagined introducing the Walled City people to the One who could change it all: Jesus.[x]

Local churches in Hong Kong did not share Jackie’s missional enthusiasm, thinking that the triad members, drug addicts, and prostitutes were beyond salvation. Decades of anarchy reinforced vice and violence in the City of Darkness, cementing Christian indifference. Mesmerized and caught up in the unique internal logic of their group dynamics, many believers did not believe for transformation. Pervasive groupthink permeated the Christian landscape, leaving the Walled City’s lost in the dragon’s clutches. But though group behavior is powerful, so too is individual choice.

An aerial photo of the Kowloon Walled City taken in 1989.
Image: Ian Lambot / Wikimedia Common


Jackie did not fit the classic mold. She began passing out Gospel tracts and telling people about Jesus. Her early evangelistic efforts incited opposition both from triad members and disapproving Christians. The former threatened her life; the latter warned Jackie about “rice Christians”—a pejorative term used to describe someone who professes Christ for material benefits rather than altruistic reasons. Her good-intentioned service made little impact.

Jackie realized she needed to demonstrate Jesus rather than talk about Him. Young people understood nothing about the Kingdom of God. Their horizons [were] limited to the brothel next door, the gambling dens down the road, and the opium dens beyond. “There was nowhere in the Walled City where you could go and do anything neutral,” Jackie said, “let alone take part in constructive activity.”[xi]

She decided to start a youth club to reach out to the thousands of young men whose only future lay with the triads and young women fated to prostitution. The birth of a counter-cultural ministry formed in the heart of the Walled City.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2019

About the Author: David Joannes is the founder and president of Within Reach Global, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary and The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.

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