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

An alley in the City of Darkness in 1993.
Image: Ian Lambot / Wikimedia Common

She strode gingerly through the dank, labyrinthine corridors so as not to puncture her foot on the shattered glass or one of the many discarded needles. Splatters of blood lined the damp floor and mingled with human feces. She continued through the maze of walkways. She passed a plastic flower factory on her right; on her left, an old prostitute huddled at the threshold of a darkened doorway. Aged, ugly, and no longer able to turn tricks, she employed several child prostitutes, one of whom Jackie deter- mined to be mentally handicapped. She walked on, head down, in case someone chose to empty their chamber pot from an overhead window. Her eyes grew wide at each appalling sight in the multi-storied slum: an illegal dog restaurant, pornographic film-show house, gambling dens, and dingy corners crowded with heroin addicts.

The Walled City filled with residents who lived to “chase the dragon.” This Chinese method of drug-taking had a sort of magic ritual all its own. Addicts placed the small, sand-colored grains of heroin on a piece of silver tinfoil, heated the foil with a slow-burning spill of screwed up toilet paper, and melted the drug into a dark brown treacle. The addicts then placed the outer casing of a matchbox in their mouth to act as a funnel through which to inhale the fumes. They followed the pool of treacle with their mouth as it moved from one end of the silver foil to the other. This is called “chasing the dragon.”[viii]

A playground at the edge of Kowloon Walled City in 1993.
Image: Ian Lambot / Wikimedia Common


How can such a place exist inside the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong? Jackie wondered.[ix] Why did Christian outreach remain so scarce in one of the most desperate spots on the earth? The hopeless poor would not come searching for the truth of the Gospel; she must go to them.

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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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