Part 2 of the amazing things God did during my recent trip to Hong Kong for a celebration of Jackie Pullinger’s ministry.
Jackie’s Jubilee celebrations were a joy and a delight. It was almost 30 years since I was a helper at St Stephen’s Society and yet as I walked into the worship marquee on the site of the old Walled City, the sense of praise and worship was just as strong, just a vibrant as all those years ago.
God did some amazing things in me during the weekend. I have already written about one strand, but there was more. Another special thing God did, was to heal me of a deep scar which had been inhibiting my Christian life and ministry for over a decade.
Thirteen years ago, when I was a vicar in Brixton, London, my wife Mel suffered a horrific road accident. She was dragged under the wheels of an 18-ton truck while riding her bicycle and when the truck came to a stop, her pelvis was shattered, half of one thigh was missing and she had huge wounds.
Mel was blessed to survive for which we thank God, but the accident led to months and months in hospital, scores of operations, and immense pain. Even with all the medical technology available, it took 3 years for her wounds to finally close, with painful daily dressings, procedures, and infections all adding to her agony.
For me it was almost unbearable, to watch her going through such pain. Even when maxed out on morphine and other pain relief, the pain was more than she could bear. So I sat with her, holding her hand and praying for God to take away (or just reduce) the pain. I did this day after day, week after week, month after month. Around the UK, hundreds of people were also praying for the same thing. I don’t know why, but our prayers were not answered. Her agony continued unabated.
The effect of this on my faith is hard to express. In Hong Kong thirty year ago, I had prayed every day for new brothers coming off heroin and I had seen God do wonderful things. After a while I had to remind myself that we were seeing miracles almost every day as God took away their pain and suffering. Yet now, for the person who I loved more than anyone else in the world, those prayers went unanswered.
As the weeks and months rolled on, a kind of fatigue set in. It became harder and harder to pray for healing, until one day I realised that I couldn’t minister to people in prayer anymore. I could say prayers for them – but I couldn’t minister to others in prayer like I did before.
As a vicar, this was really difficult. People often ask vicars for prayer for all kinds of different things. Before Mel’s accident I would instinctively say “Right – lets pray then!” and spend time with them, seeking God and ministering in the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I saw God act directly, sometimes not, but now I found myself unable to do that anymore. I was even frightened of people asking me for prayer. If they did, I would often promise to remember them in my prayers, and even say a short prayer, but there was no expectation – it had all been drained away. I knew this wasn’t right. It was like a dark cold wall cutting a part of me off from God and the ministry he had called me to.
|Walled City before its demolition|
So as I came back to Hong Kong for Jackie’s Jubilee, I came with both hope and fear.
Hopeful that God would do something in me but fearful that he wouldn’t, that the dark cold wall would remain.
Over the weekend a wonderful thing happened. In the praise and worship, in the prayer ministry I received and in the profound sense of God’s presence there, God melted that cold dark wall. I didn’t even realise it was happening at first, but by the second day, I remembered the principle we were always encouraged to embrace at St Stephen's Society. If you aren’t receiving ministry, go look for someone else who needs ministry and pray with them.
After so many years of not being able to pray for others, I suddenly realised that I was ministering to others again. I was laying my hands on them, and expecting God to speak and act. I had my eyes open again, looking for what God was doing. I was listening for God’s prompting again. I couldn’t believe it and tears of gratitude came to my eyes.
|Walled City Park today|
God melted my cold dark wall of pain on the site of the old Walled City.
I still don’t know why my prayers for Mel went unanswered. I am not sure that I ever will. But I know that God’s love has set me free from needing to know and from the paralysing scar which had become a part of me.
On the last day of the Jubilee, I sensed God wanted to speak to me, and I wrote down these words.
You thought that you had lost, but in fact, you have won.
You have come through the fire
and you have stood fast in the days of darkness.
Now my refining fire comes to cleanse and heal you;
not to burn you, but to bring out your inner beauty
and enable you to shine with my glory.
You are my child, and I am your Father.
To God be the glory.