3 Jan 2013, by Adeline Lum-
Counting down to his 29th year working in Malaysian Care, Pax Tan had been working with the Prison, Drugs and AIDS department for 22 years already. Apart from that, he is also currently the Vice President for the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition (ISAAC) International, which have members from over 70 countries.
Drug problems had been rampant in Malaysia for more than 30 years. Because of that, drug rehabilitation centers had started since the early 80’s, which explains its establishment compared to other countries. Malaysian Care has had female and male rehabilitation centers since then.
Every year, about 80 to 100 ex-prisoners and ex-drug abusers stay at Malaysian Care’s halfway-homes after they are released from prisons. These homes give them time to have counseling, reconcile with their families, seek for a job; ranging from a few days to a few months depending on the situation, before they are either discharged or sent to a full-fledged drug rehabilitation center. Those infected with HIV and are unwell for example, may need to stay for a few months longer.
“Since there are many established drug rehabilitation centers in Malaysia, we no longer do the long term rehabilitation but perform needs assessment on the drug abusers instead,” said Pax.
Malaysian Care also follow-up with the rehabilitated drug abusers, by visiting them periodically over one to two years. Every week, as many as three times per week, the staff together with the scores of volunteers visit the local prisons, providing religious teaching and sessions.
And now, the cities, towns and rural areas of Russia are also infiltrated with drug abuse among youths. Due to Pax’s active involvement with ISAAC, he was recently invited as a speaker at the Pentecostal National Conference for Drug Workers and Pastors, a gathering of more than 250 people, held in the Republic of Tatarstan, an industrial region of Russia.
“When these drug-abusing men and women are rehabilitated and find faith in God, they are very willing to do the Will of God because of their new found life in Christ ” said Pax.
They become the most riveting and “hot-for-God” evangelists in Russia, a country dominated by Orthodox churches.
“This is a breakthrough! I see God’s hands moving when these rehabilitated and passionate born again beloved communities of former drug users are called, sent and move all over Russia, starting rehabilitation centers across the country,” said Pax.
Not only did they become drug workers, they also became pastors and foot soldiers for Christ, preaching the gospel to the drug abusers, their families and the surrounding communities and by ‘default’ also setting up churches. Now it is said that there are over 1000 Christian drug rehabilitation centers from east to west, since it was started over 10 years ago.
He also visited some rehabilitation centers and social concerns persons in the Ural Mountains, located at about 1000 km away from Republic of Tatarstan. There, he taught with dozens of drug workers from all over Russia to discuss and exchange ideas on curbing the drug problem and working with the communities.
Indeed, his knowledge and experience did not go to waste as he provided training to leaders of drug centers and from Moscow and as far away Siberia at Asbest, home of the largest open cast asbestos mining in the world. And since 2008, small teams of three to four Russian drug workers, or rehabilitated drug users, are funded and sent to Malaysia to be trained and exposed to Malaysian Care and the established drug rehabilitation centers here.
Giving most of his life to the ministry for the poor and needy, prisoners, drug abusers and those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS; he was touched and influenced by Luke 4:18-19 which he describes as Jesus’s job description and mission mandate.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
“I am just trying to follow the Sifu (Master),“ Pax quipped.
“Many of these rehabilitated guys are the ones who in turn become follower of Christ, many who are willing to dirty their hands, sacrificing, taking on grassroots efforts such as sweeping the floor and taking care of old folks,” said Pax. “ Of course many have gone to back into society and become leaders. Some even went to Bible College and seminaries.”
From his experiences, he felt that 1 Corinthians 1:27 is vindicated:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Even during Jesus’ ministry on earth, it was the people who were ostracized and marginalized who came to Christ, becoming witness to his work. Jesus used people who are shunned- the poor, the prostitutes and the tax collectors.
“By working with the drug addicts, prisoners and street people, God and his words becomes even more real and authentic to me, that everyone including the ones we thought as worst, can come into His Kingdom,” said Pax.
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Indeed, God love the underdogs and downcasts. What Good News! We do not need to be perfect and strong to come to Christ, but we can come just as we to Christ. Whether we felt like underdogs or the black sheep of the crowd, God still loves us regardless! Also, perhaps, the next time we see someone who is shunned by the society, let us look at him or her with God’s goggles. Remember that Jesus love them all! Amen.
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