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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Living life as Thoreau might

July 17, 2013|By Joe Puglia

Bethany Smedley was a little girl when she turned the cover of “Chasing the Dragon,” by Jackie Pullinger. It's the story of Pullinger's travels to Hong Kong to become a missionary. Inside Hong Kong was the infamous walled city, Kowloon. Strangers were not welcome there. Police hesitated to enter. Prostitution, pornography and drug addiction flourished.

Pullinger had grown up believing that if she put her trust in God, he would lead her. When she was 20, God called her to Kowloon. As she spoke of Jesus Christ there, brutal hoodlums were converted, prostitutes reformed, and heroin junkies found power that freed them from the bondage of drugs.

Pullinger prayed, “Lord, it would be worth my whole life to save just one of them.”

When she read those words, Bethany Smedley paused, put her book down, and experienced an epiphany. “I'm going to be that girl,” she said to herself. She answered what philosopher Joseph Campbell called the hero's journey. Smedley became the heroine of her own story, traveling to Taiwan, Burma, Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica. She embraced the challenge that John F. Kennedy proposed, that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own.


After traveling throughout Asia ministering to the drug-ridden, the politically and socially oppressed and the sexually abused, Smedley is back home working and raising the funds necessary to support another mission. She works at Starbucks in La Cañada. She's the girl with the big eyes and the beautiful smile. She'll pour your coffee and make you feel like family.

“Working at Starbucks is fascinating; everyone has a story,” she says.

You ought to hear her story.

As a little girl, Smedley began proselytizing under the guidance of her parents Jim and Karen, seduced by the Jesus movement of the '60s. Standing on the corner of a Hollywood intersection passing tickets out for God, she would remark to the pedestrians, “Jesus loves you!”

Her message is not trite. I have to tell you, during my darkest moments in Vietnam I found hope in the love of Christ.

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