“I was listening to the Lord and to my heart.”
This is how the Safe Room along the Highway of Tears came about. A simple tugging on the heart and, as Bart Plugboer would testify, when you listen, God will use that to do good.
Bart Plugboer is the Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) of the Christian Reformed Church for Classis British Columbia North-West. Last January, DMDs from across Canada met together in Abbotsford, B.C., to share with and learn from each other. During that time, Bart asked for prayer around the “Highway of Tears,” a 724-kilometer stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia. While this nickname at first may sound like hyperbole, it represents real pain and sorrow that many residents in northern B.C. have experienced.
Between the years 1989 and 2006, nine young women went missing or were found murdered along this stretch of Highway 16. By 2007, the RCMP had expanded their investigation of disappeared or murdered women to 18. Local residents maintain that there were, and still are, unofficial and unreported disappearances. The debate continues, but the vast majority of people in the northern part of the province believe the disappearances amount to over 30 – perhaps even over 40 – women, many of whom are of aboriginal descent.
Regardless of the evidence under investigation or an accurate figure, the reality of the injustice on this length of road remains. As followers of Jesus, we are called to do more than stand idly by. Bart believes that, too. The five Christian Reformed Churches that he serves as a DMD are all along this stretch of highway. So when, as Bart says, “the Lord put on my mind that I should do something about this,” he began to talk to the RCMP and local motels to work with him in establishing a Safe Room along this route. They agreed. Now, if RCMP officers see someone hitchhiking past 7:30 p.m., or if they need a safe place for a victim of domestic violence, they will put that person up in the room for the night.
Bart’s heart for justice and the way he lives it out is one example of how all Christians are called to “do justice” in their community. As Bart says, “all in God’s love I can do this.”
Will you, like Bart, listen to the Lord and to your heart, and allow God’s love to help you respond to injustice?
What can I do?
Diaconal Ministries Canada will get you and your church started. Contact our Justice Mobilizer, Dan Galenkamp (gro.ancrc@pmaknelagd) and check out our online resources diaconalministries.com/human-trafficking/.