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(for SNOW)

by Tammy Junghans

As in the story of the Good Samaritan, who found the stripped and beaten man at the side of the road, we have found our hurting people in all sorts of terrible circumstances: women who have been beaten and raped, children who have lost both parents to war or disease, babies who were thrown away.
Reminiscent of a dream you never want to have, it is an odd feeling being in your pyjamas knowing a crowd is gathering. Students, faculty, community leaders and others were congregating to hear from our speakers on issues surrounding human trafficking. The most compelling was the personal story of Bridget Perrier of Sex Trade 101. Hearing her journey as a young girl being trafficked from a group home by a family member moved many in our audience. We can debate the issues, but we cannot debate the experiences of a formerly exploited woman who is walking out her journey of redemption. Bridget now uses her story to inspire and educate many across the country.

Why pyjamas? Our University of Manitoba student group, Segue, is actively involved in creatively and collaboratively engaging issues of injustice. We took on the task of collecting pyjamas for a special night called SNOW, Safe Night off Winnipeg Streets for sex trade workers. It is a night planned by local agencies to restore dignity, offer services and pamper those working in our city’s sex trade. The purpose of our participation was to raise awareness, create conversation and inspire giving by wearing pyjamas. By the flurry of media coverage, volume of pyjamas collected and oodles of conversations engaged I would say that it was a success! My favourite question came from a student who asked “Do I have to be a Christian to join your group?”

It was far cry from other questions I am routinely asked, like “Why are you doing this?” and “Why do you care?” These questions often come from a place of cynicism towards those identify with the Christian faith. My answer is simple. As a follower of Jesus I know that He cares about the exploited and vulnerable and that He asks me to care. I often add that because we are all made in the image of God we are ALL valuable. One of us is no more valuable than another in His eyes. 

You would have to hogtie me to the curb in these pyjamas to keep me on the sidelines. Call it spunk, passion or lunacy, I am compelled forward in my research, actions, conversations and choices by the Holy Spirit. “Living Justly” is not a passing fad just as right living, or righteousness, is not. God is both just and right and so must I be. It was not a single moment, but a series of carefully laid steps that God has ordained that bring me to where I am and lead me into what is next. From the point of discovering the issue just a few years ago to reading, researching and networking with like minded people this journey continues and I cannot sit still. It would be wrong, even evil of me to do so. No, my desire is for those around me to see God's love shine through my behaviour and my attitude towards the poor. My passion is to disciple students and my own children into doing the same. After all, are we not called to be the people who lead the way in loving the vulnerable and exploited as Jesus did?

I am thankful He has called me to journey with him and that every step I am asked to take is into a new adventure with Him. This adventure is neither stagnant nor stationary. I am thankful that I am not fully prepared for every new experience because that forces me to lean into Him for wisdom and strength. I learn about Him through His word, but also by being discipled by the Spirit who calls, leads, empowers and encourages.

Our children are learning what it means to be justice minded as we make sustainable changes to our daily lives. We talk about justice, injustice and what God says about it around the dinner table and they are forming opinions. Children have the benefit of an unjaded heart that displays an intense sensitivity to the suffering of others. Their voices should be heard. That belief was put to the test when one of my children asked to wear their pyjamas to school during Segue’s pyjama week at U of M. My first thought was “No, this is a U of M thing.” I was accosted by my own beliefs! If I cannot allow myself to be sidelined then how can I relegate my children to the curb? What a holy disservice to allow them just to talk about injustice and not experience what creative and collaborative engagement might look like.

And so went the conversation. “If I let you wear your pj’s to school what will you say when someone asks you about them?” “I’m wearing my pyjamas because my mom is hosting an event at the UofM. They are raising awareness about human trafficking and exploitation and they are collecting pyjamas for SNOW.” When I asked them to define human trafficking I was proud to hear them, in their own words, describe modern day slavery. When I asked about SNOW night they were clear and articulate.

To quote Timothy Kellers book, Generous Justice, “God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we.” How do we do this? Together. Why? For the love of God. Please let me encourage you to continue on this journey of loving as Jesus does, discipling others with a heart for both justice and right living.
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TAMMY JUNGHANS—is the director of Resource Development for ERDO.
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