When Cathy Peters committed her life to Christ as a 14-year-old girl, it was with a clear understanding that it was a complete surrender to God.
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“The pastor talked about full surrender to God and really opened up what that meant,” the 66-year-old B.C. resident recalled about her time at a Vancouver Island Bible camp.
“I was captivated. I went straight back to my cabin and told God, ‘I’m all in.’ After that, it never even dawned on me to backslide.”
Years later, the Lord used that surrender to make Cathy one of Canada’s leading advocates for victims of child and sex trafficking.
As an adult, Cathy knew about sexual exploitation, but that knowledge turned into action 10 years ago when Joy Smith, a Manitoba Member of Parliament whom Cathy’s son worked for, asked her to take Jenny,* a sex trafficking survivor, into her home and look after her.
Jenny was 11 when she escaped from her sexually abusive foster family. Wandering the streets of Toronto, she was picked up by an older man who said he would care for her, but instead forced her to work for the next 10 years as a prostitute.
Cathy and Jenny had three meals together each day. Jenny loved saying grace with Cathy. The young woman could see that Cathy was a woman of faith. Their time together changed both of them.
“I was so shocked by her story of sexual exploitation for the purpose of prostitution that I promised her I would stop it in B.C.,” Cathy said.
Spurred on by the Holy Spirit, Cathy connected with Joy Smith to get all the resources that were then available on sex trafficking in Canada. Then she reached out to the chief of her local police department and found a willing listener.
The chief connected Cathy to the Vancouver Police Department, and that led to presentations with the Victoria police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Then Cathy did a webinar with hundreds of law enforcement officials across Canada, exchanging ideas and learning what was needed to fight the scourge of sex trafficking.
Cathy has even created teaching videos for parents and children. Those videos are being used by police departments across the country.
Inadvertently, her efforts have turned into something much larger, and she is now known nationally and internationally.
“The pastor talked about full surrender to God and really opened up what that meant. I was captivated. I went straight back to my cabin and told God, ‘I’m all in.’”
“Without my Christian faith, I could never do this work,” she said. “It is so dark and depressing. In fact, most Christians don’t want to know about it, let alone the public. Yet the individuals I meet [doing this work] are typically Christians, and they do the really tough work, such as helping survivors.”
Cathy will speak virtually anywhere she can on the topic of exposing and preventing child and sex trafficking in Canada—including a missions conference in Vancouver, an Assembly of First Nations convention, and one of the public hearings for the federal government’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry.
“This ministry grows organically,” she said. “I can’t even tell you who or how. That’s how I know God is in this.”
But one place it hasn’t grown is the church. Cathy can count on one hand the number of pastors who have allowed her to speak to their congregations.
“The Christian community is oblivious and does not want to know about this issue,” she said. “It’s disappointing. If Christians don’t get on to this, it’ll never be stopped.”
One of Cathy’s prime concerns is the sex trade industry, which she says “wants to normalize the sex industry in Canada.”
She says the industry—through an alliance of sex worker organizations and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association—is working to have the federal government repeal the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which criminalizes those who buy sex. They claim the law is unconstitutional. It is now before the courts in Ontario.
Up to 90% of people in prostitution have been trafficked, Cathy said, “and the sex industry doesn’t want you to know this. They’re totally linked. That means organized crime is typically involved.”
In her conversations with MPs, her question is, “Do you want more or less prostitution in this country?”
“How would more prostitution make this a better country?” she said. “It’s unhealthy, it’s dangerous, it kills women and girls. I tell MPs, ‘You better think about this. Do you want your daughters in this?’”
Even with the support of her husband, Allan, Cathy often feels alone battling against a fiercely secular culture that has little regard for God’s truth. “Yet I am continually surprised when doors open that I would never expect. Supporters show up right when I need them.”
For this, she gives the credit to God. “The Lord has me. I can literally trust Him with everything in my life. God is a faithful husband and father. He’s utterly faithful.” ©2023 BGEA
*Name changed to protect privacy
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