Every Wednesday morning Toshiko Yamamoto takes a washbasin and towels to the roughest part of Vancouver, British Columbia. There she washes the feet of women at a drop-in center. Her clients are often infected with HIV or Hepatitis C. Their feet are sometimes dirty and covered with sores or needle marks. The women are almost always drug addicts who sell sex to pay for their next fix.

As Yamamoto gently washes and massages their feet, she sings a lullaby in Japanese, listens to their stories, and tells them about God's love. "Men treat them as garbage," she observes. "I do the opposite."

"The Feet Lady," as the women fondly refer to her, is among a growing number of Christians who are taking the message of God's redemption to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest neighborhood. It is home to 7,000 drug addicts, half of them HIV-positive. Sixty-three women—most of them street prostitutes—have vanished from this neighborhood during the past 18 years.

The awareness among Christians of the women's desperate needs came into focus 10 months ago, when authorities charged a suburban pig farmer, Robert William Pickton, with killing seven of the missing women. He now is charged in 15 homicides. Authorities have scheduled a preliminary trial hearing this month.

'A place of last resort'


The Christian individuals and organizations ministering in Vancouver vary in their approaches. One group offers free hairstyling and manicures. Another welcomes women into a safe house for drug rehabilitation. But most of them try to share the gospel in an effort not only to save their souls but their very lives.

Grieved by the disappearance and violent deaths of so many women, these frontline workers are even more convinced of the urgency of their ...

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