A network of evangelical Christians in Mississauga, Ont., just outside Toronto, is demonstrating how effective Christian activism can be.

Centred around a periodic e-mail dispatch called the PALM (Pray ALways Mississauga) Report, the network has been particularly effective in combating the proliferation of massage parlours and the acts of prostitution that often accompany them.

“We’ve seen some interesting results,” says Bruce Fligg, who composes, and does much of the research, for the PALM Report. “Police have been able to crack down on (massage parlours) and the city has enforced by-laws. We’ve been able to see some turnaround. That’s a good answer to prayer.”

But sexual immorality is not the only area in which the PALM Report has made an impact. Municipal elections, public education, Alpha (a course that addresses issues of Christian faith), prayer networks, community concerns, Christian ministries, and social justice issues are some of the other areas with which it is concerned.

Fligg is a chiropractor and married father of two who obtained a master of theological studies degree from Tyndale University College and Seminary last year. He is also an elder at his church, Glenbrook Presbyterian, and is involved in the 905 Community Leaders of Peel, which networks various faith communities on social concerns.

He says the impetus for the PALM Report was provided in 2001, when the Peel District School Board decreed that Gideon Bibles could not be distributed within its schools.

“That was a wake-up call not only to what was happening in the school system, but in the evangelical community as well. There was not an ability to inform (other Christians), gather for prayer and so on.”

A public school trustee contacted Fligg and asked him to look into establishing a form of communication among Christians. At the time, Fligg was involved in a prayer movement called Transformation Prayer Ministries, so he made it clear that any initiative of that sort would have to involve asking people to pray about certain concerns.

“Out of that, God would stir people and we’d see action,” says Fligg. “With the people I already had on a prayer network, I started a test to see how well it would be received. I sent out informal updates on issues. It started with the school system and spread to other concerns in the city.”

Over time, more and more people expressed an interest in receiving Fligg’s dispatches, so just over a year ago, he decided to formalize the process by dubbing it the PALM Report. Some 120 people, representing about 20 churches, now receive it.

“My vision in publishing this report is to see ‘city transformation’ take place in Mississauga, reflecting the values of the kingdom of God coming about through revival and renewal, which is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people,” he says. “A lot of research is done mostly by myself, although I do get people who call or e-mail me with their concerns. The intercessors become part of the ears and eyes.”

Fligg describes his work as “spiritual diagnostics” – looking for evidence of “the kingdom of darkness” at work. “We’ve been praying a lot for the school system,” he says. “We’ve seen some slow answers there with nominees for the position of trustee … A big focus (was) on mobilizing prayer and action for the municipal elections. We’ll be informing councillors and trustees about our concerns.”

Another inititative is the establishment of a Mississauga Prayer Shield, which will network various prayer groups and intercessors more formally.

In the area of massage parlours, Fligg began by drawing attention to some 15 facilities that were functioning without a licence. His efforts resulted in the announcement by police this past July 30 that some 151 Criminal Code and municipal by-law charges had been laid against massage parlours in Mississauga and Brampton. He received a subsequent phone call of thanks from the city police’s vice squad – who then told him that all 12 of the licensed massage parlours in Mississauga were also venues for acts of prostitution.

Fligg and others, through a petition campaign, have been successful in having the city of Mississauga ban several billboard ads for such parlours. Efforts to combat those facilities are hampered, however, by the fact that while police can criminally charge them, they cannot go all the way and close them down. The onus for that falls on the city, which has the power to revoke licences. As a result, Fligg is now concentrating his labours on civic officials. He anticipates the process will take about a year.

“Councillors will have to decide how hard they’re going to come down on this. Licences should be revoked for those body-rub parlours that have been breaking by-laws by performing acts considered to be prostitution … I’ll be pushing these places to either clean up their acts or get out of town. We don’t stand for this kind of stuff.”

Another positive development has been that another police officer has been assigned to deal with the investigation into massage parlours, called “Operation Rubdown.” There is work yet to do, as some 12 strip clubs, four “swinging” clubs, a half-dozen pornographic stores and some two dozen prostitutes still conduct an open business in town.

Fligg advises anyone contemplating similar work in his or her own community to develop a prayer network of Christians first. “I’m very big on that. I don’t think we could have accomplished anything if it wasn’t for people praying that this would happen. I feel the sustaining power of God through the prayers of his faithful. God stirs several people to have a heart for the city and things start to happen.”

Fligg adds that although results have sometimes been slow in coming, small victories encourage everyone to press on. “I see a growing unity within the body of Christ in Mississauga. This is not happening in isolation. This is happening across the country. Various prayer movements are developing. But while it’s exciting to be part of a national awakening, my calling is for the community of Mississauga. It’s my passion and my mission field. It’s where God stirs me.”

More information on the PALM Report can be found at the website www.jesusinmississauga.ca/PALM, or e-mail bfligg@sympatico.ca.