by Debbonnaire Kovacs

by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Submitted Aug 21, 2014

Dr. Colin A. Dunbar, Sr., pastor and grief counselor in the Upper Columbia Conference, is on vacation. So, every morning he gets up and is on his bicycle by 4:50 to 5 am, ready to ride another 60-100 miles, or even more. Why? Is this his way of relaxing? Well, yes, he does love his biking, as well as long-distance challenges, up to and including a 50-day, 3667-mile ride across America at one point. This ride is a little shorter than that—from Maine to Florida. But he’s not just doing it for the fun of it.
America By Bicycle is a bicycle touring organization who have planned and are executing this ride, called Ride the East. There will be around 20 people involved, 17 riding the whole way, with a few joining for some portion of the tour. Most are riding simply for the joy they find in the physical and mental challenge. Some are riding to raise funds for one or another non-profit organization. Dr. Dunbar and Phyllis Ruper, from Chisolm, MN, who has also ridden many miles in her time, in Canada, New Zealand, and across the States, are two of those. They are riding to raise awareness and funds for the Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network (WHE Network), based in Spokane, WA. You can read more about WHE below.
In an interview with Adventist Today (from Washington, D.C., where he was on Tuesday, August 19) Dr. Dunbar reflected on the question, “Why do I do it?” He may be surprised when he reads this, but it seemed to me as I read over his responses that they flowed naturally into three main categories.
As a husband: “I believe God has called my wife to do this ministry. I know some pastors, some husbands would not be the most comfortable with seeing their spouses giving so much time to an area that is not necessarily producing the big bucks, not producing a steady wage. But I have seen God’s call in Mable’s life, and I’m here for her. I believe God calls me to support her.”
As a minister,” he continued, “I firmly believe that this is what Jesus would do. I firmly believe that the method that God would use is one that provides healing, not just spiritually but healing of the heart. I am of the conviction that we would make greater inroads in society if we would seek to discover the needs of the people we are trying to minister to and minister to them in a disinterested way so that their needs are met, so that as a result of our love and acceptance they would see the God who loves them, who calls them, who is coming back for them and does not want them to be in an abusive situation. I’ve been involved in pastoral ministry for 36 years now, and I’ve had people who have been abused in various ways. This is gravely needed.”
As a man: “We know that most victims are female, and most perpetrators are male, hence, in attempting to effect healing, there is the need for a male image that represents gentleness, appropriateness, trustworthiness. I am committed, I believe in that type of ministry, even beyond that I provide the religious aspect to the WHE network. I am not the only one; there are other pastors, some outside of the Seventh-day Adventist demonination. I believe that is a contribution I can make as a man.”
He adds that he is “somewhat handy with my hands,” and sometimes helps with repairs, painting, mowing, and so on.
And then there’s the bike. “God has given us various talents, one of which is health—he has blessed me abundantly as a 65-year-old, never hospitalized, not sickly. I believe God wants each Christian to use all his benefits to maximize the associations we come in contact with.” Dunbar has four weeks of vacation coming. He is spending the first three riding hundreds of miles which he described as “very challenging,” especially the grades, some of them 12-15% for up to two miles at a time, and as high as 4600 feet (1400 meters) in elevation, hoping to raise both awareness and funds for a vastly underserved group of God’s hurting children. Then he’s spending the last week “doing something more personal with Mable.” (One of the best ways to maintain healthy marriages and prevent abuse!)
Here is a rundown of what WHE stands for, as well as links to webpages of interest, and ways you can donate.
In this interview, Dr. Dunbar reiterated the heartbreaking statistics you’ve read in this space (and others) before: one out of four girls and women have experienced or are experiencing abuse, and the statistics are the same across all walks of life, all socio-economic levels, all religions and denominations. Dunbar’s wife, Mable Dunbar, wanted to do something besides talk about it, worry about it, or even pray about it, important as that is. She is founder and CEO of the WHE Network, which, Dr. Dunbar explained, has six main components.
1. Education and abuse recovery. They go into schools, churches, offices, or wherever they are asked, to do trainings and lectures on such subjects as being more sensitive to workplace sexual harassment, or dating issues. They also do larger educational “summits,” with doctors, lawyers, social workers, clergy, and survivors who are willing to speak on the subject. Dunbar said there is one “coming up soon,” but didn’t have details, and they are not on the WHE website yet.
2. Networking and consultation; “In order to address this pandemic situation,” Dr. Dunbar said, “one entity is not broad enough to arrest the abuse that is being experienced across this country—WHE endeavors to network with various bodies or administrations that are already engaged in some kind of work or ministry against abuse, including advocacy, expert insight, and so on. Without prevention, it’s just a matter of time before abuse recurs.”
3. “Probably what is appreciated most by the clients, is that WHE runs healing centers for women and children.” Dunbar spoke of centers in Niles, MI, Spokane, WA, and other places, including one being set up in England. Actual locations, of course, are kept secret for the safety of the women and children they serve.
4 WHE has a special program for children called PROTECT: Preventing and Reducing Oppression To End Childhood Trauma
5 They also provide crisis counseling for the abusive perpetrators. Sometimes the law requires some form of counseling, and in any case, all workers in this field recognize that it will never stop until we rescue and re-educate the perpetrators. “WHE provides qualified counselors to educate and correct remedially,” Dunbar said.
6 Cleone’s Closet. This is not presently available at all healing centers, but it is not only a thrift store that provides for the vulnerable, but also provides activity and income for shelter residents. “It is a way of keeping the clients active,” Dunbar explained. “Once they’re in the homes or healing centers, about four times a week they are in group sessions where they are educated on various themes pertinent to changing their lifestyle and the mentality that would make them victims. With that educational component, they do physical work as in gardening, and also manage and operate Cleone’s Closet.”
I, for one, was extremely impressed with the first words that greeted me on the WHE landing page: “If you are in an abusive relationship and there is a chance your abuser may check your internet usage, use the quick exit in our menu bar to get out of our site fast from any page and clear your history when done. **Please consider this before proceeding.** Abuse in any form is NEVER God’s plan for your life!” Across America by Bicycle, the organizer of this ride. More details about Dr. Dunbar and Phyllis Ruper, and links for donations. They appreciate anything, but are especially looking for those who could commit to giving any amount regularly. (pictures)