Methodists Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking Injustices
FUMC Caldwell and John Wesley UMC are two of the many TAC churches helping to confront Human Trafficking issue head on. In case you missed recent events, read the highlights of information shared.
Did you know?
· Victims look like people you see every day.
· Labor trafficking and Sexual Trafficking involve people being coerced or controlled.
· The average age of the victim is 12.
· There are over 200 brothels in Houston with two new ones opening each month.
· The buying/selling of people is the world’s second largest criminal enterprise.
There are endless opportunities for Methodists to help counteract the personal destruction that occurs in human trafficking scenarios. “I want each person in our pews to realize that there is a role for them because every person that is rescued out of human trafficking, needs a huge support system to truly transition out of that life,” notes FUMC Caldwell Rev.Todd Jordan. “Victims are used to being completely dependent so they often need mentors to teach them different life skills, and they need doctors, life coaches, therapists and others who can help them establish credit and find a job.”
The FUMC Caldwell event in August drew a crowd of more than 50 and collected a basketful of gift cards and donations that will be used to help victims have a second start in life. Dennis Marks of Redeemed Ministries gave participants an overview of the issue, some of the key laws involved and conducted an extensive Q&A session to help educate the group on this hidden darkness. Adds Todd, “This was just a first step, but I am challenging everyone to pay-it-forward, so to speak, by having their church or district host some kind of activity that would keep helping raise awareness of this revolting problem.”
Ellen Willett, associate pastor, who brought 10 members from First UMC Huntsville to the August event, wasted no time doing just that. “On the ride back to Huntsville we began brainstorming how we can best enter into this important area of ministry,” says Ellen. “Caldwell UMC did an outstanding job of basic education to notify us of how prevalent this is in our area. We were stunned to learn than 80% of this involves US citizens preying on other US citizens, and we left feeling a bit overwhelmed. Our missions committee, UMW and women’s ministry are working together to help get the information out and consider our evangelistic approach.”
High level panel provides human trafficking education at John Wesley UMC
Law enforcement officers often find human trafficking victims by accident when investigating other crimes, according to Constable Ron Hickman, and FBI advisor from Precinct 4 who shared his expertise on a September 13 panel at John Wesley UMC in Houston, adding that the 1960 area has the highest percentage of sex related traffickers. Law officers are learning to treat these types of prostitutes as victims rather than criminals.
“One major challenge we have,” adds Redeemed Ministry leader Dennis Marks, “is that many of the girls are so brainwashed that they do not even realize they are captive. The answer, ironically, is not related to additional law enforcement but for church members to get involved and give their support to these victims.”
Panelist Rodney Daniels of Home of Hope for adolescent victims of human trafficking, notes that the children involved fear their families will be harmed if they escape, and are usually hidden fairly well. “And, although the adults don’t chose this lifestyle initially, they get used to the income and feel trapped that they cannot make that level of money any other way.”
What can you do?
“Don’t leave thinking there is nothing you can do,” adds Dennis. “Get educated to watch for traffickers, and educate the next generation to respect women. Break the cycle by understanding how to identify victims or places that may look like legitimate businesses, but do not seem normal.” Concerned citizens can also educate their children about this issue and to be alert to any lures away from their family. Another option: download the “iwatchharriscounty” app.