Reason2Race: First UMC Sugar Land Leading by Example

Date Posted: 1/26/2017

In the all-district quest to raise money and awareness for human trafficking, First UMC Sugar Land is the frontrunner for the Southwest District with more than 50 participants and thousands of dollars for local and global ministry partners.
 
Rev. Trey Allen admits that it is one thing to hear about human trafficking, but much more shocking to meet someone who has actually cut the bolts off of a shipping container to find it full of 7- to 10-year-old girls being shipped off the coast of West Africa. “While I was a missionary in Uganda, I met a Navy guy named Steve who helped police the international ships in and out of the port,” recalls Trey. “I could see the pain in his face when he told me that a dozen or so ships with illegal cargo would synchronize their departure, headed most often to Brazil or Houston, knowing only one of them would likely be searched and busted on the way out. Steve said this heart wrenching scenario happened over and over again, so I have been aware of Houston as a prime human trafficking destination for years.”
 
Now that Trey is serving First UMC Sugar Land as community pastor, he is more than ready to help the church make an impact on this horrific local and global crime. “We’ve been praying for years about how to help,” he explains, “because this is not the kind of thing we can impact on a Saturday work day. It requires professional counselors and police, often times, and it is very expensive – but we can raise money so that is what we will be doing on behalf of our district and conference at the Katy Half Marathon.”
 
Trey believes in the “environmental discipleship” described in Acts. “Paul talked about God placing us in certain boundaries at certain times,” he shares, “and I believe the places we live shape our mission. Since Houston is a major center for human trafficking, I believe it is our responsibility to be involved more so than someone in Omaha, Nebraska for example.”
Not everyone will want to run or walk, but all can donate, and others can help in an information tent.
 
Even Wee Ones Are Involved
“It’s a cute sight to see one of our 3-year-olds with a fundraising page on the conference race website,” adds Trey. Additionally, a mother-daughter team including 16-month old Natalia will be representing the Southwest District on February 11, and a group of children from FUMC Sugar Land will participate in the Kids’ 1K. “The youth have put together a team in honor of our older adults, and our 60+ participants have raised over $30k to date,” he says.
 
The District Fundraising “Challenge” is On!
By partnering with “Reason2Race” the conference is challenging each district to recruit a team to walk, run, donate, host an information table or support a designated race event in each district (where funds can be designated for human trafficking organizations in the local region).
 
“We will be distributing t-shirts to participants to wear proudly to these events, which will help us share our testimonies of who we are as United Methodists and followers of Jesus and why we do what we do,” shares TAC Director of Missional Excellence Rev. Diane McGehee. Each district can designate funds to several organizations in their region. The Southeast District, for example, will be raising funds for Harvest House and Agape International. “If districts do not have an organization in mind, we can put them in touch with some of our ministry partners,” she adds.
 
“My hope and prayer is that at least 100 people in each district will sign up for these race events and raise $1000 each. Each participant who achieves that goal will receive a free copy of the book, “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in American and What We Can Do To Stop It,” by Nita Belles. More importantly, they will help the conference raise over $900,000,” she shares. “In fact, I am going on record to volunteer to shave my head if we can get to the million-dollar mark for the fight against human trafficking.” Races will come online as the year unfolds, and the conference will work with each district to find a good match in their region.
 
FUMC Sugar Land got word in mid January that their race had been moved to February 11 to allow all law enforcement officers to focus on Super Bowl-related coverage. Instead of panicking, one of the team captains responded, “Well that gives us an extra week to fundraise!” The Southwest District will donate event funds to Elijah Rising in Katy, Tx and International Justice Mission, a longtime church ministry partner with First UMC, Parkway UMC and Covenant UMC. “I am excited that this is a church-wide event for us and that we are starting the year off focusing on discipleship and being like Jesus by caring for those in the shadows,” adds Trey.
 
Information and Fundraising Logistics
Churches can access bulletin inserts to help raise awareness. Details and race options are listed at http://info.reason2race.com/tacteams/