Conference Launches Campaign to Impact Human Trafficking
January is Human Traffic Awareness Month and the Texas Annual Conference is inviting churches into a year-long campaign to raise awareness, raise funds and take action to fight this pervasive modern-day form of slavery.
Shocking fact #1: The average age of entry for victims of sex-trafficking is 12.
Shocking fact #2: Each year, 83,000 victims are trafficked in Texas alone, with 20,000 of those in the Houston area.
Shocking fact #3: 21,000,000 victims are impacted by this crime worldwide each year.
Shocking fact #4: Rev. Diane McGehee, director of the TAC Center for Missional Excellence pledges to shave her head if the conference can raise a million dollars in 2017 to fight human trafficking.
How can you help?
As followers of Jesus who came to set all captives free, the realities of this crime inspire us to action. This type of slavery does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, gender or age and it occurs in metropolitan areas as well as rural areas.
“I think it is significant to realize that 83% of the victims trafficked in the United States are from the United States,” shares Rev. Diane McGehee. “The Center for Missional Excellence is launching a year-long campaign within the Texas Annual Conference to raise awareness, raise funds and raise champions who will help in this fight. There are many ways our congregations and leaders can help reduce the number of God’s precious children who are being abused in this way, and we will work to clarify multiple options in the months ahead.”
Bulletin Inserts for Human Traffic Awareness Month
Learning about the expansiveness of this horrific crime is the first step. The Conference office has created a bulletin insert in a variety of sizes that congregations are urged to download, print and put in their worship bulletins during the month of January, as a starter. Additional information and articles will be available and dispersed throughout the year to keep this issue “top of mind” for prayer and action.
District Fundraising “Challenge:” It’s 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,” adds Diane. 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 says.
“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.
Details and race options are listed at http://info.reason2race.com/tacteams/
That list will continue to be updated as districts mobilize their fundraising teams and challenge each other to meet or surpass their goals. The Southwest District is participating in the Katy Half and 5K event on February 4th and already has 36 team members. The Southeast District will be participating in the Gusher Marathon/Half and 5K on March 4th. Central North participants can enter the Woodlands Marathon/Half and 5K, also on March 4. The link has an outline of the key steps to participate in this challenge for each race. Individuals can sign-up for any of the races but should be sure to indicate they are on the TAC team.
Adds Diane, “If individuals want to raise money by participating in other events other than those listed, they can.” Individuals and churches can also make donations directly to the Texas Annual Conference, by making checks out to “Texas Annual Conference” and note in the memo line: “Human Trafficking Challenge.”
Lilly Foundation Grant to Fund Special Research Project
Diane is also thrilled to be the recipient of a Pastoral Study Grant from the Lilly Foundation to research and write about both the theology around the sacredness of our bodies, the realities of human trafficking in our midst, and how we can faithfully respond. Shares Diane, “I will be using these funds and others given from Heartspring Foundation to develop a curriculum for churches throughout the conference and beyond.” Her inspirational verse is found in Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?