Texas Church Making Dresses for Girls to Combat Human Trafficking
By Roy Maynard
It’s difficult to tell who is blessed more by the Dress a Girl ministry at La Porte UMC—the girls throughout the world who receive the hand-made dresses, or the church and community members who make them.
The dresses themselves are about dignity, said church member Kathy Muston, who leads the ministry.
“They’re going to young girls who might not ever have had a new dress of their own,” she said. “They’re going to impoverished places (all over the world), some places where women and girls aren’t treated well. The dresses are empowering; they’re symbols of faith and hope and love and dignity. When the girls receive the dresses, a prayer is said with them, and the symbolism is explained.”
The dresses also combat human trafficking.
“We’re told that if children look like they belong to an someone, or look like someone will expect them to come home, they’re less likely to be taken and trafficked,” Muston said. “And so before we send the dresses out, our congregation blesses them. We pray over them; we pray for the girls.”
In June, the church held its own Sew Fest.
“This has turned into something bigger than I expected,” Muston said. “Now, we have people donating everything we need to make the dresses; we probably have 50 to 60 people in the community sewing them.”
To streamline the process, Muston developed a production line of sorts—patterns, fabric and even decorated pockets (the specialty of one of the church members) are put into a gallon-size plastic bag.
“It has everything you need to make the dress,” she said.
So far, the La Porte group has sent dresses to Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Another Sew Fest is slated for October.
“We’re just a little church down here in La Porte, and I never knew we could have this kind of impact,” said Muston. “When we started this, people came out of the woodwork to do sewing, to cut fabric, to decorate pockets. And we’ve seen people—mostly women, of course—who say they haven’t sewn in years. They’re getting their machines out, getting them fixed up, and getting involved.”
Muston heard about the ministry, and she decided to learn more by attending a Sew Fest at a church in Houston. It was simple enough; volunteers made dresses, and donated them to missions groups who would distribute them in places like Africa and Central America.
“I’m a teacher; I know how to organize groups of people and give them jobs to do,” she said.
It began with about five women, she said.
“We got together and brainstormed,” Muston explained. “We thought it would be a good idea to get with the Girl Scouts who meet here. Maybe they could model some of the dresses we’re making. We put out the word to other churches, and to the homeschooling community, and we had a fashion show.”
It was a successful launch. The goal was to have a few women attend, but the fellowship hall was filled.
“Quite a few were members of the community who wanted to sew with us,” Muston said. “And that’s one of the goals of this mission. It’s not just the dresses, it’s also about becoming a presence in the community.”