Speaker sheds light on human trafficking at United Methodist Women’s annual meeting
By K.D. Reep
Members of United Methodist Women units from across the Arkansas Conference packed the sanctuary of Mabelvale United Methodist Church on Saturday, Nov. 12, for their 13th annual meeting. The sunny and mild day outside contrasted with what the members learned of the stark realities of human trafficking happening right now in their communities.
Keynote speaker Louise Allison, executive director of Partners Against Trafficking Humans (P.A.T.H.), discussed her experience as a trafficked person and how UMW members can help those in the web of modern-day slavery.
“Human trafficking is a fancy name for slavery,” Allison said. “Today, there are 30 million people sold into the system—more than at any other time in history.”
Allison was born and raised in Dallas, and as a 14-year-old, she became a trafficking victim. In 2011, she left her career in nursing administration to dedicate her life to finding a way to provide services for trafficked people, including safe housing for rescued victims. She met others who shared her vision, and together, they established P.A.T.H.
Now a spokesperson and modern-day abolitionist, Allison serves on the Arkansas Human Trafficking Task Force to raise awareness of trafficking throughout Arkansas. She works with legislators to make laws to protect victims, educate school-aged children and young adults on danger signs and how to stay safe, work with healthcare providers and law enforcement to recognize potential victims and provide immediate care, deliver outreach services to areas with high probability for trafficking, provide comprehensive services for victims of sex-trafficking and sexual assault, and end human trafficking in the state.
“No 14-year-old kid chooses to be a hooker,” Allison said. “Anyone can be a victim at any time. Traffickers and perpetrators are looking for the vulnerable, but the vulnerable will come through your church doors. I was saved because I met an amazing God who loved me for the person I was right at that moment and loves me now. I couldn’t believe someone could love me, but I know the power of it.”
The meeting’s theme, “A Call to Community,” was based on the teachings and people in communities in the Old and New Testaments. God’s love serves as a model for Christian women, crossing boundaries to be in community with humans. Christians are challenged to form communities and live faith-filled lives, and Arkansas’ United Methodist Women are positioning themselves at the intersection of culture and faith.
This Call to Community precedes the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, which will be celebrated at Assembly, a worldwide gathering set for May 18-20, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Held every four years, this next gathering will celebrate how visionary Methodist Women have organized for mission, focusing on the needs of women and children, for a century and a half. It offers a personal faith journey through community building, training for action and visioning a movement for the future. Registration details will be posted when available at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org.
Arkansas Conference United Methodist Women also were encouraged to save the date for a Legislative Briefing hosted by Faith Voices Arkansas, an organization chaired by United Methodist minister the Rev. Stephen Copley.
The Legislative Briefing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. Those attending will meet at the Arkansas Education Building at 1500 W. 4th St. in Little Rock, and lunch and a tour of the capitol will be provided after the briefing. Attendees will hear about the issues of the 2017 General Assembly and how they impact their hometowns. They also will learn the best ways to approach local legislators from a faith-based perspective and become a public witness. Reservations are required; to reserve a space, call call 501-626-9220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faith Voices Arkansas: Protecting Faith and Freedom is committed to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in Arkansas. It champions religious freedom by respecting individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism to build common ground.