3:45 P.M. EST April 27, 2010 | WOODRIDGE, Ill. (UMNS)
Young people at Woodridge United Methodist Church hang a poster raising awareness of the issues of human trafficking. UMNS photos by the Rev. Dave Buerstatta
We’re all made in God’s image, and everyone has a right to dignity and honor as a child of God, asserts the Rev. Linda Misewicz-Perconte.
That is why her congregation—Woodridge United Methodist Church—was excited about tying Change the World weekend to Outreach Day, an event sponsored by the Illinois Coalition to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking. On April 24, coalition members across the state raised awareness about the evil of modern-day slavery.
Inspired by Jesus’ call “to proclaim release to the captives” and “let the oppressed go free,” 25 Woodridge members canvassed the neighborhoods around their church.
They asked local businesses and organizations to display posters that raise awareness about human trafficking and provide the national trafficking hotline phone number.
Teams of youth and adults went to the many strip malls in the village, and asked proprietors if they would help raise awareness about human trafficking by hanging a poster in their store. Canvassers were “pleasantly surprised” at how many businesses were open to the idea.
Youth take the lead in Change the World event in Chicago suburb.
“It was a little scary at first, asking people we didn’t know for permission to hang a poster. But the first place we went said ‘yes,’ and it got easier after that,” said Drew Byczynski, 16.
At least 40 business owners responded positively.
“It really feels good to know we might be helping someone who is a slave get help. I’m so glad so many stores let us put up the posters or leave fliers,” said Amy Schweiser, 14.
Human trafficking, Misewicz-Perconte noted, “goes against what God intends for our lives. It denies persons dignity and the choice to love and to be loved.
“I am so proud of our young people for leading us in this effort. They are helping us face a very ugly issue, but an issue we are convinced God’s liberating Spirit is leading us to fight against.”
Victims ‘have many faces’
The “institution of slavery controls the lives of over 27 million persons worldwide, including the United States,” according to the United Methodist Book of Resolutions.
Introducing National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, President Barack Obama said, “The victims of modern slavery have many faces.
“They are men and women, adults and children. Yet, all are denied basic human dignity and freedom. Victims can be abused in their own countries, or find themselves far from home and vulnerable.
He continued, “Whether they are trapped in forced sexual or labor exploitation, human trafficking victims cannot walk away, but are held in service through force, threats and fear. All too often suffering from horrible physical and sexual abuse, it is hard for them to imagine that there might be a place of refuge.”
In this Chicago suburb, United Methodists strive to offer refuge and hope. And, in the process, they change the world—and themselves.
*Buerstetta serves as Woodridge UMC’s Koinonia pastor.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.