Church: Normandale Hylands UMC
District: Twin Cities
Submitted by: Paulette Malecek
by Christa Meland
A book that Normandale Hylands United Methodist Women read last spring prompted the group to start thinking about ways to combat human trafficking—and their efforts led to a communitywide event that attracted more than 100 people.
Normandale Hylands UMW member Paulette Malecek said that after the group read “In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective of Human Trafficking in the United States,” “many of us were shocked about how many different ways people were caught into this modern-day slavery and how prevalent it is in our state.”
In fact, the FBI has identified the Twin Cities area as one of the nation’s 13 largest centers for sex trafficking of children—and it is estimated that 8,000 to 12,000 individuals are involved in sex trafficking in Minnesota, and the number is rising.
So Normandale Hylands UMW partnered with the League of Women Voters of Bloomington and the Bloomington Human Rights Commission to offer a human trafficking forum late last month. More than 100 attended, including elected officials and candidates, Bloomington city staff and commissioners, church members, staff members of local schools, students, and League members.
Presenters at the forum included staff from two local agencies committed to preventing domestic abuse and helping women and girls escape prostitution and sexual exploitation, as well as the former police chief in Minneapolis and Bloomington.
“We want to be engaged in our community and to give aid to people who are in need, and we are doing that in many ways. But this issue and the youth and young women who are affected have somehow missed our attention,” says Malecek. “I believe that is what we our called to do—to notice when things are not right, to step out and do something when something seems unjust, and to be concerned for total strangers because all people are of value to God. We are to follow Christ’s example and assist those who are in bondage—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.”
By partnering with other local organizations, Normandale Hylands UMW increased the group’s own visibility within the community and had a unique opportunity to showcase United Methodist values outside of church walls. All of the groups involved in the partnership helped spread the word (through word of mouth and their websites, e-mails, newsletters, and Facebook pages), and the event was featured by a number of local media outlets, including the Star Tribune.
The forum ended with many attendees forming plans to help eliminate human trafficking. Some of those plans include collecting needed items for service agencies, asking legislators for increased funding for police training and victim services, asking pastors to preach on human trafficking, writing letters to the editor of local newspapers to increase awareness of the problem, bringing speakers to more groups, developing public service announcements, and pledging to only support organizations, products, and services that don’t use slave labor and that don’t tolerate sexual exploitation.
Additionally, the Normandale Hylands UMW plan to highlight an anti-trafficking organization at an upcoming bazaar and give a portion of the event’s proceeds to the nonprofit.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church