Annual Conference Confronts Sex Trafficking of Children
The United Methodist Church in the Desert Southwest Conference became leaders in working against child sex trafficking by joining with what is now known as Nevadans for the Common Good. The coalition, which swelled dramatically as the topic became publicized, includes laity and clergy from dozens of Southern Nevada Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and non-profits. The UMC has been in the forefront.
Together they took workshops on the depth of the problem to schools, churches, and other groups, sent emails to Nevada Assembly members and senators, worked with the police to develop their understanding of the problem, and publicized the issue in the press. Eventually their hard work was rewarded with the passing of Assembly Bill 67, which created the crime of sex trafficking (imagine, it wasn’t even a crime), and targeted those who participate. They continue to work on safe spaces and other issues around this horrible and growing crime.
As knowledge of child sex trafficking expanded in Southern Nevada, it inspired other areas of the Desert Southwest Conference to step up and get involved. It is well documented that children and teens are sold into sexual slavery during big sporting events. Since the Super Bowl was held in Phoenix in 2015, we had a great opportunity to publicize the issue in Arizona and even across the country. The UMC was in the forefront again as we worked with community leaders, and ecumenical groups to create a walk against sex trafficking around the area of the stadium during the weekend festivities. The press again was involved as various leaders, both lay and religious, spoke, but the most touching moment was when two victims came forward to share their stories.
Kids in the Kitchen
Mt Zion CME Church in Hope, Arkansas hosted the Kids in the Kitchen event this past Summer 2015. Kids of the community came out to learn fundamental kitchen skills, focusing on measuring, mixing, following recipes, kitchen safety, healthy food choices, & even table etiquette. All food was provided free of charge. Also, each child as well as the volunteers were given a certificate upon the completion of the class. On the last day of the program, members of Mt Zion provided a full course hot meal to all the kids who attended & graduated! They had a blast!
This is a wonderful program idea for the upcoming summer of our children. Submitted by Mrs. Lynn White, CME liaison, Arkansas Region
Million Book Effort: A God-size Dream
In June, 2014, the South Carolina United Methodist Conference envisioned a God-size dream called the “Million Book Effort.” The purpose was to raise awareness about the needs of public education by collecting books for preschool and elementary aged children. With the efforts of churches within the conference, over 500,000 books were collected. The Pan-Methodist Children in Poverty Task Force, along with many others distributed the books within nine months to local schools, churches, community libraries, child care centers, and non-profits who work directly with children. At the same time, many churches gave monetary offerings for the purpose of supporting underfunded public school libraries in South Carolina. The amount was over $22,000.00 and the God-size dream lived on!
The Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty Task Force contacted the office of the State Superintendent of Education to assist in identifying schools to receive these funds. The office identified three schools based on their reading scores, state and federal priority lists, and amount of state and federal funding they currently received. Three schools were contacted that they had been selected to receive $7665.28 to be used for books and their media centers. The principals were speechless when told of the gift. Each school is nestled in rural South Carolina with 98% of the children on free and reduced lunches.
Caring for Children in Liberia
In Liberia, after a long period of civil war where many children are now orphans and homeless due to the fact that their parents were killed and properties burned down, the wellbeing of children and youth in poverty is paramount. We are hopeful in our efforts to transform the minds of these children for good leadership for a better tomorrow.
As we celebrate and enjoy the peace that God has given us, we also pray for economic stability in terms of job opportunities and improvement in our educational system. We hope that our government will be able to build more public schools and can minimize the high cost of school fees. These are fees that many parents cannot afford.
When parents cannot meet the school system’s financial demands, children are often put out of school. Some children then work to help with their family’s financial needs and with the hope of raising money for the next academic year. Unfortunately, other children lead wayward lives that result in rape, sexual abuse, youth pregnancy, violence, drugs abuse, etc.
From this background, the CME church, Liberia Region, through the Margibi District has been working over the last three years to put in place some programs to help solve some of these problems. The church can in no way survive without these children. They are our hope and future.
The Desk of Christian Education/Specialized Ministry to Children of United Methodist Church, Sierra Leone Annual Conference
Mrs. Olivia I. H. Fonnie, Liaison
The United Methodist Church (UMC), Sierra Leone Annual Conference sees the nurturing of Children as paramount, which is why every year children come together at a specific location to meet new friends and to learn God’s word together. The children come and learn more about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, learn from the Bible and what it means to be Christian. In practice this means, time and space are given for quiet times, prayer, Bible studies, worship, and church service. Therefore Children from all districts where the UMC operates converge to an agreed location to have a one week camp.
The department through funding from the United Methodist Women in the US implemented a project to empower communities for the increased protection of boys and girls especially the most vulnerable children in selected chiefdoms in Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone.
The department in collaboration with other departments in the conference provide for needy children across the country.
Sierra Leone happens to be one of the poorest countries in the world. 70% of its population lives below the poverty line. The gross national income of its inhabitants is more than 100 times lower than that of Italy’s inhabitants. Such an economic situation has a profound effect on the practice and implementation of the International Convention of Children’s Rights.
Nearly 30% of children in Sierra Leone are uneducated.
After years of civil war which led to the closing of many educational establishments, there has been some improvement in school accessibility. Even so, it remains very difficult for certain children to go to school, particularly in remote regions of the country.
In Sierra Leone, nearly one out of every two children is obliged to work in order to help support the needs of their family. Some work as part of their domestics chores; thousands of others, however, end up working under extremely dangerous conditions and sometimes die as a result. Examples include child miners and field laborers among others.
If by chance they escape, these children nevertheless bear scars and frequently suffer from physical and psychological problems.
Joining Hands to Lift Children
By Dr. Mary Love
Hood Theological Seminary joined in partnership with the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children In Poverty during the fall semester by offering two “Joining Hands to Lift Children” summits in the community for those who work with children. The summits were held in Montgomery, AL (October 10) and Rock Hill, SC (Oct. 31). Dr. Mary Love, Adjunct Professor of Christian Education taught a children’s Ministry class with 14 students, (4 in Alabama and 10 in North/South Carolina). The class was challenged to take what they were learning and share in a training opportunity for persons who work with children. The class explored current data regarding the conditions of children, the development of children, needs, faith development in children, parenting, developing a children’s ministry, the ministry of children to others and other issues and resources related to children. Connection was also made with the Children’s Defense Fund and the celebration of Children’s Sabbaths using the CDF theme. The theme, goal and 7-fold purpose of the summits is given below:
Theme: “How Long Must I Cry? Bending the ARC towards God’s Vision of Justice for Children” (CDF)
Goal: To bring persons together across denominational lines who work with children and are willing to explore ways to make a difference in the lives of children
- To address the issues and needs of children
- To identify ways that the church can make a difference (LIFT children) in the lives of children by structuring an inclusive environment and promoting hospitality for all
- To provide training for persons who work with children and provide assistance to parents and grandparents, especially those rearing grandchildren
- To connect with the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty and participate as the Hood Seminary Children’s Ministry class to plan and provide training that aids in LIFTING children (The campaign booklet was distributed at each summit.)
- To encourage congregations in an area to be intentional in sharing the task of making a difference in the lives of children and developing a coalition for future work that LIFTS children
- To form partnerships with schools and agencies serving children
- To explore opportunities for advocacy for the sake of children
Please note that the word “LIFT” is central to this experience as the students developed an acronym to capture the focus and to show that focus visually.
L stands for LOVE which all children need to survive.
I stands for INSPIRE which should be extended to all children.
F stands for FILL which is reflected as a child is a vessel in need of receiving deposits of wisdom, information, guidance, etc.
T stands for TEACHING which is a God-given responsibility to parents and others adults (Proverbs 22:6).
Walk Against Bullying and Care for Students
Ms. Ruth Gough, Liaison for the New England Annual Conference (AMEZ Church), reported that the Green Memorial AMEZ Church sponsored a “Walk Against Bullying” in Portland, Maine. The goal of this event was: “to raise awareness about the importance of bullying prevention, and to unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion!” The message for children in the community was: “You are not alone, we’re here for you.”
Green Memorial also gave 80 backpacks to 2nd through 5th grade students in the LearningWorks after-school program at the East End Elementary School in Portland.