JEFFERSON CITY – In 2010, the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), which works with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), launched Project HELP, a four-year project to educate churches about human exploitation in its many forms and help them combat the issues in their areas
Laura Wells, WMU executive director/consultant for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said human exploitation is a broad term that covers a variety of abuses toward individuals.
“It’s more than trafficking,” she said. “WMU is focusing on all of it: bullying, sexting, pornography, cyberbullying, natural resources.”
Through Project HELP, she said, WMU has been on the “cutting edge” of helping churches get information, find resources, and start projects to turn back the human exploitation they find in their area—which is “everywhere in Missouri.”
In its inaugural year Project HELP focused on providing information to churches and ministry groups about various ways people exploit others. Resources were developed to help churches prepare for action. Now, the focus is shifting to engagement.
Wells said that Missouri Baptists are getting educated through media reports and Project HELP information about the reality and evils of human exploitation.
“Now we need to get out there and get involved,” she said. “We need to put hands and feet to it.”
That is starting to happen in Missouri through individual church or association projects. Wells said, for example, that churches in the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association have partnered with two agencies involved in aspects of exploitation.
One of those is Veronica’s Voice, an agency helping victims of Kansas City’s sex trade take back their lives. It is led by survivors of sex slavery. Another is Sweet Sleep, an international faith-based group that provides beds to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.
Wells said churches that need information about Project HELP or are seeking to get involved in battling human exploitation can contact her office through the MBC. The national WMU’s website also has information.