AGWC racing against human trafficking

Amazing Grace Worship Center members, from left, Genia Blankenship and Tammy Ray recently helped the church plan its second-annual barrel race to combat human trafficking. The race will take place in Cullman on Nov. 19. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Amazing Grace Worship Center members Genia Blankenship and Tammy Ray heard some of the statistics tied to the global human trafficking market, they were floored.

“There are 1.3 million slaves in sex trafficking in the world, and it is a $27 billion industry every year,” said Blankenship, wife of AGWC Pastor Kevin Blankenship. “The U.S. is the largest consumer of human trafficking, and Europe is where most of the victims come from.”

After learning details about the human trafficking epidemic, Blankenship brought the information back to her women’s group at the church.

“It actually started out as a topic in our prayer group, but we wanted to do something more than just pray,” Blankenship said. “Prayer is great, but we wanted to put wheels to it.”

The wheels came in the form of a horse barrel-race fundraiser last year in Jasper. During the 2010 event, which was organized primarily by the church’s women’s group, AGWC raised more than $5,000 to donate to the California-based A21 campaign, which works to combat human trafficking all over the world.

After last year’s success, the entire church congregation banded together to help plan a bigger race to combat what Ray said is an issue many people don’t recognize.

“The numbers are so great that people feel they can’t do anything to combat human trafficking,” Ray said. “But if we can help just one person, we will have made a difference.”

This year’s “Yes, Lord, we will ride,” barrel race will take place Nov. 19 at the Cullman Agricultural Center on U.S. 31 in Cullman. The indoor venue will help ensure the event is held regardless of the weather, Blankenship said.

The gates for the event will open at 8 a.m., and exhibitions will begin at 9 a.m. before the 2 p.m. start of the races. Admission is $4 per person, and each race division will have its own entry fee.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the A21 campaign.

“We want to promote the race, but this is primarily to let people know that human trafficking is a problem and that it is going on,” Ray said.

Blankenship said Internet pornography and some popular video games help fuel the sex trafficking problem in America, and said the church and the A21 campaign are working to help trafficking victims as much as they can.

“We just want to help the victims one step at a time,” Blankenship said.

To learn more about the race, or to donate to the A21 campaign, call the church at 664-8484, or visit Amazinggracewc.org.