Spirit Lake to host human trafficking public forum

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Stop The Traffic riders covered 200 miles in one during June as part of a ride from West Des Moines to Arnolds Park. The ride takes place each year as part of an effort to end human sex trafficking in Iowa and locations around the world. Organizers of the ride are returning to Spirit Lake for a special program Wednesday night.
Photo by Dave Petrick

A Des Moines-area pastor is returning to the Iowa Great Lakes as part of a continuing campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking.

First Presbyterian Church in Spirit Lake will host a human trafficking forum beginning shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4. The church is located at 3501 Hill Ave.

Featured speakers include Rev. Rocky Vest, founder and director of Okoboji 200. Rev. Raju Sundas, director of Lighthouse Ministries in Nepal and Hannah, a woman rescued from sex trafficking in Nepal.

The annual Okoboji 200 ride began in 2011 and brings riders to the Iowa Great Lakes on the last Friday of June. The 2017 edition included 49 bicyclists, seven runners and 23 volunteers. They completed their ride from Valley Church in West Des Moines to Arnolds Park on June 30.

“The ride originated with a promise to a friend, (co-founder) Andrew McCoy, to set a big goal and accomplish it together,” Vest said, after his visit to the area this summer. “Our big goal was to ride our bikes 200 miles in one day. We got two other cyclists, a support vehicle and rode from West Des Moines to Spirit Lake. We had no idea what we were doing, but we gutted through the day and finished. It was amazing and it hurt.”

That discomfort serves as a reminder that people like Hanna endure a deeper pain day-after-day, according to Vest.

“I can’t live in a world with known slavery in my backyard or elsewhere and not do something about it,” Vest said earlier this summer. “I’m a father to my children and a neighbor to the those who are in need.”

Rev. Clint Lovall of First Presbyterian Church has participated in the past few Okoboji 200 bike rides, and the church has actively engaged the organization, providing both funding and lodging when its members are in town.

“This should be a very informative session,” First Presbyterian Church member Alan Bush said. “We have the Iowa influence in Rocky, from the Okoboji 200 bike ride, Reverend Sundas from one of the worst trafficking places on Earth and directly from a rescued young lady.”

The church is located a quarter-mile south of Spirit Lake Middle School and approximately a mile north of the Barefoot Bar. The forum will be conducted in the church’s sanctuary.

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