“Normally cars drive by and throw rocks at us, but you came throwing roses.” –Prostituted girl in Brazil
It was 2:00 pm when our team arrived in Vila Mimosa. At first glance, life in this region of Rio de Janeiro seemed almost ordinary. But upon further inspection, a sad reality became apparent. Behind the neighborhood streets, a maze of alleyways overflowed with a sea of men who were all there for just one purpose. In Vila Mimosa, women are for sale. Beyond the shadows of the Maracana, Brazil’s largest soccer stadium, dilapidated brothels house hundreds of women and girls.
When we entered the area, we were greeted by Amanda* and Gabriela*. As we talked with these young girls, it would have been easy to put on blinders and get lost in casual conversation. But as they told us about the families they left behind and their current lives in Vila Mimosa, the truth about their situation became impossible to ignore. With limited opportunities and a prominent cultural acceptance of sexual exploitation in Brazil, Amanda and Gabriela believed that Vila Mimosa offered their only chance of survival. Night after night, in a cramped cubicle, they were visited by countless men. This endless cycle of exploitation chipped away at the dignity of these beautiful girls and left them lonely and depressed. The chance for a happier tomorrow seemed distant, if not impossible.
Later that night, we asked Amanda and Gabriela about their dreams in life. Gabriela’s eyes lit up when she described her hope to one day attend a school for hair stylists. Amanda smiled and shared her dream to own a small fruit stand. As we validated each girl’s dream and talked with them about their personal worth and the delight that God takes in each of them, their eyes filled with tears. While we exhorted them with the truth of their beauty and value to the Lord, we could tell that this was a revelation these young women had never heard before and an important fact that every woman and child living in bondage needs to be told.
At one point, Amanda asked, “What are you doing here? Why are you sitting in this hell talking with me?” She explained that late-night johns were the only ones who visited, and certainly, no one ever seemed to care.
These honest words haunted us as we thought about the hundreds of thousands of women and children being exploited in Brazil who are never shown authentic love. Our conversation with Amanda and Gabriela revealed to us an urgent need–a calling for people who will go to these places, serve as the loving hands and feet of Jesus, find the ones who are trapped in exploitation, and help them escape.
This is why we’ve launched Liberdade, our initiative to bring freedom to the oppressed in Brazil through prayer and outreach. As the World Cup descends on the nation this summer, Exodus Cry will partner with Brazilians to pray and fight for the lives of girls like Amanda and Gabriela. Through twelve houses of prayer and strategic outreach all across Brazil, our goal is to reach 1,000 women and girls and offer them avenues of escape and refuge through local safe homes and church communities.
Please consider supporting Liberdade and all of Exodus Cry’s initiatives to bring freedom to the captives around the world.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.