In the fall of 2012, Wilmington resident Mike Moran said a ‘see you soon’ goodbye to his son Brendan Moran as he stepped aboard a flight to Brazil to continue his work with a sex trafficking ministry there called Shores of Grace Ministries.
Brendan sent newsletters each month letting his friends and family know how he was doing in Recife, Brazil, producing music for Nic and Rachael Billman, a Pennsylvania couple who founded Shores of Grace. Brendan was working to record the work of the ministry there as one of their music directors.
The Billman’s moved to Brazil to work with the prostitute and street children populations there in late 2010, bringing their four children with them and building a ministry staff who speak Portuguese. The ministry holds church on the streets of Recife, organizes well water projects for communities in a desert region outside of Recife and hosts Father’s Love Banquets where they invite Brazilian prostitutes to a formal dinner. Another of the ministry’s goals was to open Project Bethany to house young girls who were leaving prostitution or trafficking situations. In the fall of 2013, Shores of Grace opened its first rescue house with 10 girls.
Now the Moran family is bringing the Billman’s to the Wilmington area to speak about their sex trafficking ministry. Nic and Rachael Billman will speak about their work with Shores of Grace Ministries at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Jan. 10) at The Message Church, 1107 New Pointe Blvd, Suite 24, in Leland.
They’ll tell the story of their ministry and what they’ve been seeing there.
According to UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s charity, in 2001, 100,000 children across Brazil were involved in prostitution and trafficking. In 2012, the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor estimates that number was 500,000, and there is international concern that the 2014 World’s Cup coming to Brazil will boost the child sex trade even more.
According to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for Brazil, “despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no public reports of prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism in 2012.”
A December TIME Magazine report on child sex trafficking in Brazil was set in Recife and interviewed a pimp who said he bought Recife girls from their parents for between $5,000-$10,000 and then trafficked them to larger cities such as Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In an email interview with Nic Billman in the summer of 2013, he wrote that his first visit to Brazil broke his heart because “I was driving on a bus on my way to preach at a church in Brazil. I looked out the window and saw girl after girl, some very young and some not so young. I saw them all with the face of my daughter Leila and it broke my because I realized I wasn’t looking at prostitutes- I was looking at God’s daughters, his princess’s selling their bodies on the streets because they don’t know who they are, and the price that was already paid for them. Far more than the prices men are paying for them on the streets. The price of his only son. And I felt an urgent need to let them know that. Not only to rescue and set them free- but for them to truly understand their value and their identity. And that’s how our mission began.”
Billman said though prostitution is legal at the age of 18 in Brazil, he said the age for consent is 15 “so there has been an argument in Brazil that if the age consent is 15 then girls should also be allowed to choose to get paid for sex at 15. This is an example where the law aids in the trafficking and selling of children.”
In Brendan’s September newsletter, he shared some grim news: “I’ll be getting back into the outreach side of things later this week and next week. Unfortunately, we just received news that one of the girls we minister to on the streets was murdered last night. I can not share any details, but it is a sad reminder of the darkness and danger these girls are living in every day, and sobering reminder also that our fight is against the systemic evils of poverty, corruption, and abuse that keep these girl trapped in this lifestyle.
This is a fight that is bigger than us, a fight that requires widespread awareness and in a shift in an entire culture’s mindset.”