In October of 2018 we received a call from a city council member in Yapacani, a city about two and half hours north of Santa Cruz. We have been working there for two years now.
Yapacani is a very dangerous city. Especially for young girls. We currently have four girls in our home from there.
The council member had found us on Facebook and was reaching out for our help. Years ago, street prostitution was a large problem in the center of town, so the city relocated them to the outskirts of town. With growth it is now in town again.
There is now a neighborhood in town with roughly 300 people that are all involved in prostitution, alcohol and/or drugs. Nearly every house is a bar/brothel with families and young children living behind each one. At any given time, there are many underage girls working. Girls are brought up to view the sex trade as normal. Additionally, many of the men traffic girls from the small towns in the countryside and bring them to work in the neighborhood.
The situation is very dangerous for the young girls. The police are being paid off by the owners to look the other way and thus the city was left searching for answers. The problem for us is that it is very dangerous and complicated to get involved.
Thankfully, we were able to arrange a meeting with the president of the community to offer school supply scholarships for 2019. This opened the door for us to begin interviewing the younger girls that have yet to enter the trade and tell them about Jesus and the importance of education.
While we must be very careful with our words, the community has been somewhat welcoming. It’s often overwhelming, while we work with children there are teen girls working in prostitution next to us. The fathers of the family are generally nice and want to talk but it’s complicated as the majority are traffickers or owners of the brothels. It’s so normal, they speak as if there is nothing wrong with it.
We are encouraged to see the girls open up and share their fears. They want something different and they appreciate that someone is reaching out to help. We have been blessed that a local church has stepped up to provide some volunteers to assist us, as Yapacani is a distance from where we live.
We have interviewed over 40 girls in the community and are excited to begin relationships with them. Our prayer is that with a relationship that parents and girls will accept our invitation for them to come to the home and end the cycle of the sex trade in the community.
God is doing amazing things here already. With the scholarships delivered the families have allowed us to continue the relationship with the at risk girls. On Saturdays in partnership with the church we partner with, we now have a children’s day every Saturday in a home in the community. We do activities, homework, and talk about the love of Jesus. There are 17 children attending every week now. We are excited to see what God has in store for this community.
Doing Bible class with some young girls in a brothel.