Brazil (MNN) — The FIFA World Cup is among the world’s most widely-viewed sporting event, with the last event filling stadiums in South Africa with some 3.18 million fans.
With less than 90 days to go until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, tickets are in high demand. But so are Brazilian women and children.
Trafficking is already on the rise in Brazil; government reports indicate a 1,500% increase last year. The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games are expected to bring another spike.
“It’s just bringing up a greater desire for this darkness to come and grow and be taken advantage of,” says Jeff Droogsma of EFCA ReachGlobal Crisis Response. ReachGlobal reaches out to the lost and needy slum-dwellers of Rio de Janeiro.
“That’s where a lot of this sex trafficking originates. It’s the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
This summer, ReachGlobal teams will be in each of the cities hosting a World Cup match.
“Each one of those days, 24 hours a day, we’re going to have a location…where we will pray nonstop, worship nonstop,” says Droogsma.
ReachGlobal is partnering with Exodus Cry to make this possible. Exodus Cry is setting up “Focus Centers” in each of the 12 Brazilian cities hosting a World Cup match. These Focus Centers will act as a “homebase” for times of prayer and worship.
Teams will also be taking to the streets for outreach, says Droogsma.
“It’s pretty simple to get out there to show love, to talk to people…show them that there is another option; there is more hope, Jesus has something better for them,” he explains.
But their work doesn’t stop at evangelism. ReachGlobal is also working with Brazilian churches to get trafficking victims off the streets.
“The second step in all of this is the restoration, and that means we need to identify missions and churches that are going to receive these people,” Droogsma says.
One such church partners with ReachGlobal annually for a Carnival outreach.
Also known as “Mardi Gras,” Carnival floods the streets of Rio de Janeiro each year.
“Rio is the mother of Mardi Gras. Roughly 5 million people a year celebrate Carnival, coming here to satisfy the flesh, getting out there to do some hideous things, to say the least,” explains Droogsma.
“Most of the churches here in Rio run and hide during this time; they want to protect their people. We believe this is an opportunity for us to get out there and look for the hurting, the lost.”
In partnership with the church, ReachGlobal organizes a team of 100 to 200 believers. Then, they join the people celebrating Carnival in the streets of Rio. Droogsma says they attract plenty of attention, “Dancing and singing to Jesus to show them that we have a different type of joy–a joy that lasts.”
It doesn’t go unnoticed, he adds.
“The reality is: these people are looking to fill holes in their lives,” says Droogsma. As teams engage them in conversation, “people start weeping; we have awesome chances to share the Gospel and to pray for people.
“We’ve had people who’ve taken off the silly clothes they’re wearing, the dress and make-up, and just right there on the spot give their lives to the Lord.”
The church that partners with ReachGlobal for Carnival outreach will also be receiving people who turn to Christ during the World Cup and Olympics.
“They have a very intense discipleship program where they take in people with varied pasts–horrific, hurting, hurting pasts–and disciple them and help them work through these processes,” says Droogsma.
Brazil in the spotlight
The 2014 World Cup will be followed two years later by the 2016 Olympics, keeping Brazil in the global spotlight. On the negative side, global attention will keep demand for human trafficking at record levels. But at the same time, ReachGlobal is hoping it’ll keep the Brazilian Church engaged and involved.
More workers are needed to build the Kingdom of God in Brazil, says Droogsma.
“That is our biggest cry: we need laborers. We need more Brazilian churches to partner with us, to take hold of this, but also we need Americans,” he states.
“The more people we can get praying, worshipping, going out in the streets…the more lives we’re going to touch. It’s a pretty simple deal.”
“If you can pray, if you can walk, if you have the love of Jesus and a willingness to get out there, we’re ready; we’re here,” he says.