Intro From Julie A. Smith:
Nic and Rachael Billman are the founders of Shores of Grace Ministries in Recife, Brazil. This nation has the second highest number of children in prostitution, right behind Thailand. The Billman's are taking the love of the Father and the power of the Gospel to the women and children in prostitution and sex-trafficking in that nation. Nic sent in this article to us of seeing God heal and touch lives on the streets of Brazil; we liked his article so much that we are publishing it today on both the Elijah List and Breaking Christian News.
As Nic was ministering one night in the city of Recife, Brazil, God poses a question to him: "What do you see?" I know this question well as I've spent time in Thailand and saw firsthand women and children right in the middle of the sex-trade industry, as well as visiting the slums in Thailand. The sights of beautiful young women selling themselves and little children orphaned and/or left to be abused were unbearable. Yet in the midst of all the spiritual darkness God chose to tell me that Thailand has an inheritance of wisdom and honor that He is going to restore – it is their God-given birthright.
It was reported in 2010 that Thailand and Brazil were considered to have the worst child sex-trafficking records. Human rights are coming to the forefront of many ministries in this day, and I know it's something God very much wants His Church Body involved in. The darkest of nations await to come into their God-given identities as we partner with Him over the land. Will we choose to see these places as God sees them, completely transformed? I encourage you to keep Nic and Rachael Billman in prayer and ministries like them who God sends to bring the transforming power of His love to people who desperately need Him.
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God Asks, "What Do You See?"
Recently, I posted a status update on Facebook that said, "If you are a Christian and all of your friends are Christians, it's time to make some new friends." A couple people took issue with this because they believe Christians should not be friends with people in the world. They suggested we should seek to save the lost, but not befriend them for fear that they may drag us into sin. Unfortunately, this false perspective is pervading the Church right now.
The truth is, our perspective on the lost will determine our heart for them and our urgency to see them set free. I know who I am, and I walk in identity and wisdom. Because of that, when I go to make some friends on the streets, I don't go alone. I take Rachael or some of our team members with me. I'm not worried about the lost dragging me into sin. If that becomes our fear, we've already put our focus on the wrong thing. Instead, I fix my eyes on Jesus, and regardless of other people's behavior, I continue to show them how much He loves them. Paul became all things to all people that he might reach some, but he did this without compromising.
One friend clarified that he wasn't referring to the people on the streets of Brazil, but to non-Christian friends in America who continue to reject Jesus. I do not see any difference between the two. If people are lost, they're lost. The geography and the behavioral variation make no difference to me. Jesus didn't have a caste system for sinners; He befriended tax-collectors, harlots, Pharisees, thieves, and probably even stay-at-home moms addicted to soap operas. The nature of the sin was not important when compared to the heart's need for nurture. The reality is: Deep inside, every lost person is crying out, "Who am I?" We need to know who we are in Christ so we can tell them who they are.
We see how Jesus viewed the lost in these words: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). He laid His life down for His friends. He chose to call us friends – even before we knew Him – not sinners. When He hung on the Cross, He looked at the people of the world before Him and cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). This is Jesus's heart; even in His greatest moment of weakness, He prayed for us and cried out for our forgiveness.
Open Heaven At a Strip Club
Downtown Curitiba, Brazil, has a strip club called The Wiskaria, where our team has ministered many times. It all began one night as we were walking the streets. I approached the bouncer to the club and asked if I could pray for him. He acted awkwardly, telling me he was a Christian and only worked there because he needed money. Then he proceeded to show me all of the Christian music on his phone to prove his story. Clearly, he had immediately started to feel guilty because he knew that this job was not God's will for him. However, I said, "It's no problem. God sees your heart, and He will provide another job for you, but in the meantime, He's here with you, and He loves you." That night we prayed with him, and he said he felt peace and a heat all over his body as we prayed, even though it was very cold that night.
The next time we came back, he had a big smile on his face, and he told us to wait out front. He went into the club and brought out five other bouncers, pointing to each one and declaring their need for prayer. "This one needs healing. This one just got divorced, and he's sad. This one doesn't know Jesus. This one has a problem with alcohol. And this one just needs a blessing." We prayed for each one, and as we prayed, some of the dancers came out to see what was going on. The girls on our team then talked and prayed with them. Even some clients saw us, came out to ask what we were doing, and then requested prayer – it was an open Heaven – at a strip club!
As we were talking, the manager pulled up, and I thought we were in trouble because there was quite a commotion in front of his club. Leo, our bouncer friend, explained who we were, and the manager then asked for prayer as well. Then he said, "You are welcome to come to my club and pray for my employees anytime you want to." Shortly after that, we started sending a few of our girls into the club to pray for the dancers and to share about Jesus with them. While the girls were inside, we guys stayed outside and continued to love on Leo, the other bouncers, and the clients. We saw lots of inner healing and restoration take place both inside and outside of that club.
"Can These Bones Live?"
Ezekiel 37 tells the story of Ezekiel's partnership with God in a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel was surrounded by death and decay. Then God asked him a question, "Can these bones live?" (Ezekiel 37:3).
At moments like these, we must ask ourselves, Why does God ask questions? Why does the one who is called Wisdom, the omniscient one, ask questions? I believe, when God asks a question, it is because He is about to transform our vision. Often, when we're in the valley, we get so busy praying for God to do something that we forget to stop and listen. In prayer, listening is equally as important as bringing our hearts before the Lord. It is easier to talk than it is to listen. It's easier to pray than to be silent. However, sometimes when we are praying and petitioning, the Lord is saying, "Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10).
Ezekiel's response to God revealed his heart and his trust in Him. "Oh Lord God, You know" (Ezekiel 37:3). Then God directed Ezekiel to prophesy life and breath to the bones. As he did, the bones came to life, transforming them into an "exceedingly great army" (Ezekiel 37:10). God took Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones because He wanted to transform the way he saw his nation and his generation.
As sons and daughters, we need to mature past assumption and into discernment. It's so important to discern and know the season we are in. A prayer that I pray often in worship is, "If Your heart is in the valley, then I'll leave the mountaintops behind. If Your heart is in the storms and the waves, then I'll leave the boat, and I will come to You. If Your heart is in the fire, then I'll stare into the flames, and I will run to You." We may find ourselves in the wilderness praying for deliverance when God's desire is for us to plant gardens and call forth the springs in the desert.
Likewise, we may be in a valley of death asking God to deliver us to the mountaintops when His desire is for us to declare life. We must seek to know the heart of our Father and His will for our lives every day. Sometimes God will put us in the middle of a valley of death and then ask us, "What do you see?" In other words, do we see dry bones and death, or do we see an army?
I am amazed by the revelation of the heart of God in this story. The Bible specifically tells us that these bones were dry. They were long dead and long forgotten, yet that is where God chose to raise up an army. As Christians, we should pray for God to raise up soldiers of love within the Church. This is important. However, sometimes we are looking in the Church for what can only be found in the world. In the world, an army of lost souls waits for the mature sons and daughters of God to prophesy life and breathe into them.
The question is: What do we see – a pile of dry bones or a mighty army? The abandoned, the abused, the outcast, the trafficked, and the untouchables are the dry bones of our generation. They are a hungry army longing to be filled with something of substance – the breath of their Papa. There is a revival coming from among these precious ones, and God is calling us to stand amidst these dry bones and declare, "Awaken! Life! Breath!"
On the streets of Brazil, we stand in a true valley of death night in and night out. Homeless children as young as six are prostituting and smoking crack, and darkness surrounds this city in many ways. In the midst of all of this, what do I see? I see an army! I hear the sound of life! I fix my eyes on destiny and not on circumstance. We have a choice to make. Will we see and hear only with our natural eyes and ears, or will we see and hear with the eyes and ears of the Father? I choose His vision and His hearing!
I See a Garden!
Just a few weeks ago, I was in a small park in Recife surrounded by street children and homeless adults around midnight. That night there were little girls, as young as ten, who were prostituting, and street boys of the same age were sniffing glue and smoking crack. Some people there have literally lost their minds because of drug and alcohol abuse and are now living homeless on the streets. At the edge of the park stood police, who often come to beat the children when they have nothing else to do. I was sitting right in the middle of the chaos. It wasn't a nice soaking atmosphere with quiet instrumental music and meditative prayers; it was loud with the sounds of the city and these broken people.
But Jesus comes right into the middle of our chaos and brokenness, our sin and suffering. God didn't dance around the edges; He put the Cross right in the middle of it all. That night in Brazil, right in the middle of the chaos and brokenness, the Father asked me a question. He said, "Son, what do you see?" I knew God wanted to show me what He saw, so I waited and looked around the dirty little park. As I looked at the children, I saw them begin to bloom like flowers. I saw fruit trees springing up where there was only concrete and trash, and I saw a river begin to flow through the drugs and the violence.
I responded to the Lord, "I see a garden."
He replied, "Good! So do I."
As sons and daughters, this is what we do. The Father gives us seeds, and we plant them among the broken soil of our generation. He is always faithful to water the gardens we have planted. I believe a true revival is coming from the dirtiest and most broken places of our generation. The best fertilizer is a bunch of manure, so let's plant seeds of revival in the smelliest and dirtiest places we can find! The same concept applies to our personal lives, too. When we are going through difficult times, we can rejoice because surely the Father is planting seeds amidst the fertilizer of our brokenness and struggle, and He is always faithful to water the seeds. He's a good Papa and He is teaching us to see like He sees!
Shores of Grace Ministries
Nic and Rachael Billman are the founders and directors of Shores of Grace Ministries based in Recife, Brazil, the nation with the second highest number of children in prostitution. They take the love of the Father and the power of the Gospel to the women and children in prostitution and sex-trafficking. They are planting churches on the streets among the homeless and street children and just opened their first rescue home for girls in prostitution. Nic and Rachael have also released eight worship albums. For more information go to shoresofgrace.com