Saving the lost girls
Pastor Troy Brewer is a man on a mission. The senior pastor of OpenDoor Church in Burleson has hundreds of pictures of smiling faces on his phone, most of whom now share his name. These aren’t any normal little girls. These girls have a special connection to Brewer because he has rescued them from sexual slavery.
“I have about 1,700 kids,” Brewer said of the orphanages he and wife, Leanna, run on five continents. Not all are rescued from sexual slavery, but all are part of the family. “A lot of these kids don’t know how old they are and they don’t have a last name, so I give them my last name.”
Brewer started rescuing girls from sexual slavery 20 years ago when in Cost Rica doing outreach in trash dumps. Having done outreach in other impoverished countries, Brewer had seen a lot, but Costa Rica shocked him.
“There was a really nice house in the trash dump, which was weird,” said Brewer. “A sweet older lady came out and standing behind her were two little girls.”
The girls were apprehensive about Brewer and showed no emotion when he smiled at them. The woman told Brewer’s translator the girls were for sale and he could buy them.
“When my translator told me he was negotiating a price for me to buy those two little girls, I was shocked,” Brewer said, noting they settled on $90. “The look on their faces was sickening. I bought them and took them away from there. I put them in an orphanage my wife supports and told them no one was going to hurt them again.”
Brewer found the more he traveled to impoverished countries, the more people would bring him children, thinking he was a sexual tourist.
“Here I was, a middle-aged white guy stomping around these bad places with people bringing me little girls,” said Brewer of the reputation American pedafiles have worldwide. “There are Americans going all over the world and molesting kids. That is what they do for vacation.”
In 2015, Brewer traveled to India to visit two SPARK Worldwide orphanages – the ministry Leanna runs through OpenDoor Church. As he was being driven through the streets, his driver pointed out a large house.
“My driver, Pradesh, told me that was a house of ill-repute,” Brewer said.
In other words, a brothel.
“The Lord put it on my heart and I knew if I turned around right then, I could buy a kid,” said Brewer.
Pradesh didn’t want to turn around, thinking Brewer’s intentions were not honorable.
“So he eventually turns around and parks in front of the house and just points to it. He won’t even look at me,” Brewer said. “So I get out and go in there. I asked, ‘do you have any kids?’ They brought me some teenage girls, but I knew they had little girls. They did have three, but two were at school.”
The third, the brothel owners said, was sick and uncooperative. They didn’t want to bring her to Brewer.
“So I said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a mean one. I want to see the mean one.’ They prepared her to see me for what seemed like an eternity,” Brewer said, adding a brothel is a dangerous place to be, pastor or not.
Finally, the owners took Brewer to see the girl. He was led down a dark, musty hallway, past padlocked doors.
“As I went past all these doors that had padlocks on the outside, I could hear people backing away from them,” said Brewer. “There were women and girls locked inside.”
He was led to a room at the very end of the hallway.
“The room she was in was tiny,” Brewer said. “It had a little cot in it and one little blue light hanging down from the ceiling because they didn’t want me to see how sick or beat up she was. There was an 11-year-old girl sitting on the edge of the bed with her hands folded in a prayer position and her head bowed.”
The girl was wearing a white dress much too big for her, said Brewer. She had a layers of makeup on and bright red lipstick.
“I looked at her and said, ‘so are you the mean one?’ and she didn’t say anything and they yelled at her and when they yelled at her she jumped,” he recalled.
Brewer knew he needed to rescue that child.
“I told them I wanted to take her with me. At first, they said no,” Brewer said. “I paid the madam $160 and I left with that little girl holding my hand.”
When Brewer got back out to his hired car, Pradesh wouldn’t open the door.
“My heart was just pounding and he finally opened the door,” said Brewer. “I told him I wanted him to translate. So I asked her, ‘Do you have any family in that place?’ and she said no.”
Through more questioning, he discovered the girl had been there for three or four months and had been sold by her village to a man who told her she was going to clean houses.
“I told her she was going to remember this day for the rest of her life,” said Brewer. “She was stone-cold and emotionless just like all these little girls are. I told her Jesus sent me there to rescue her and I was taking her to one of my orphanages where the first thing she was going to do was eat.”
That was the first time Brewer saw any emotion on her battered face.
“I told her she was going to see a doctor and that no one was going to hurt her. That this wasn’t one of ‘those’ houses,” Brewer said.
Brewer left for a week to attend to another orphanage and when he came back, the little girl threw herself into his arms and wouldn’t let go, he said. The other girls from the orphanage told Brewer the 11 year-old was told about Jesus after arriving at the safe house. She was sure Brewer was him.
Amy Adcock, a member of OpenDoor Church for four years, traveled to India with Brewer in 2015 and said her “American mind-set” was in for a rude awakening.
“You can’t believe the level of poverty these people are living in,” Adcock said. “You learn it’s not really a woman’s fault that they are forced to become a prostitute. They really don’t want to be prostitutes.”
Adcock said her favorite part of the trip was being able to speak with those who had come to receive food.
“The people were so gracious and loving. They are so grateful you are there. It’s amazing to look into their eyes and give them the love they need,” she said.
When Brewer decided to save girls from sexual trafficking as a full-time operation in early 2016, he launched Answer International, a ministry totally devoted to redeeming sex slaves worldwide. He said the goal was to save 12 girls the following year.
“Last year alone, Answer International rescued 178 girls,” Brewer said. “It’s like a literal market. You walk into a room and people are bidding on girls, even on the phone.”
Slavery is a worldwide problem even in modern times, regardless of race, Brewer said.
“It’s Russians, Asians, Africans, Indians, the whole nine yards. It’s going on every day and the world yawns and wants to know what the Kardashians are wearing. As long as people think, ‘Well, it’s none of my business,’ it will just continue.”
Though AI has rescued 178 people from slavery, some of the older girls come with children, so the total number rescued is much higher.
“We recently bought a 17-year-old girl,” Brewer said. “She has five children and she is 17. So she has been pregnant every year since she was 12. She also has AIDS and her children have AIDS.”
Brewer is committed to helping these people for the long haul. Sometimes rehabilitation can take just a few months. Other times, it can take decades of support and healing.
“It’s one thing to raise $3,000-$5,000 to pay off a girl’s debt. Its another thing to keep supporting them. We are committed to helping these children and their children for the duration. We don’t yet know what that duration is, and I don’t care how long it takes.”
In India, Brewer has set up an outreach center and medical outreach for those trapped in slavery.
“I started sending $2,500 a month to these OB-GYN’s to see these girls,” Brewer said. “They have never seen a doctor before and they are messed up big time – really sick.”
None of these girls intended to be prostitutes. In India, common folks don’t go to a bank when they need money. Instead, loansharks are the norm and failure to pay has horrendous consequences.
“There is a 28-year-old woman Answer International bought who had two boys,” Brewer said. “She borrowed $3,000 to buy medicine for her husband who was dying of cancer. She thought it would save him, but it didn’t. When she couldn’t pay back the money, the people she borrowed from forced her to become a prostitute and work in a brothel.”
Once Brewer paid her debt, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her new-found freedom.
“She wanted a vegetable shop,” said Brewer. “I thought that was an honorable thing, so we set her up with her own shop. The entire set-up was only $2,000. So for $5,000 total we rescued a woman, her two boys and set her up for life. If we have the ability to do that, why wouldn’t we?”
For others Brewer and AI have rescued, reintegration into society is much harder.
“Some girls, like the 17-year-old, she’s never been to school. She only knows one life, but she is in school now and she is going to get her high school diploma. She’s not even at the middle school level yet,” Brewer said.
At the New Leaf Home in Nepal, AI has a team of psychologists to help the girls. However, in other countries, mental health isn’t readily available and can be taboo.
“There isn’t a cookie-cutter way of helping a person through healing,” Brewer said. “It’s always relational. They always have issues, but some of them bounce back really quickly once they have stability in their life again.”
For Brewer, there is danger in every step when rescuing these girls. The trick is to make friends with the right people in the government of the nation AI is working in.
“It is dangerous and the government is neck-deep in it. Everybody knows that. So anytime you start snooping around, you have to be careful,” he said of the corruption in these third-world nations.
In Nepal, Brewer has a good relationship with the government, which often alerts him to girls AI can rescue. Partnering with another ministry, Brewer and Answer are funding bridge intervention teams that look for traffickers crossing into India with their human cargo.
“These trained profilers stay at these bridges 24/7 looking for traffickers,” Brewer said. “They profile people who have young girls with them. They will question the girls, who will say something like, ‘Oh, well I’m going to clean houses.’ Then the bridge team will blow the whistle and the police will come and arrest the traffickers.”
The girls will then be taken to a safe-house where they won’t be sold into a slavers market, Brewer said. Though prevention was accomplished, the battle isn’t over to keep these modern-day slavers behind bars.
In Nepal, the state does not provide a prosecuting attorney.
“If you are the victim of a crime, you have to hire your own prosecuting attorney,” said Brewer, noting Answer International donors pay $1,000 to pay for prosecution. “We are saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives because the traffickers get 20 years in prison. We have never lost a case.”
Needless to say, Brewer has to raise a lot of capital to finance these rescues and provide continued care. He and his wife have mortgaged their home seven times to finance many of endeavors. Now that Answer International is in place, Brewer has help with this mission.
“Answer International spent about $175,000 last year freeing girls and I’m spending about $20,000 a month sustaining them and taking care of them,” Brewer said. “I can never stop raising money for the rest of my life.”
Being a problem-solver, Brewer has found a solution to his money needs.
“I sell books, I have radio shows on a major national network, but the biggest way I raise money is by doing conferences and selling tickets to the conferences,” Brewer said. “We also take up offerings at the conferences and all the money generated from that goes to the rescues.”
Brewer also started an exclusive website for his sermons and other exclusive teaching content called troybrewer.tv.
“It’s all my conferences and teachings on-demand. We add videos each month. It costs about $30 per subscription and that money goes straight into the pot to help with the rescues. I don’t get paid from it,” he said.
Despite all the good Answer International and Brewer are doing, he says he answers the following question all the time: Is it morally and ethically responsible to pay traffickers money for people when they are going to go right back out and exploit another human?
“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘I would never be a part of that because you are paying people for human lives and you are a part of the problem.’”
A modern-day abolitionist, Brewer likens the problem to when slavery was legal in the U.S.
“You had two options back then,” Brewer said. “You could steal a slave, put them on the underground railroad and hide them while they get to another country, or you could buy them and set them free. What other option do you have?”
To find out more about Pastor Troy Brewer, go to his website at troybrewer.com. To find out more about Answer International, go to answerinternational.org. OpenDoor Church is located at 301 S. Dobson Street, Burleson.