By Jonathan Barratt on November 7, 2018
In 2010, Spain had the second-highest number of victims of human trafficking in the European Union, after Italy. Most victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Spain come from Nigeria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and China. Many of the victims do not speak Spanish, are under threat, in debt, and unaware that help is available. They are also undocumented immigrants and are afraid to go to the police.
Project Rescue, an Assemblies of God ministry to victims of human trafficking begun in India more than 20 years ago, has been steadily expanding to nations in Asia and Europe. In 2012, Project Rescue Spain was launched as a step of faith and with the partnership and support of Paul and Angela Trementozzi (directors of AGWM’s Europe region). Fiona Bellshaw, the wife of Spain Assemblies of God general superintendent Juan Carlos Escobar and the national director of Project Rescue Spain, was also vital to the launch. Fiona felt the call on her life almost five years prior, when the Lord gave her a great burden for women and children who are caught in sexual slavery.
Project Rescue Spain began with outreach on the streets of Madrid and to known areas of prostitution in the city. The team soon realized that many of the women were, in fact, victims of trafficking from cities and countries across eastern Europe, Africa, and even as far as Latin America.
The team also could see the vicious cycle as women who were trafficked had no legal papers. If arrested, they were sent to detention centers for deportation, many times back into the hands of their original traffickers. To address this problem, Fiona decided to begin ministry in Madrid’s detention center, enabling the Project Rescue team to identify victims of trafficking and help them secure asylum in Spain.
As more and more successful asylum cases occurred, it became evident that an aftercare home was needed to provide for the needs of the rescued women and give them the care they needed following such trauma.
In 2014, Project Rescue launched a campaign to raise funds for the first Project Rescue home in Europe in Madrid. By the end of that year, the home became a reality and immediately became a place of refuge for 10 trafficking survivors. They were given medical care, counseling and other forms of therapy, language education, education scholarships to universities and trade schools, vocational training, and most importantly, introductions to Jesus.
As the ministry in Madrid progressed, it began to be noticed by prominent local figures. Over time, Fiona built rapport with government officials and the chief of police.
As Fiona traveled and shared what God was doing in Madrid, church leaders in cities around Spain expressed strong desires to have similar ministries in their cities. Two new Project Rescue ministries launched in the cities of Cordoba and Valladolid, consisting mainly of outreach and providing limited emergency care and housing for trafficked victims.
In 2017, Fiona and the team in Spain began encountering more trafficking survivors who had children or were expecting. Due to strict government regulations, Project Rescue Spain was not authorized to accept children. It was very painful whenever the team had to turn these women and their children away. Fiona knew there had to be a place where mothers with children could find the care they so desperately needed.
In the months that followed, as Fiona traveled and continued to share the vision of Project Rescue, two more churches joined the ministry due to the high levels of trafficking they were seeing locally. Project Rescue Spain launched ministry centers in the northwestern province of Galicia and the southeastern city of Alicante.
Fiona believes these new ministries can potentially become locations for service for survivors with children.
According to a local chief of police, his area has a dire need for ministries like Project Rescue because there are absolutely no other options for victims anywhere near Galicia or Alicante. He has personally asked Fiona and the Project Rescue team to launch these new works considering the great need.
Please pray for Project Rescue Spain as they seek the financial investment and other resources needed to address this crisis, while continuing to rejoice in these days of unparalleled opportunity.