AP: Brazilians funneled as “slaves” by US church, ex-members say

For years, the smoke and mirrors used by Jane Whaley and her leadership at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has created an aura of deception, filled with misstatements and euphemistic renaming of their practices. Screaming is called prayer, verbal and physical abuse is called “love.” Private sexual relations between and husband and wife are not private, but are regulated by church leadership to “keep out the unclean.” Members are prohibited from free access to news sources including radio, television, newspapers and computers because they are “not able to hear God and stand against the devil.” Unpaid forced and coerced labor is called “volunteer work.” These highly restrictive church practices equate to “walking in God’s ways with God’s people.”

Now the individuals damaged from the years of chicanery are speaking out. The latest installment of the Associated Press’ ongoing in-depth investigation has been released. The long needed reporting of the secretive church practices is clearing the smoke of confusion and angst which hangs thick over Old Flynn Road. There, the church compound serves as the hub of the WOFF-kingdom in the sad ongoing saga of abuses revealed by the AP. The aim is not only for the souls of the members, but this report reveals the aim is to capture “slaves,” laborers- mostly unpaid to work at the church or school or for businesses owned by church leaders, as well as in their homes.

The AP report: This link has the full text, pictures and video. (click icons bottom right of image)

“When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders – for safekeeping, he said he was told.

Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the evangelical church and later working at businesses owned by the sect’s senior ministers. Any violation of the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.”

From my years at WOFF, I ask who could actually count the endless number of young Brazilians who were brought over to North Carolina? The number would vary from year to year according to how much room could be made in member’s homes or at the warehouses on Shiloh Road. Who can deny the ever flowing “pipeline” of young souls, male and female? The numbers would increase for every seminar.

While a member of WOFF- I was not directly involved in regulating the daily activities of this segment of the membership. However, who can honestly deny the multiple hours for work projects and free labor harvested from these folks? Who remembers the trips that young men, American and Brazilian, would make to update or redo the foreclosed home(s) in South Carolina? These projects orchestrated by church leadership were “fundraisers” to help “meet the budget.” I understand from members who left after I did that this practice of “volunteering” for “work projects” did not stop.

AP: “They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Oliveira said. … “They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira said, pausing at times to wipe away tears. “We were expendable. We meant nothing to them. Nothing. How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?”

AP: “On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.

“And do they beat up the Brazilians?” Jill Rose, now the U.S. attorney in Charlotte, asked.

“Most definitely,” one of the former congregants responded. Ministers “mostly bring them up here for free work,” another said.

Though Rose could be heard promising to look into it, the former members said she never responded when they repeatedly tried to contact her in the months after the meeting.”

Yes, Jill Rose, the US District Attorney was informed of these practices in January 2014. I was in the meeting referred to in this article. I heard her say- she will “take a fresh look at it.” (meaning the abuses told to her during the almost two hour meeting) After the meeting, I sent her a certified letter outlining my concerns. I heard nothing back in the months that followed. There was not a second meeting as promised.

The AP article reports: “Rose declined to comment to AP, citing an ongoing investigation.”

Let’s hope Jill Rose doesn’t add her name to the list of government officials such as Brad Greenway, Chris Francis, John Carroll, Jeff Hunt and others who all decided to do nothing about the reports of abuses from survivors of WOFF.

Let’s hope the “ongoing investigation” is thorough and not hindered by the “smoke and mirrors” – religious dog and pony show which inevitably everyone gets when WOFF has time to prepare for visitors.

AP: “Perhaps to circumvent the rules against employment, church leaders sometimes referred to the forced labor projects as “volunteer work,” according to Brazilians interviewed in both countries.

Many females worked as babysitters and in the church’s K-12 school, and many males worked in construction, the former members said. The work included ripping out walls and installing drywall in apartments owned and rented out by a senior church minister, they said.

Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank focusing on labor issues, said rental properties are “for-profit businesses for which the immigrants cannot volunteer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Some of those interviewed said they’d been lured to the U.S. in part by promises of obtaining a college education but were unable to study or attend classes because of their punishing work schedules.”

“It was slave labor,” said Rebeca Melo, 29, who grew up in the church in Brazil and visited the U.S. about 10 times.

Whaley’s brand of “love” also played a key role in enticing Brazilian males to Spindale – and keeping them there once their visas expired, according to former members of the church.

Ten of those interviewed spoke of male Brazilians obtaining green cards for permanent residency and being able to legally work by being married off to female American congregants.”

Let us remember where we see the numbers “ten” and “16” in this report, those numbers represent real people, the ones willing to talk. Many survivors refuse to speak still living in fear of Jane.

These were individuals who were brought here to America and according to this investigation were shamefully mistreated, all under the guise of some religious sham, cloaking the real reason for their journey. I was there for years. Jane Whaley and her enabling minions were and still are very skilled at spinning and “calling things that are not as though they were…” Does that sound familiar?

AP: “Former congregant Jay Plummer supervised remodeling projects for a church leader’s business and confirmed that his fellow American workers were paid while the Brazilians who labored alongside them were not.

“Room and board is what they worked for, and they did not have a choice,” Plummer told the AP. “And when they would not want to work and vocalize that, they would just get in trouble.”

AP: “Former member Thiago Silva said he was excited when he boarded a plane in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte to fly to a Word of Faith youth seminar in North Carolina in 2001. He was 18 and expecting to use his tourist visa to meet new people and visit the U.S.

He soon learned, he said, that there would be “no happiness.”

“Brazilians came here for labor. I’m telling you, that’s it,” Silva said. He called the treatment “a violation of human rights.”
Silva, now 34, recounted being among a group of Brazilians working alongside Americans — the locals were paid, the Brazilians were not, he said.

Silva and others also said Whaley took complete control of congregants’ lives on both continents, mandating such daily staples of life as where they lived and when they could eat — and even forcing some into arranged marriages to Americans so they could stay in the country. (emphasis added)

The lack of freedom was pervasive, they said: Silva, for example, said he could phone his parents from the U.S only if someone who spoke Portuguese monitored the call.

“There’s no free will,” he said. “There’s Jane’s will.”

Okay, the members of WOFF have witnessed it for years. Is this the first time a news organization has reported on the practice of “arranged marriages?” Jane’s insistence to marry Brazilians to Americans concentrates her power over both congregations. This is not saying that some couples don’t or will not survive the contrived genesis of their relationship. However, the odds are not good for long term marriages with such a beginning. If the purpose is to avoid immigration laws- it is illegal.

This article is very extensive and full of sad facts about life inside WOFF for Brazilians and Americans. The practice of arranged marriages affects both Brazilians and Americans. Hopefully, you will read the all of the source article and read Kim Rooper’s story. She is talking about her relationship to Steven Aquirre. She tells of her inability to continue the sham. I was with Steven when he was told she had left WOFF. He was heartbroken and very emotional. There was a lot of blasting prayer for him that day. It is what we were told to do. Looking back, the whole scene was strange. I should have seen through the smoke and haze, but I did not. Eventually, Steven was married to another American WOFF member.

This article is so extensive it may warrant another post. In closing for now, we must ask – will the investigation referred to by Jill Rose be able to finally cut through the murkiness and haze created by the ongoing deceit and hocus pocus used by WOFF?

In the time since 2014 when Jill Rose was made aware of the dangerous WOFF practices, how many more lives have been harmed and families torn apart? How many other adults and children have to suffer at the hands of Jane and her leadership before these practices come to a halt? We shall see. For now, things are full steam ahead for the next seminar and wave of Brazilian devotees. Do you think this article will stop or even slow down the flow of Brazilians into Spindale? Do you know Jane Whaley?

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Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted.

(Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 611.

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