Ruthi Brucato, a TEAM missionary in Italy, walks the street toward home with her son Gabriel, 4, and daughter Elianna, 5. On the corner stands a prostitute. Gabriel points and says, “Mommy, a treasure!”
“That’s right, Gabriel,” Brucato says. “She is a treasure.”
Ruthi and her husband Mark moved to Italy four years ago to join Nuova Vita (New Life) Church in Bologna, where Mark serves as a pastoral intern and elder. In 2011, Ruthi also started ministering to prostitutes and victims of human trafficking. Referring to the women as “treasures,” she builds relationships through a ministry called Vite Trasformate, meaning “transformed lives.” The ministry seeks to meet the physical, relational and emotional needs of the women through practical help, friendship building, and networking with local social services to provide exit strategies.
“There are hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of prostitutes on the streets every single night in Bologna, a city of 400,000 people,” Brucato says. “There are daytime prostitutes as well. The burden was overwhelming. Our primary objective is to see their lives transformed by Jesus Christ to the glory of God.”
The burden is one that was birthed more than 20 years ago when Mark’s parents planted the Nuova Vita Church. “My father-in-law, Andy Brucato, had been praying for many years for the unreached women (forced into prostitution) in Italy,” Brucato says. “He had been asking God to send people to reach out to these women.”
Along with Brucato, the Lord also sent Priscilla Natale, who was obtaining her masters degree in human rights. Brucato met Natale and found that they shared the same passion and burden for these women. They started praying and searching for other ministries reaching out to prostitutes in Italy. They found none.
After a lot of prayer and research, and under the counsel and guidance of pastoral leadership, Brucato and Natale started street outreaches in December of 2011. In just a few short years, they have established life-changing relationships with several women.
Two of those woman are Romanian sisters named Kacie* and Megan*. As prostitutes, they stood right in front of the Nuova Vita Church sign each evening. One particularly cold winter night, Brucato and Natale offered them hot tea and cookies. “They warmly accepted our act of kindness and gave us their phone number saying they would love to meet up for a coffee,” Brucato says.
Brucato and Natale were surprised by the sisters’ request to meet together, but soon found out they were the first people who had ever offered friendship to the women. “They were very lonely and starving for relationships,” Brucato says. “We met up with them in the city center and talked for several hours. Megan broke down in tears as she spoke of her life and of her hatred for her ‘work’. From that first meeting, we started meeting together with them weekly to have coffee, chat and read the Bible together. We were amazed as they treasured God’s word and sought to understand more of it.”
The Word of God has transformed Megan’s life. She officially denounced her spot on the street corner in front of their church and began working for a job assistance program started by Brucato and Natale. Pulita 100% (100% Clean) is a cleaning business that provides training and employment to women who have chosen to leave their life of prostitution behind. Providing an alternative job in a country with a 12% unemployment rate (40 percent of young people are unemployed) is becoming an increasingly important part of the Vite Trasformate ministry.
“We help women write job resumes and we take them to interviews, but it is difficult to find jobs for them when they do not have any work experience,” Brucato says. So the goal is to expand the Pulita 100% cleaning business so they can help more women. “This project will provide an opportunity for these women to escape from slavery and prostitution and provide for themselves and their children.”
A few months ago, Megan came to Brucato after church and shared what a difference the offer of friendship had made in her life: “I felt like a wilted, dying flower, and you all put me back into a vase of living water. I have found new life.”
-Written by Cara Davis
-Photos provided by Ruthi Brucato
*names changed to protect identities
For more information, watch this video https://www.dropbox.com/s/k2slh23c1yktol6/ViteTrasformate%20video.mov.