Gerard Moreira’s past is always present—he’s never stopped living or working in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, with its reminders of his old ways. “This is a small town,” he says of Beaufort. “I run into people all the time that know me. They know what I was, and they know what I am now.”
Included in this number are old friends struggling with drug abuse. They often ask for money, and he tries to feed them instead. But when he does share a few bucks, he prays with them. “My prayer is that they don’t enjoy the high.”
Moreira knows the struggle. “We made a lot of money, and we did a lot of cocaine,” he says of his first several decades in construction. “A lot of alcohol, a lot of adultery, a lot of craziness.” Then one Sunday, his sister invited him to church. He made excuses to avoid attending, but she persisted. In his first time visiting, Moreira was overcome by an awareness of his sin. For three days he stayed home from work, grieving. “I did cocaine for 30 years,” he says. “God took that craving away and filled me with the Holy Spirit.”
Now there’s an ache within him to build for God. He’s taken his concrete and masonry skills to the Philippines and Kenya, and he’s worked numerous times in Costa Rica on churches and youth facilities. One tool that’s been especially useful for these teams is the In Touch Messenger, which delivers an audio Bible and Dr. Stanley’s lessons in the language of those being served.
Moreira’s influence among the men on his crew has changed, too—not through heavy-handedness, but by example. Free from the control of sin, his generosity and humility make him an attractive and cherished friend.
Not long ago, Gerard was introduced to a younger man—a former Marine injured in the line of duty—who had developed an opioid addiction. The consequences were tragic: The man lost both his marriage and children. But the two men grew close as Moreira visited him in a rehabilitation house, and a year later, he gave the younger man a job. “I was leery at first, because the construction industry is a rough business for addiction.” Now they keep counsel together. And God restored the man’s relationship with his children.
For many years after Moreira came clean, he had vivid nightmares. Through these dreams, it felt as though he could taste the drugs, which sent him to Scripture. The experience taught him to feed on the Word every day. “It’s hypocritical to think you’ve arrived,” he says. “I haven’t arrived. I’m not going to arrive.” So each morning as he puts on his work boots, Moreira puts on the whole armor of God so he can stand firm. Just like the bricks he stacks and the concrete he pours, the foundation growing stronger as time carries on.
Photographs by Ben Rollins