We can either love people, or we can judge people. We can’t do both.
Earlier this year a friend/mentor came to me and asked if I wanted to start going to the strip club with her every other Saturday night. I was like, “Heck yeah!” ha! You can imagine the ensuing conversations I had with Anderson, my parents, and friends.
After agreeing to go, my first question to her was, “What do we do with the girls when they surrender their lives to Jesus?” And she was really excited to tell me that she had been praying about an exit strategy for them. YES!
So fast forward to now: The group/team/ministry is called Hadassah’s Hope – because Hadassah means compassion (and was also one of Esther’s names before she became Esther.) We go to a local strip club every other Saturday and take a meal (prepared by our awesome cooking team) to the girls’ dressing room. The food is our excuse to be there, and the girls love it. Last week one of them actually told us that she always brings her Tupperware to work when she knows we’re going to be there. 🙂 We also bring fresh flowers, cards, and gifts – and they basically fight over them every time. There’s always someone hiding the flowers in her locker, so no one else takes them home!
We serve the girls dinner and just sit and talk with them about life. They love us and call us “the church ladies!” Listen, in any other scenario I would be so grossed out by that title! The 6’7″ bouncer is doing a keto diet, so we’ve been bringing him 2 rotisserie chickens for dinner. He doesn’t believe in God but always asks us to pray for his Grandma’s cancer treatment. ha! I LOVE IT! A lot of the girls have told us they are Atheist, Wiccan, Rastafarian… but they still ask us to pray with them… just in case. 😉
Our short-term goal is to build relationships with the girls, so that we can meet up outside the club and talk to them more about how much Jesus loves them. We want them to know that they were created in the image of God. That he knit them together perfectly, and they are loved. It’s a long process – the girls are slow to trust. But it is starting to happen with a few of them. Praise God!
As more people join our team, we are planning to send a group every week to the club we’re currently going to, then begin branching out to other locations. Right now we’re praying for favor with other club owners as we decide where else to go.
Our “Big God Goal” is to have an exit strategy in place for the girls who want to leave. Side note: They ALL say they want to leave. No little girl grows up dreaming of being a stripper. They hate working at the club, but almost all of them are moms and don’t think they can do anything else to take care of their kids. So they do what they have to do. Surprisingly, they don’t make a ton of money and often have multiple jobs. We heard about a church in Kentucky with a similar ministry that started a bakery for the sole purpose of employing the girls who leave the clubs! One day we hope to have something like that in Jacksonville! In the meantime, we’ve gotten approval from a local church to give the girls jobs somewhere on their campus (at an awesome hourly rate!) and offer counseling and resume services. So God is moving in that area too!
While sitting in the dark, dirty, run-down dressing room we’ve heard these statements multiple times:
“Thank you for hanging out with us. I can’t believe you come in here just to be with us.”
“I’ve seen church people protesting in the parking lot, but no one has ever come in here and brought us a meal.”
“Y’all are like our support group!”
“Girl, are your boobs real?!” haha! (No filter, and no pretense. And we love it!)
“Everyone judges us. I thought all church people were like that.” 🙁
“WHY ARE YOU HERE???” That’s my favorite, because we get to tell them about how much God loves them and how special they are to him. And how we’re there because we just want them to know it!
It is SUCH a privilege to spend time with the girls at the club. I’m 100% convinced that the only difference between me and “them” is that they don’t yet know they are fearfully and wonderfully made. Many of them have been abused and told that they are worthless for so long that they wholeheartedly believe it. Their pasts are heart-breaking. And while we can’t do anything to change their pasts, we can introduce them to the one who can change their future!
I wanted to share a little about what we’re doing, because more and more people are hearing about it – word travels fast around this city – and wanting to join us. This is NOT an easy ministry. It’s a slow process, and it’s uncomfortable. But God is at work, and I’m thankful for people who aren’t afraid to step into the darkness. We know this is where Jesus would want us to hang out – with people who are marginalized, overlooked, and judged by everyone in their lives. If you’re interested in joining us there are lots of opportunities to serve! Here are a few:
Pray: Pray for the team while they are in the club for 1 hour. I think this is the most important part of our ministry, because I believe that nothing of eternal importance happens with out prayer! You can sign up to do this whenever you want.
Cook: Prepare an entrée on the 1st/3rd Saturday of each month and make arrangements to get it to a central location. Someone coordinates the meal each time and provides a theme.
Gift Bags: We sometimes take gift bags, so we need beauty products, jewelry, cards, bags. I think a great small group/Bible Study group activity would be to have a fun night where your group gets together and prepares gift bags and writes cards for us to take to the girls. It could be something you do every few months! I have a big stack of cards at my house right now (that were donated) to help get you started.
Pick up food: Someone picks up the food each time from a central location and delivers it to the club.
Visit the Club: A team visits the club on a 1st/3rd Saturday of each month. (I talked in detail about exactly what we do above.)
Buy Table Decorations: We like to make the food table pretty, so we always have a coordinating tablecloth, napkins, plates, forks, plant/flowers, ect.
Security Team: Men who are willing to go onsite with the delivery team and pray while waiting for the team to exit the club. Newsflash: Strip clubs are sketchy, so we always have a man in the parking lot while we’re inside.
Y’all, I’m thankful that God uses broken people like me to share his love with other broken people. He loved us, so we love others… period. And the more I read the Bible, the more I’m convicted about the way I choose to live my life. The Gospel compels us to lay down our lives for others, and yet so many times I’m just “too busy.” But God is teaching me that if I’m too busy to be inconvenienced, then my priorities are screwed up.
The reason I go to the strip club is because God loved me right where I was. He never said I had to clean myself up before I could have a relationship with him. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He sent Jesus down into the dirty mess that is this world, and he lovingly pulled me out of the darkness.
I’m not here to fix anyone. And I couldn’t if I tried. I’m just here to lovingly point people to Jesus. And if a strip club is where he wants me to do, I’ll be there!