Last night I was out late. I went to a strip club in Florida and stayed longer than I had expected (is that not always the case?). But not in the way you may think. Last night, I participated in my first strip club outreach. What is a strip club outreach, you ask? It is where a group of Christ followers take a warm meal, gift baskets, and the word of God into a strip club and spend time with the employees. Since I’m a 10,000-foot person and I just gave the most broad explanation, let me just tell you about the experience.
Strip club outreach is part of the vision for Kristy’s House. But before we enter into uncharted territory, I thought it would be a good idea to attend one with a well-established group in a different area. Enter: Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries.
Beauty From Ashes™ Ministries is Florida’s first and only human trafficking, overcomer-led, community service agency. BFA is an amazing organization. They perform outreach, provide victim services, train and consult other organizations, and they led last night’s outreach.
To begin the evening, we all met at an outreach volunteer’s house and got our Jesus on. 🙂 We spent a lot of time in prayer and preparation. We then loaded up the car with the food and gift baskets and headed to the club. God has shown them such favor at the club we went to last night! Although they have been to many different clubs, they feel led to build relationships at one club in particular and the results have been astounding. But I don’t want to jump too far ahead…
When we got to the club, we were immediately greeted with hugs and welcome arms by some of the employees who said, “We were just talking about you! Everyone has been wondering when the ‘church ladies’ were going to be back again! Can I help you unload the car?”…..I know, right?!
The male employees help us unload the car and we go through the club back to the dressing room and begin to set up. You can spot the girls who don’t recognize us immediately because of the invisible, yet palpable wall they have up. We ask them if they are hungry and they say no, they’ve already eaten, they need to lose weight, etc. They ask how much we’re charging for the food. We explain to them that it’s free and we are here to support and serve them. They have a look that’s a mixture of surprise, confusion, and skepticism. There’s one girl in particular. She looked no more than 20 years old, but I bet she was closer to 18. She was very soft spoken and sweet and she just seemed so young. She was newer to the club and insisted she was not hungry at all. She was pretty quiet and kept to herself, although she would smile and respond politely when addressed.
Another girl gave us all hugs and had a lot to talk about the entire time. She was very friendly and open. She had captivating eyes and she immediately let us in on her life. You could hear her voice from across the room above the girl that was sitting next to you.
A third girl was polite, but short. She didn’t want to eat, either. She was looking in the mirror trying to get ready for her dance. The outreach team leader offered to help her with something and the girl seemed taken aback by the kind gesture. By the time the girl was ready, we had learned a lot about the last year of her life.
As the evening wore on, we served the girls. We spent time in conversation with them. We listened to them share their frustrations about the handsy customers. We talked to them about their lives, their struggles, and their hopes and fears. A couple of us on the outreach team were sex trafficking and/or sex industry overcomers and this presented a relatability (if that’s not a word, it is now) factor that tore down walls. While this is certainly no requirement of a strip club outreach team member, it is disarming. At one point a girl was talking about a situation she faced with a customer, and in the middle of her story, she stopped and looked at me and said, “Well, you know!”. And I did. And we talked about that.
What was supposed to be a 2-3 hour event lasted almost five hours.
The young girl I mentioned earlier ended up letting us fix her a plate of food and she ate like she hadn’t eaten all day. Another shared with us that she had started reading one of the bibles that was in a gift basket she had received and had been praying. She asked for prayer, as did the manager. Other girls were asking for prayer and many insisted we pray for them as a group before we left for the evening. And so, we gathered in a circle, holding hands, as one of the outreach members prayed for the group. The girls were so appreciative of the gift baskets, which contained beauty items, personal cards, and bibles.
You may have preconceived notions about strippers, and odds are you do. While these girls (and there were many more than the ones I’ve touched on here) may not represent every single stripper, I can guarantee you they represent the majority. They are young girls with difficult pasts who are broken-hearted and hurting. They can be tough, they can be sweet. And God loves them. While I can’t tell you that any of them decided to quit their job and/or come to Christ last night, I can tell you that some seeds were planted and others were watered and are growing. In all my nights in strip clubs, and there have been many, that was certainly my best. And as a total bonus, I get to blog about it from a beautiful, oceanfront resort without the residual hangover. Sweet!
A final note, but vitally important: THANK YOU to those who were praying. Thank you to Tom, the only male with us who sat in the car for nearly 5 hours in alert prayer, the 5 girls who stayed back at the house to pray for us, and to the many prayer warriors we had across the entire country. Those that led the outreach who are experienced in strip club outreaches said they can always tell when they have big groups praying because God just moves in noticeable ways. Last night was certainly one of those nights and it is due to them. So if you prayed and are reading this, thank you! Never underestimate the power of prayer; we couldn’t do it without you!