(This is Part 4 of a weekly blog series I’m calling “Who Will Go?” about my journey of sharing the love of Jesus with the adult entertainment industry. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.)
Not long ago I had the opportunity to talk with a sweet college-age girl in a club. It was her very first week stripping. She was still innocent and cheerful and had not been numbed by the lifestyle yet, like so many others that I see. She said she was doing it to earn money for school; she was getting her masters degree in social work because she wanted to help other women. We run into so many girls and women in this trade that have gotten sucked into the industry because they think it’s a quick and easy way to earn the money they need for school or rent or their kids’ expenses. They usually plan to quit once they’ve earned the money they need. What they don’t realize is that once they’ve gotten into the adult entertainment industry, it can be incredibly difficult to get out. They can earn a lot of money, and it’s hard to make that much cash in other jobs. As time goes by, they don’t have a lot of marketable skills for other kinds of work.
I so badly wanted to plead with this young woman to leave right then. I wanted to bring her home with me, cook her a meal or two and help her get on her feet some other way. But we can’t say those kinds of things in the club. If we are seen as hurting the business by causing dancers to quit, we would lose our access to the clubs. So, we just have to let them know that we are available and we care. We let them know we are there if they need assistance of any kind. Then we have to wait for them to call us. I told her that if she ever needed anything, our contact info was inside her gift bag and she could reach out at any time. I saved my tears for when I reached the van.
I’ll never forget the time we discovered a clearly underage girl in one of the clubs. So many of the girls are young, but she was obviously so. She was not stripping; she was dressed like a prostitute and was there with a very large older man who we could only assume was her pimp. It was shocking to see a girl who appeared to be only about twelve or thirteen years old; I had a daughter that age at home. It was utterly heartbreaking. I wanted to take her with me right that minute, but that’s not how it works. We called the police to report it, which was all we could do. I shed a lot of tears over that sweet girl.
One time, a customer chased our team down in the parking lot after we left the club. It was scary for a minute, until we realized he wanted to thank us for making the strippers so happy each month! He gave us a hundred-dollar bill as a donation. Month after month, we talk to dancers, DJ’s, managers, and bartenders who are incredibly grateful for the gifts we bring. As much or more than the gifts, they value our consistency. We keep showing up and we keep remembering them. These precious ones are stunned that we remember their names, details about their lives, and even what they like to eat or drink. It’s so powerful to feel seen. It’s so powerful to be loved.
I’ve gotten to know many of the men who work security. Before I got involved in this type of ministry, I had a pre-conceived notion of what the men who worked at these kinds of clubs were like. But the more I do it, the more I see these men as God sees them. They are sons who just don’t know their Father yet. The bouncers are always friendly to me. They love snacks. They have strong, protective natures and they take their roles seriously, watching over the dancers and making sure they are safe.
There’s a young man who works security at one of the clubs that I talked to every month. He has sad eyes and a sweet smile. One week I began to “call out the gold” in him. Christians can be quick to see all the sin in a person and point it out, but I believe God sees the person as He created them to be. An unsaved person is just one of God’s kids that hasn’t come home yet.
I told this young bouncer how great God’s love for him was, and how personal. I told him that God had knit him together in his mother’s womb, choosing everything about who he was on purpose. I told him that God does not condemn him, but He wants him to know that he has an amazing destiny for his life. The Holy Spirit was giving me insight into some things in his heart, such as caring deeply about justice. He said, “Wow. I’ve never been a fan of religion. But if that’s really how God feels about me, that’s amazing. You’re different.”
That interaction may have been the first time in his life that someone saw him, not for his mistakes, but as the amazing person God created him to be. It may have been one of very few conversations where someone’s words brought him life, rather than death. He lit up like I’ve never seen before.
When I have a heart of judgement towards a person, I am missing the very heart of the good news: that God so loved the world, that He sent His only son, Jesus, to save it. He didn’t send His son to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:16-17). If Jesus, who has every right to judge and condemn me, chose to love and save me instead, why would I think I can stand in judgement and condemn another? My only option is to love in humility like Jesus did, even if it means sacrifice on my part.
I was in a male strip club recently, and that night they had some famous drag queens as guests. The club owner took me by the hand and proudly introduced me to his celebrity guests. Why? Because I wear a shirt that says “Jesus Loves Strippers”. They know that I love them right where they’re at. Jesus didn’t wait for sinners to clean themselves up before he ate a meal with them. I looked those drag queens in the eye and I gave them big hugs. They were so blown away to experience LOVE from a Christian rather than condemnation. You can see it in their eyes…they just want to be loved, right where they’re at.
Everybody just wants to be loved.
Jesus-followers, we’ve got to do better. We should have the reputation of being the most loving people on the planet. Like Jesus, there should be something about us that draws people to us. Instead, we are considered by many to be the most judgmental people on earth.
We’ve been misrepresenting the Father for so long. We’ve been like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, who gets miffed when the Father throws a fancy robe on his prodigal before the kid has even cleaned himself up. We’re like the passers-by in the story of the Good Samaritan, who crossed over to the other side of the street to avoid a wounded, bleeding man.
If we want to be like Jesus, we are going to have to love messy, dirty people.
We are going to have to stop for the bleeding and wounded, not avoid them.