Who Will Go For Me?

(This is Part 5 and the final post 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 4 here.)

The Father is yearning for people to know how loved they are. He is longing for them to know they were made for a purpose. That He dreamed them up and made them just how he wanted them to be. So many people came into the world innocently only to be born into families that were neglectful and abusive. The devil was working against them from even before they were born, trying to steal away their destiny. He lives to make sure they never know their true identity as beloved sons and daughters. It all seems so hopeless until you realize there’s just one missing link between them and knowing the truth:

Me.

You.

In Isaiah 6, we hear God asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?”

Who, indeed? 

Who of us is willing to be the Father’s heart and walk into the grime and the darkness with only the light of Christ inside us?

It is far more comfortable to write a check to someone else who is going after “the one”. But you and I have been saved and showered with the love of God for such a time as this. There are a whole lot of people in this world who are desperate to know true, real love. Not the world’s version which, at best, pales in comparison; or at worst, is counterfeit. They need the love of Jesus. The only way they will know the love of Jesus is through you and I setting aside our fears and stepping out of our comfort zones.

Many of us use our “comfort zone” as an excuse to live a life of limitations that God never intended.

Imagine a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers and sunshine, and surrounded by breathtaking mountains in the distance. The air is sweet, and you can hear birds chirping and bees buzzing all around.  It’s springtime, so there are some trees in bloom and there’s a beautiful bubbling brook off in the distance.  The scenery, both near and far, is spectacular.  Now imagine that you are trapped inside a large cardboard box in the middle of that meadow. It is entirely closed and dark inside, except for a small slit cut into the side so that you can look out.  You can see only a tiny fraction of the beauty surrounding you.  Your perception of reality is skewed, because you cannot see the big picture.  Your experience of the beauty is tragically limited by being in the box. 

Now imagine the box is made of fear, and it’s called your Comfort Zone.  Fear tells you it will protect you if you stay in the box.  But it is a lie.  The box actually prevents you from fully experiencing all the beauty God has put in the world for you.

As a Christian mom in the suburbs, it would be easy to spend the rest of my life in my Comfort Zone and forget that there are people out there who are much like the wounded man lying on the side of the road in Jesus’ story. They need someone to look for them. They need someone to stop for them. They need someone to love them for who they are, not what they’ve done or haven’t done. They need someone who, like Jesus, is willing to leave the ninety-nine and go after the one. It could literally save their life.

After three years ministering in strip clubs, I am so grateful that I did not stay in my Comfort Zone. (I guarantee you there are no strip clubs in my Comfort Zone!) What God promised in Isaiah 45:2-3 is true: I did indeed find treasures in the darkness that I would not have discovered anywhere else. It was a surprise to feel the depth of the Father’s heart for every single person I’ve encountered. I grew in confidence as I experienced His grace and power in those places. I experienced protection, favor, and incredible joy in this ministry. I can now walk into demonic atmospheres but experience the reality of the atmosphere of heaven. I have felt God’s peace and presence just as strongly in the strip club as I have in church. He’s proven to me that He will go with me anywhere. That His peace is stronger than everything Hell has to offer. If I can learn to hear His voice in a place like that, I can hear it anywhere. He’s proven himself to me over and over again.

There’s no doubt this ministry has impacted me deeply.  But there are also countless stories of dancers, security, DJ’s, bartenders, and club owners who have been impacted, too.  I’ve heard stories of dancers who were planning to go home and hurt themselves, but a conversation with a team member changed their mind, because they realized they did have worth. Countless girls were living in abusive relationships, but we’ve been able to help them move to safety and start new lives. Many of the dancers have children, so when we help a dancer, we are helping an entire family.  Some of our dancers have put their faith in Jesus and He’s transformed their lives.  I could go on and on.

Strip club ministry is not for everyone. But we all have a “comfort zone”. There’s a huge world out there, beyond our Comfort Zone, that is full of people the Father is passionate about. People that Jesus died for, so they’d know His love. The world needs what these people carry. They reflect a unique aspect of the Father’s character that we won’t see the same way in anyone else. When these people have received love and find out their value and worth in the Father’s eyes, they will release something into the world that was previously impossible for them to release.

God told me a few months ago to step back from all the ministry I was involved in. That included strip club ministry. It was hard for me to let go, but I know His voice. I trust that He cares for these dear ones far more than I do and he continues to raise up more workers for the harvest. Will you go? Will you pray? Will you give?

Let’s not allow fear to keep us in the box any longer.  Let’s bust that thing open and see the world as it really is.  If we only ever receive the love of God, but don’t give it, we will become stagnant, like the Dead Sea: fresh water coming in, but none flowing out.  Our perception of reality becomes skewed and we do not experience the fullness of all God has to offer us.  And the world misses out on an opportunity to be loved by Jesus, through us.

Let’s bust out of our boxes that are made of fear and go be Jesus, with skin on.

For more information about the amazing ministry I was involved in, check out Xpose Hope. If you’d like breakthrough in your life in the area of fear or loving others, feel free to pray the prayer below. 

Dear Father,

Thank you for loving me before I even knew you. Thank you for loving me when I was at my worst. Thank you for pursuing me with your love. Oh Father, give me your love for the lost ones. I confess and repent of all those times I have allowed fear to keep me from extending your love to others. Thank you for your forgiveness, Lord. Thank you that you have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. Please flood me with your perfect love, Father. Fill me up to overflowing. Show me how you want me to love others. I declare that fear will no longer dictate my decisions or keep me from loving well. Thank you, Father, that I am now motivated by your perfect love, which casts out my fear.

Father, if I have approached lost ones with any judgement or condemnation in my heart, please forgive me. I declare that it is your job to judge, not mine. Instead of a spirit of judgement, please fill me with a spirit of grace. Help me to see people as You see them, Father. Give me words of life to speak over people. I pray that when they encounter me, they will feel like they’ve encountered the love of God. I pray that my kindness will lead to their repentance.

Holy Spirit, please show me how I can love more like Jesus. Give me courage and boldness to obey your direction. Help me to follow you wherever you lead. Thank you that you will be with me wherever I go.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Everybody Just Wants to Be Loved

(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.

Through The Father’s Eyes

My first time in the strip club was overwhelming.  I could feel the oppressive spiritual darkness in the atmosphere. I could see the hopelessness in the eyes of so many.  But when I would give a dancer a small gift and often a hug, her eyes would light up and I would usually see a genuine smile. 

My prayer from the beginning was that God would help me to see the people through His eyes.  I was relieved to discover that there was nothing about these places that I found exciting or arousing.  It was all just incredibly sad.  I saw a lot of emptiness in people’s eyes.  My heart broke for all the hurting people who were looking for something to help numb their pain. 

It was like God peeled back the veil between the natural world and the spiritual world and allowed me to see the spiritual realities that were at play in the clubs.  The devil has created a counterfeit culture around sex that is such a terrible lie.  The men and women involved have voids in their lives, and they think they can fill the emptiness with sex or money.  They have no idea that what they are looking for can only be found in the love of God through Jesus.

I observed that both the employees and the customers displayed so much hurt and emptiness.  They don’t know their true identity as beloved children, perfectly loved by God.  Nobody has told them they were created for so much more than this.  They don’t know that love looks like a Heavenly Father who sees beyond their sin to the treasure they were created to be.

Here’s an excerpt from the update letter I wrote to my personal prayer team after my first outreach:

One club had a super-packed parking lot and I could see a large group of men hanging around the door. One of the team members decided to sit this one out and stay in the van and I could understand why – it looked intimidating from the outside. But I prayed for Jesus to help us and pictured his angels with us. By the time we made it across the parking lot, the crowd had completely dispersed (no idea where they all went!) and there was one girl sitting there with one guy. She was super friendly and happy to see us. When we entered the club there were a lot of girls that were so happy to see us, and it ended up being one of the best experiences of the night. I was so thankful for God’s protection and also that he helped me push past my fear, because what awaited us inside was totally worth going in for.

I’ve now had roughly 36 hours to process my experience, and I’m still processing. I had a good long cry about it the next morning. It’s those girls, you guys. They are SO SAD AND HOPELESS, and I instantly felt such love and compassion for them. It was so hard to see their sad eyes. It was so hard to see how YOUNG they were. Many of them could have been my daughter. I want desperately for them to know Jesus and the real love and freedom he gives. I want them to know who they are and Whose they are. I will never forget these girls and I will never stop praying for them and reaching out to them and loving on them. Even now it makes me cry as I write this. But even that is part of God’s answer to my prayers: to see them as He sees them. He cries for them too and wants desperately for them to know Him.

How the Father Views The Dancers

About six months after I joined the outreach team, my daughter’s dance studio held a recital at the end of the school year.  In amongst performances of hip hop, jazz, and ballet, God spoke to me.  One of the younger dance classes performed a dance that I will never forget.  While I can’t remember the title of the song, the message stuck with me.  It was all about children changing the world and making it a better place.  These innocent little girls, between the ages of six and ten, were all wearing white dresses and they danced with beautiful abandon.  During an instrumental portion of this song, one girl at a time would get a little dance solo.  While she danced her solo, you could hear her recorded voice over the music saying things like, “I’m Bella and I change the world by smiling a lot.” “I’m Hannah and I change the world by being kind to people.” “I’m Alyssa and I change the world by giving people a hug when they are sad.”  By the time a dozen beautiful little ones had introduced themselves like this while dancing and twirling, I was a crying mess.  As I watched these sweet little girls dancing and taking delight in how they changed the world, I heard God say, “This is how I view my precious girls in the clubs.  I don’t view them as dirty, or as sex objects.  I view them like these little girls here, because that’s how I created them. That is who they are truly meant to be.  The stripping, the sin, the dirt…all of that is just like cobwebs and dust that have covered up a beautiful work of art.  When you dust off the dirt and grime, you see the masterpiece that was always there.  I want you to view the strippers just like you view these little ones.  They are just little girls who have not stepped into the fullness of their identity, yet.  They just don’t realize yet how loved and special they are.”

I used to be disgusted when I would drive past strip clubs.  I would even look away.  I had an irrational fear that somehow, the sin in that place might be contagious.  Now, when I drive past the strip clubs, sometimes I just cry.  I can feel the Father’s heart for the people inside.  He longs for them to know how loved they are by Him.  His heart breaks for their pain.  He is angry for the injustices they’ve suffered.  So many have been abused and exploited.  Even the male customers get compassion from Him, for they’ve been deceived and are in bondage too.  Now I pray over the employees inside as I drive past.  I’m praying that each would find true freedom and love in relationship with Jesus Christ. 

I love this story in John 8:3-11 about the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus’ surprising response:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

For centuries, the message that the church has preached the loudest has been one of judgment and condemnation towards sinners.  The world has received this message loud and clear.  A religious spirit always labels people by their sin.  But Jesus calls people by their name.  He knows all our junk, yet he sees who we are meant to be without it.

We know from the Ten Commandments that adultery is wrong.  But Jesus’ grace is so lavish that it is always shocking, especially to religious types.  Romans 2:4 makes it clear that God’s kindness is intended to lead people to repentance.  If it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance, why does the church continue to shout judgment and protest instead of whispering hugs and love?  The world doesn’t want anything to do with condemnation.  But unconditional, undeserved, and unreserved love is powerful.  Everybody wants to be loved.  Most people are well aware of their shortcomings and mistakes.  To love someone in spite of all that is to love like Jesus does.