“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places…” (Isaiah 45:2-3)
As I drove into the Strip Club parking lot with my ministry partner, Katie, I noticed there were only a handful of parked cars, but the night was young, and that could quickly change. The club’s security bouncer was standing next to the front door under the bright light. He quickly recognized us and escorted us through the entrance way. Loud music vibrated and shook the floor, and stale cigarette smoke and alcohol filled the air. A handful of male customers were scattered around the bar drinking and talking to dancers, and the Philadelphia Phillies were playing baseball on a large flat screen TV. Bambi, a dancer we had spoken to many times over the years, was dancing seductively on stage and smiled when she saw us enter. We weaved our way through the dimly lit club, hugging dancers, handing out free gifts and pouring out the love of God.
One wall in the dressing room was lined with small metal lockers from floor to ceiling and on the other side was a large wall to wall mirror, outlined in lights with some broken bulbs. Several ladies were smoking cigarettes, making small talk and fixing their hair while sitting on old worn out chairs.
“Who are you?” One of the dancers asked me. Katie started to tell her about our non-profit organization that offers hope and healing to women in the sex industry. That pretty Latina dancer stopped her midsentence and looked at me and said, “Why are you here? What are you really doing? I looked her in the eye and responded, “We are here because we believe in you! We are here because God radically loves you and hasn’t forgotten you! He has a dream for your life, and no matter what you have been through, He still cares, and He is not going to let you go.” Tears began to stream down her cheeks, and she pointed her finger at me and said, “I have been working in this industry for 17 years and not once has someone told me they loved me without wanting something in return. Not once has someone told me I have value!”
She continued on and said, “My name is Bella, and that is my real name!” I paused and took a deep breath realizing what a precious gift she had just offered me. Dancers never use their real names in the club. She had used a fake name for 17 years, but in one moment, after an encounter with the presence and kindness of God, she wanted us to know her real name. The mask was off. Bella knew the clubs like the back of her hand. She knew what to expect from the customers, managers, bouncers, and other dancers. She knew how to hustle, and those clubs were common ground for her. Yet that night, in one seemingly random encounter, the Lord took her common ground and turned it into holy ground. She had a burning bush experience. We prayed for her and the others, and we encouraged them with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness right there in the middle of a smoke-filled, windowless strip club dressing room.
“…If I ascend into Heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8)
Bella has since left the clubs and is pursuing other goals in life.
Here I am Lord, send me!
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
Send me Lord. What a powerful declaration! Send me where? Send me to the darkest places to shine the beautiful light of Jesus Christ. Send me to the shattered ones so I can speak peace and shift atmospheres with your love. Send me to the prisons to declare freedom to the captive hearts. Lord, send me to the strip clubs so I can be a poured-out vessel of love for your daughters who have been so mistreated. Lord send me to find the treasures in the darkness.
We drove to another strip club on our outreach route, and the dressing room was overflowing with dancers. Skilled makeup artists were busy preparing the ladies for the night, and a two-tiered metal cart was filled with sparkly, risqué costumes for sale. The house-mom was at her desk, answering calls, counting money and overseeing all the dressing room activities. Smoke and chatter filled the room as ladies transformed themselves into exotic dancers with their tiny outfits and high stilettos.
Excitement erupted as we passed out the free gift bags and one dancer asked if we would pray for her. She quickly gathered several other ladies and formed a large circle in the corner holding hands. With sweet humility and reverence, they asked God to give them hope, and He met them in the midst of their prayers. Tears were streaming down their faces as they had a beautiful encounter with the Living God. His light is greater than the darkness!
One dancer pointed her finger at me and said, “You are here for me! I am a PK (Pastor’s Kid), and God sent you here for me!”
We entered an older strip club on a dark corner of Philadelphia and asked the manager if we could hand out Jesus Loves Strippers Bibles along with our gift bags and he agreed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a customer staring at me, and he called out “”Hey, is that a Bible?”
I answered “Yes, would you like one?”
“No, I am Jewish,” was his response, with a swear word.
I thought to myself, buddy, are you really going to use your Jewish card on me inside the porn shop of an all-nude strip club? But, I refrained. I walked over to him, Bible in hand, and began to show him the different testimonies of former sex industry workers that were included in the book. He recognized one of the names and asked if he could read that little Bible. As we walked out of the club that night, I realized that Jewish man probably would have never stepped foot into a Christian Church. However, the Church stepped foot into a porn shop, in a strip club and that Jewish man now holds the eternal Word of God!
Here I am Lord, send me to shine your light on the beautiful treasures in the darkest places. Where is God sending you?
“Think of it this way: If a man owns a hundred sheep and one lamb wanders away and is lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go out and thoroughly search for the one lost lamb? And if he finds his lost lamb, he rejoices over it, more than over the ninety-nine who are safe. Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these humble believers should be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)