Photo by Ashley Brown, Shining Light Photography
I grew up in a white-collar home with two loving parents, but we weren’t what you would call a “Christian” family. We began attending church when I was a pre-teen, but it was just a Sunday thing—nothing more. I was a good student and a well-behaved kid, so everyone was surprised when I eloped with my older boyfriend at age 16. It was rocky from the start—as any teenage marriage would be. He wasn’t faithful, and over the two-year period we were married, he left many times. By the age of 19, I was a single mom, working two jobs to make ends meet and staring at a stack of unpaid bills.
One night, I went to a club with some friends to hear a local band. This particular club had girls dancing from 5–9 p.m., before the band came on. One of them struck up a conversation and, by the end of the night, she had convinced me to come back and audition for a job. I worked in the “adult entertainment” industry in two different clubs for a couple of years. There was nothing glamorous or positive about it. I felt degraded, abused and alone; and had to get high to even face getting on stage.
After two years of what felt like hell on earth, I applied for a grant to go to beauty school. I was one of the lucky ones—it’s very hard to get out of the industry once you’ve stepped into it. I worked my way through school and the day I graduated, I left the clubs for good. I worked in a local salon for several years, then married and attended UK. Later work experience included advertising, public relations, community development, and outreach at a local church. A true hodge-podge of jobs, but now it’s amazing to look back and see how God used all those different work experiences to prepare me for what I’m doing now.
In 2000, I had a conversation with my daughter and a friend about reaching out to women in the “adult entertainment” clubs. We brainstormed with my son, who was a bouncer in one of the clubs, for ideas on what would be the best way to help the ladies. He wasn’t a Christian, but he truly appreciated the “good things” he saw our church doing—mission work and outreach to special needs families. He said, “Bring food. Nobody eats well here—they always eat fast food.” None of us knew how to cook, so we asked our friends and soon we had a team of women providing food, and a few good friends with a heart to go into the clubs with us.
Weekly visits to the clubs allow us to develop true relationships. We are very respectful to everyone—providing love, food, and other resources, without judgment, to all of our new friends. When people ask us, “Why are you bringing food to us?” we let them know that God loves us and we love them, and just want to help. Women respond because they know we care.
In 2011, we felt God calling us to do more, so we began praying, and we prayed for a solid year. January 1, 2012, one of the women we’d served in the clubs was murdered. She’d moved from the clubs to online escorting and street prostitution. The phone call about her death solidified our next step. We met with the police to see how we could best help women working on the street. Before the day was over, the police had already referred a woman to us who needed help.
Since that time, the ministry has continued to evolve.
We still deliver to the clubs every week and have developed strong relationships with our friends there—allowing us to help them with community resources and other appropriate assistance.
The street ministry has grown to include a drop-in center downtown. Women from several churches have transformed a former crack house into a beautiful refuge for at-risk women who receive delicious food, clothing, toiletries, referrals to social service and community resources, and life skills classes. We are often blessed to celebrate birthdays, baby showers, and other special events. Most of the women we serve are homeless, so they often take advantage of our living room to rest throughout the day. And when a woman is ready to make significant life change, we assist with referrals to detox and recovery programs.
All of the women we work with—whether in the clubs or on the street—have experienced trauma of some kind: childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, trafficking. We’ve seen God at work—miracles of change in women’s lives. We see women getting sober, reuniting with families, and becoming stable and productive. Four weeks ago, one of the first women we met in the clubs in 2000 was baptized—we’d been praying for her for 17 years!
When I think about my own story and the nature of God, the one word that comes to mind is GRACE. Because I experienced God’s grace the way I did—so undeservedly, so abundantly—it’s pretty easy to extend grace to others. God took every mistake, every wrong turn I made, and used it for good!
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.