She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls. Proverbs 31:10
It's been 2 weeks since I flew home from Strip-Church training in Miami, and honestly I'm still reeling from all the knowledge, emotion, and information that was packed into my brain-case over 48 very intense hours. I've been wanting to write about the experience since I got back, but I really needed to give myself some time to process it all before I tried to put it down on paper!
I arrived at the hotel around 1:00am that Thursday night, nervous and excited and so pumped-up that it was hard to fall asleep! (Luckily, I had the most comfy hotel bed in history, so that helped.) When I woke up Friday morning, I was greeted by a spectacular view of the Atlantic ocean. It felt so good to be back in sweet-home-south-Florida!
I had a couple of hours to spare before training began, so put on my swim-suit, grabbed some coffee and my Bible, and headed down to the beach, where I read, swam, prayed, and floated around with a gaggle of Russian tourists. (Can you think of a better way to start the day??)
As I got ready to go downstairs for our first training session, my heart pounded in my chest. I couldn't believe I was actually here! Soon, I would meet Harmony Dust, the founder of Treasures, and the woman who's book was the first thing I read after God told me to start a ministry to women in the sex industry. Soon, I would see the faces behind Strip-Church and XXXChurch, missionaries who are on the front-lines of this industry. I couldn't wait to meet them all! When I reached to conference room, it was filled to the brim with beautiful ladies from all over the world. Immediately, I was warmly welcomed into a sea of incredible gals, each with a story, each with a passion, each with a heart to reach hurting women. I was instantly blown away by these women, and am now honored to call many of them friends. We dove right in with both feet, kicking off the weekend by assembling over 900 gift bags to go out that very night.
The training was being hosted by Strip Church's Miami division, BeLoved, so I assumed that we would be visiting clubs that they had already been doing ministry in. You know, break the rookies in easy.
I assumed wrong.
Every one of the 20 clubs on that evening's agenda had never, ever been reached before. (Talk about intimidating!) But the very full day of training was designed to send us into each those clubs calm(ish), equipped, and empowered. After a jam-packed day of learning, growing, and sharing, it was time to prepare for outreach. And suddenly I felt sick as a dog. Out of the blue, for absolutely no reason, I was so nauseous I could hardly move. So instead of going out to dinner with the girls, I retreated back to my room, crawled into bed, and ordered a $20 fruit plate and Pellegrino from room service. I laid there for 2 hours, crying and praying desperately to feel better and FAST. We were about to go on outreach! This was easily the worst possible timing in the universe for stomach problems. I got my husband, my mom, and my best friend praying too. When 7pm rolled around, I shakily got dressed and headed downstairs. Apparently, I looked a little green once I reached the meeting room, and the amazing sisters in Christ that I had just met a few hours before laid their hands on me and prayed earnestly for my healing. How grateful I was for those precious women! After they prayed, I felt infinitely better, and didn't have another stitch of trouble for the rest of the night. PTL!!
|My friends and prayer-warriors!|
As the sun set, we all prayed and worshiped in one voice, anticipating the night ahead. Nervous and excited, we filled 3 vans and each headed on a different route of Miami strip clubs. One of the big things we had learned in training that day is that just getting the gifts in the door is the WIN. We were told not to expect to set foot in many (or even any) of these clubs, as this is really a seed-sowing, relationship-building ministry. By nature, this kind of outreach requires a major time-investment and consistency, and since this was the very first time that any of these clubs had been visited, we knew we were out to water hard ground.
Our van visited 6 clubs that night, and we were able to personally go inside 5 of those clubs and hand-deliver the gifts to the girls. WOW! 3 of the clubs even let us back into the dressing rooms, an amazing place to interact with the girls without the distraction of customers, loud music, and general chaos. And their reactions were so beautiful. Many of the girls just couldn't believe we were giving them something for free, with no strings attached. Their faces lit up when we handed them the gifts, and many of them thanked us profusely. Incredibly, even the bouncers and managers we talked with that night were super nice and receptive to our visit. One nattily-dressed manager at an extremely upscale club asked us "What is this all about?" And when we told him that we just wanted the girls to know that they're loved, his face broke into a huge grin. "Right on!" he said, and ushered us onto the floor. We were able to put gifts in the hands of about 50 girls at that club alone.
At one club, we couldn't help but notice the face of the girl half-heartedly twirling on stage. She was completely exposed, and her expression so clearly told the story that she would rather be anywhere but here. She noticed us as we walked through the club handing out gifts, and her face became eager, not wanting to miss out just because she was on-stage. One of our group purposely made eye-contact with the girl, smiled at her warmly, and set a gift on the edge of the stage just for her. I pray it brightened her night just a little, and reminded her that there really are people out there who care.
That night, our van alone gave out close to 300 gifts, and visited every kind of club you could imagine. From places so sketchy, you wouldn't be caught dead on that block after dark, to places where I couldn't afford a single car in the parking lot. Each place filled with women who Jesus loves. In total, our group gave out 900 gifts in 20 Miami clubs in 1 night!
|Me with Treasures founder Harmony Dust!|
The next day dawned early, and armed with copious amounts of coffee, we met again in the ocean-front conference room to rehash, reflect, and share our stories from the night before. It was an inspiring time. The rest of the day was filled with the nuts-and-bolts of running a ministry, and when it ended all too soon, I felt so completely empowered and equipped to return to SC and hit the ground running. It was a life-changing weekend, and the hand of God was all over every second of it!
|Incredible women of God from all over the world!|
And that bring me to what God is doing now. Since I returned home from Strip-Church training, I have joined the network and started an official Strip-Church chapter in Columbia, SC: Pearls. Click here to check out our website! Why Pearls? Because a genuine pearl is rare, beautiful, and extraordinarily valuable. A pearl is also the only precious gem in nature that is created through struggle. A pearl can only occur when its vessel has been wounded, and the vessel has to create something exceptionally beautiful to heal the pain. I want women to know that they are pearls - precious, valuable, a treasure, and made even more beautiful by the story that brought them here today.
I'm now in the process of assembling a team of passionate women who want to show the love of Jesus in some very dark places. If you are interested in being a part of the Pearls team in any way, whether through prayer, care, outreach, or financial support, I encourage you to mark your calendar for Saturday, November 3rd. I'll be hosting a volunteer training & interest meeting, and I would love to see you there. Interested? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll send you all the details. Last night, we did our first local outreach since returning from training, and I can't wait to tell you all about it! Stay tuned...