Jesus loves strippers: Christian outreach

Laura Agustín's picture

(Posted at Border Thinking on Migration, Traficking & Commercial Sex)

In campaigns protesting raids and other drastic actions against prostitutes and sex workers, Christianity is often slagged off. That’s not fair; it’s how people interpret their duty as Christians that can lead to abuse. Here’s an example of Christian outreach, carried out in the same sort of way that civilian harm-reduction projects are done. Note that this helper ‘won’t apply for federal funds because she doesn’t want anything to interfere with “preaching the Word,”’and doesn’t see her role as trying to get women out of the industry  Excerpts only - click on the title for the complete story.

Jesus & strippers

Emily Belz,

Los Angeles. Near midnight. Industrial buildings. Empty streets. Full parking lot. Men wander into a nondescript building, “Fantasy Castle.” Bouncers stand at the door. Inside, on stage. women dance to earn their rent. Men watch in the dark. Booze, perfume, and loneliness.

A group of young women with fistfuls of flamingo pink gift bags approach the bouncer and offer him cookies—yes, cookies. This is the second strip club they have visited, pulling up in a church minibus: They have five more on their list as they canvass neighborhoods north of Long Beach, south of Compton. The bouncer takes the cookies and lets them inside to the bar, the customers, and the dancers, who are all lined up on the stage.

“I hated lining up—like a cattle call,” remarks Harmony Dust outside the club. Dust, a former stripper, started slipping notes on the windshields of dancers six years ago telling them “you are loved”—and her ministry, I Am a Treasure, was born. Along with other women including former strippers, she lavishes love on women in the sex industry and teaches that Jesus loves them too. On this night, several of the dancers turn away from customers to give the gift-baggers bear hugs and tell them their real names.

Treasures—that’s what most people call the ministry—has a simple recipe: Bring gifts of lip gloss, jewelry, and handwritten cards into dressing rooms in strip clubs. Wait for phone calls, texts, or emails from the women that often come in just hours after the visit. “This is largely a seed-sowing ministry,” said Dust—and when sprouts appear, volunteers help with childcare and rides to church. They listen, talk, mentor, wait, and hope.

. . .  70 percent of Christians admitted to struggling with porn in their daily lives. Another poll by Rick Warren’s in 2002 showed 54 percent of pastors had viewed pornography within the last year. . . . Dust started stripping under the name Monique at a club by the airport and managed to complete her undergraduate degree even while she was working in the sex industry at night. . . .

In 2003, while driving to the airport to pick John up, she drove by the same club where she used to strip—but she couldn’t pass it by. Filled with emotion and conviction, she pulled into the parking lot, and the security guard let her put notes on the women’s windshields telling them that they are loved. Then she couldn’t pass by clubs anymore, and she and others who joined her work began building relationships with dancers. She saw women eagerly reach for that same love she found in Jesus.

Dust doesn’t see her role as trying to get women out of the industry or tell them that their jobs are sinful. No one needs to tell them, she said—anyone in the industry feels a certain sickness in her soul. What they need is someone to extend the gospel through love. But she’s quick to say that Treasures volunteers don’t see themselves as strippers’ “saviors.” “I have nothing—I have lip gloss,” Dust said, laughing. “And I probably only have that because of Jesus.” The organization functions off a skeleton of a budget—under $100,000 a year—and Dust won’t apply for federal funds because she doesn’t want anything to interfere with “preaching the Word.”

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