The Man With The 'Sweatheart' Tattoo (not a typo)

There seems to be a great deal of debate amongst Christians as to what loving others means. To me, it means understanding a tattoo. Crazy, right? But give me a second to explain:

Loving Others Fail:

I walk into a biker bar with the intent of telling the people inside about Jesus. I'm sporting a thick bible under one arm, a smile on my face, and my shirt buttoned up to my chin. As soon as the bar door closes behind me, everyone slowly turns and looks at me. Some of them jostle one another and point, laughing at the sight of me. Yet, right in front of me, tucked into the bar with a cold, long neck clenched in his fist, is the biggest dude I've ever seen. I walk up to him and stick my hand out to shake, "Hey there, I'm ______(insert name here), do you know about Jesus?"

The man shakes his head and turns back to his beer. This is when I spy a giant red tattoo on his bicep. It reads 'Sweatheart'...and I point to it. "Hey, do you know that isn't spelled right? It should be s-w-e-E-t for 'sweet'. That says 'sweat'. It isn't right."

Next thing I know, I'm laying on my back staring through twinkling stars at the bar ceiling. It'll take a week for the shiner to fade to a nice, pale green...

Loving Others Win:

I walk into the bar in my blue jeans and rock n roll t-shirt with nothing but a smile and God's word hidden in my heart. When the door shuts behind me, everyone gives me a disinterested glance. I walk up to the bar and sit down beside one of the biggest, most intimidating men I've ever seen. The bartender asks me what I'll have and I ask for coffee. The man beside me cuts his eyes to mine, suspicious. I give a shrug. "Never been able to handle my alcohol very well." He snorts with amusement and drains the last of his beer.

As I sit there drinking my coffee, I'm asking the Lord what I should say to engage this man in conversation. I'm in this place to show whomever has an eye to see, the love of my Savior in Christ Jesus. But as I sit, waiting, the man turns to me and asks, "Why the heck are you in here for anyways? You don't look like--" he cuts off, a smile tugging the corner of his lips. "Well, let's just say you don't look like this is your sort of place. Ya hear me?"

I laugh, nodding my head. "I'm in here because I was thirsty. Why are you in here?"

He shrugs. "'s quiet."

At this, it is my turn to laugh. The small bar is blasting with honky tonk music. The shot glasses practically bounce with the bass beat. "You think this place is quiet? You're kidding right?"

He fiddles with his empty beer bottle. "It's pretty quiet."

I sit, searching my heart for the words of the Lord. Finally, "Got a lot on your plate, huh? I know what that's like?"

His eyes cut back to mine, a light in them now. I think his eyes are filled with hope that someone else might understand his pain. "You do?"

I nod. "Life can suck sometimes."

"Sure does."

"A couple years back, I lost my job and almost lost everything I have."

His eyes widen. He turns his body ever-so-slightly, as if to give me a bit more of his attention. "Hey, me too! Wife left me not too soon after."

"I'm sorry to hear about that. That's not cool, man."

"You married?" he asks.

"Yep. Nearly thirteen years."

"And she stuck with you?" He asks incredibly.

I nod, taking another swig of my coffee. "Yep. But it wasn't easy. But you know what....?" He raises his eyebrows in expectation. "I'm glad that the wife and I had to go through that dark time."

The man turns away, shaking his head. "Not me. I could have gone on without any of it ever happening. I'm a good guy, you know? You might not think it because...well, I'm a little rough looking...and I'm sitting in a bar, and whatnot. But I'm a good guy. I've never been able to understand why God lets bad things happen to decent people." He clears his throat and says a bit softer, "I do believe in God, ya know? I just don't think I like him much."

And my heart jolts within my chest. This is my door. I lean in and smile. "Good people are like gold...they go through fire and are made stronger, refined. God only refines the good ones because He loves them so much. He needs them to be stronger than the rest, to stand apart."

I don't say anything. I just let those words wash over him. I can see him blinking, staring down at the bar top, his eyebrows knit together as he considers what I've just said. After several long moments, he turns his eyes back to me. "Gold, huh?" He asks, and I nod. "You think a man like me has worth like gold? You don't even know me. You don't have a clue what you're talking about."

I point to the tattoo on his bicep. "Never mind that. Tell me the story about that ink right there."

He snarls down at the 'sweatheart' tattoo and snorts again as laughter bubbles up in his thick chest. "It's supposed to say 'sweetheart'," he chuckles, motioning at the bartender for a coffee. "Got that when I got into the service. I was on a forty-eight hour liberty, drunk out of my mind, and my buddies and I thought we should get our first tattoo. Dang parlor was a shady little place."

I laugh with him. "Service man, huh? What branch?"


I nod. "Marines. Five years."


At this, the man with the sweatheart tattoo begins to open up and share his story with me. I learn all about the ups and downs of his life. His wounds started as a child, but don't they all? I share a bit about myself, the struggles I've conquered. In the process, I am able to bring Jesus into the conversation. He never bats an eye. By this time, he is so open, so honest, so willing to listen to the funny guy next to him, that he listens to me...and most importantly, he listens to me.

I don't leave that bar having led this man to Christ, but I started a friendship. We will meet again, outside the bar...and I will continue to plow the fields and labor in this relationship. I know that in time, his heart will be ready.

Sweatheart Tats and Bondage:

I love tattoos. I have them. I will probably have another before I die. But what I have learned is that tattoos and the sins that keep us in bondage are kind of like the same thing. People think that we can simply tell someone they need Jesus and they need to walk away from their sinful lives in order to have eternal life. But here's the thing...

If that's your viewpoint, you're cheating and trying to get out of the actual work of plowing the fields and waiting for the harvest. 

Our sins aren't simply laying on the surface for someone with a bible to kindly wipe away with a bit of spit and a hanky. Our sins might be visible on the outside, but they go far deeper than the skin. Our sins become like tattoos that scar the outside, but go deep, staining and forever changing us. To remove a tattoo, you need a series of painful treatments. Most people don't ever undergo these treatments because of the sheer amount of money it costs...

Your spit and hanky, your bible, your words coming out of your mouth with good intentions, will not turn someone away from their sins. It just won't happen. If anything, you will press them further into the lifestyle they are already a slave to.

It takes the true love of Jesus to wash away our sins. He is the only one that paid the price to not only wash away our sins, but to do the internal healing it takes to remove all traces of our bondage.

You want to effectively go out into the world and show the captives the love of Jesus? Then simply love on them FIRST. Show them friendship and compassion. Build up trust and relationship. Plow the fields. Work and toil for them. Then sit back and wait on Jesus to bring the harvest in. Don't cheat. Don't cut corners. Do the hard work. That's the only way you will ever see the captives set free.



Jesus Gave Me His Keys...And He Has The Best Keychains!

Last night on the way home from the clubs, I was worshiping and praying out loud when God suddenly spoke something very clear into my heart. It was so deeply profound to me that I bust out laughing and crying all at once. "You're amazing," I kept saying. "You're so incredibly amazing!"

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
 ~Revelations 3:20 NIV 2011

I want you to try and picture this, as crazy as it is going to sound. Try to imagine my silly self driving down the highway, Jesus Culture worship blasting in my ears, my hands drumming out the beat on the steering wheel, and a smile stretching from ear-to-ear. Got that image in your head? Nah, dude. You've got that smile a little too 'normal'. Crazy it up a bit. ;P Okay. Good. That's better.

Now imagine, (and here is where it gets even crazier!!) Jesus suddenly appearing in the passenger seat and rocking out with me. We're both drumming now, Him on the dashboard and me on the steering wheel. You might think He's in a pristine white robe (honestly, I thought He would be too), but that's not the case. He has on jeans with holes in them, Converse and a rock and roll T-shirt. Just for clarification, let me assure you this did NOT really happen. If it did, I would have crashed the van and been rocking right up to heaven with Him (Highway To Heaven???). But imagine it anyway. It makes this story way more exciting...

So, I am driving; dangerously, drumming with hands and feet, and Jesus suddenly quiets me. It's just a gentle little breath...a shift in the atmosphere...and everything is still and peaceful. And in my heart, I hear Him whisper, "I desperately want in those clubs, Gia. I love the people in there, with a furious longing. I can stand at the door and knock forever, but no one inside knows I am there wanting in. There is no way for me to set them free, love on them, show them how incredibly precious they are to me. But every time you open the door and go in, you let me in. You are my doorkeeper."

This is when I burst out laughing. But I wasn't laughing like Sarah when the angels said she would have a baby (Genesis 18:12). I was laughing because the theme of the entire night had been keys.

Two Hours Earlier:

I was sent to a club with a team of ladies I'd never worked with before. What made me even more nervous was that my mother-in-law (who I always stick with) was going to a different club than me. I hitched a ride with the prayer warrior that would be waiting in the parking lot the entire time I was in the club. I've not gotten to speak a great deal with this awesome lady, but on the drive over, she spoke some amazing words over me. However, she also made me a little nervous when she said, "I want you to know, you're leading this team tonight." When I get nervous, I have to pee. My prayer warrior friend was lucky I didn't leave a puddle in her passenger seat when she said that to me! When she pulled into the parking lot, she took my hand and prayed over me. When she was finished, I took a deep breath...and the adventure began.

I reached the door first, and when I opened it, I was thinking that we were taking in fresh, clean air. The 'clean' air didn't last long, because the dreaded fog of cigarette smoke quickly swallowed us up (ooof, I HATE the smoke!). The ladies and I sat at a little table at the opposite end of the stage, close to the bar where I tend to feel more protected. There was one dancer on the floor. She was stretched across the bar stools, letting a male patron massage her feet. She had singles tucked in her garter, which strangely enough, is the first time I'd seen a dancer sporting her tips.

The ladies and I sat for a while, and all I could think of was, "Lord, you said I was going to lead this group...but I'm nervous, and I don't recognize any of these people." I had been praying that the bartender who had been on my heart would be there, but she wasn't, and all the ladies I had met and forged relationships with on previous visits weren't working this night.

When the man rubbing the dancer's feet stood up and moved away, I hopped into his seat and stuck my hand out to shake. Probably too brightly, I said, "Hi! I'm Gia!" She blinked and barely reached out to shake my hand. She looked completely startled. I guess I don't blame her. Her eyes cut past me to the man that'd been with her moments ago. "How was your week," I asked.

"Just like every other week...taking care of my grandma."

I tipped my head, keeping my eyes on her her's. She kept looking to her drink, to the man on the other side of the room, to the tips in her garter, and sometimes, only a quick glance at me. "You take care of your grandma? That's so sweet of you."

"Yeah...she's my world." She holds my gaze a little longer this time and I smile.

"Do you have help?"

"I have some family that helps sometimes, but I'm really all she's got."

"Does she live with you, or do you live with her?"

"I live with her."

"You must have a beautiful heart to take care of her like that. Many people wouldn't."

No music had been playing and I got the impression that the gentleman was waiting for her. She cut her eyes away, picked up her things and said, "Listen, I've got work to do." She walked away before I could say anything else.

In the meantime, I sit at the bar, the other ladies on the team only an arm reach behind me, and I sit and hope that when her dance is over she will come back over and talk some more. I sip my water and watch whatever was playing on MTV on the flatscreen over the bar. God, please don't let me home and have to say that I sat at the bar all night in this nasty club and never got to show a single woman Your smile, or speak to them Your words.

Then, like a breath of air, I felt my spirit grow calm. Be patient...sit still. I have a plan.

Suddenly, a huge man approached me. "Can I borrow your lighter, Sweetheart?" he asked.

"Sure, go ahead. That's not mine. It was sitting there already." My skin prickled. Ooof...Lord, what are you doing?

He picked it up and lit his cigarette. I had noticed this man watching me since we walked in. He smiled once or twice, and I knew that he wasn't someone I wanted hanging around me for very long. "How are you? You having a good time tonight?" he asks.

I don't know if he is smiling at me, or what. I just know that he is uncomfortably close. I never looked up at him, just tipped my head and said, "I'm fabulous, thanks!" Since I didn't look up at him and say anything else, I think he got the idea, because he stood there a few more seconds and backed away. When he was gone, I realized I couldn't sit at the bar alone, even if my team was only two feet away. I stood up, and sat back down at the table with the ladies. And I just sat there, making small talk with the team. I was trying not to be discouraged. God said to be patient, so I held on to that. In the meantime, I told that ladies that I was learning drums. We talked about that for a second. Then one of them asked about the key I was wearing around my neck. My hands went to it and I smiled. "My husband made this for me. A long time ago, someone prayed over us and said that by our unique way of loving others would be like the love of Jesus (this ability were our keys). We would use keys He had given to us to unlock broken, hurting people from their bondage. When that happens, He can, and WILL, bring healing to the broken." I also told them that my husband releases his keys when he leads people in worship...

And that's when the bartender walked into the club. I had asked God, "Please let her be there. If she is there, I will know I'm in the right place." As she walked across the club, God whispered...keys.

"Excuse me," a make voice broke in, startling me from my thoughts.

I turned around to find a big man standing near our table. He seemed a bit shy. "Are you ladies good? Can I get you more water?"

"Oh, thank you, but we're good." My teammate answers. "Do you work here?"

He shakes his head. And then, all of a sudden, he kneels down by our table. "I've been feeling convicted the whole time you ladies have been here. You see, I've got trouble with the wife at home, so I thought I needed to get outta there....and I left and walked over here. But I'm not here for the--" he motions towards the stage.

The ladies on my team (they are older than me) begin to talk to him. Without any prompting, he begins to spill out his brokenness. It was such an anointed time, so powerful, that the conversation seems like a blur now. I remember thinking, Lord, do you know this is a man? Don't you know I'm in here for ladies?

But there was that breath again. Peace.

It turns out that this man was an artist who specialized in faces. "Really?" I gasped. "Me too! That's so crazy! It's hard to find other artists that can draw people's faces." I dug out my phone and said, "Let me show you this. I've been thinking about it all day...and I want to share it with you. I think you might appreciate the story behind it..."

"This is a charcoal reproduction I did of another girl's painting. You see," I say, "she was just a little girl when this man started visiting her in her dreams."

He is beaming. "That's Jesus!"

"Exactly. And what's amazing is that she didn't know a thing about Jesus. Her family were agnostic...but she painted this man and started to tell her family about her dreams." He took my phone and stared at the picture for a long time. "I read this book called Heaven If For Real and in it, the little boy goes to heaven during surgery. When he told his family about Jesus, they searched for all kinds of pictures of Jesus to see which one was closest to the real Jesus. Nothing ever matched...but when this image clicked up on the screen, the boy said, 'That's Him! That's Jesus!'"

"Do you paint?" I ask.


"I can't paint. It makes me so mad that I can't when I desperately want to be able to. But the first painting I really did...well, let me show it to you," I say, clicking through the photos on my phone.

"Here she is."

"Wow!" He takes the phone from me. "She's beautiful. I love the colors!"

"Pretty neat, huh? But it was all God. I had no idea what I was doing, but as I painted this woman, He told me what she represented. You see, at the time, I was in the middle of a storm. My husband lost his job. We were losing the house. I was terrified. So the sadness and fear causes this woman to cast her eyes down. But at the same time, she looks peaceful, doesn't she?" He nods. I point to the colors. "The beautiful colors are His's all Him. In the middle of our brokenness, He is faithful to calm our fears and hearts even though the oceans rage. Kinda like you, right? You're in the middle of a storm...brokenness?"

He nods. "I am. Yeah...I am." He looks back at the painting.

"But the amazing this about the woman's beauty. He will bring us out of our storms, and If we rest in Him when the earth shakes...we will come out of it more beautiful than when we went it."

"Because it's our brokenness, right? He makes us beautiful from our brokenness?"

I smile at him. "That's right. And you know what? He made something beautiful out of what my husband went through."

He talks a lot more...about his art...about the Lord...about his family. The ladies and I speak good things over him. When he speaks about his son, his eyes shinning, we tell him he is a good father. Carefully, we sow truths that the Lord is whispering to us about this man:

You are a good man...a wonderful father.
I can see that your heart is good. 
You have a plan and purpose for your life.
Something good...prosperous...
A plan that won't harm you. 

And by the time it starts to get late and we know we have to be going, this man asks us if we will pray for him, right there in the middle of the strip club--a woman barely clothed in anything but a thong dancing onstage. There are people within ear shot, but we take his hands and begin to pray one at a time. The words that come out of our mouths were powerful, good...uplifting and encouraging. And when we said 'amen' he tugged our hands and began to pray over us. "Thank you, Father," he said with deep emotion, "for sending these women in here and the conviction You placed in my heart." He simply thanked the Lord that we were there...

And when he was finished, my teammate smiled at him and said, "You're too good a man to be here. Go home to your wife. Start over." He had tears in his eyes as he gathered up his things.

The ladies put on their coats and picked up their purses, but I still hadn't forgotten about the bartender. "Just a second," I said, turning and walking to the bar. The bartender smiled at me and walked over...

"You ladies leaving?"

"Yeah...but...I have something for you." My heart started thundering. "Listen, this might sound weird, but since the first night I met you, I've admired you. You have an amazing heart."

I don't think she was expecting those words to come from my mouth, because her entire countenance fell. Her chin trembled and tears flooded her eyes. She snatched me up in a hug. When she pulled away, I took the key necklace off. "My husband made this for me. A long time ago, God told us we had keys...and we used them in the way we loved others, people hard to love, and that the way we loved them would cause them to see Jesus. And these keys, when we use them, they release these people of their burdens...their chains...bondage. When that happens, He can set them free and heal them completely."

I thought this part was going to scare her, but she kept nodding, more and more tears gathering in her eyes.

I pressed the key into her hand and said quietly, "The Lord told me you have these keys too...and as strange as it might sound, you're in the right place. You have keys for these ladies. So I want you to keep this and always remember how very important you are to The Lord."

Again, she squeezed me in a hug. By now, tears were in my eyes too.

"You have no idea," she was saying....

Turns out, God had already been speaking to her about keys through ways I feel are too personal to share with readers. But trust me, God spoke the words she needed most right in that moment. He reminded her of her amazing worth, and her ability to allow Him to use her for mighty good.

"I know it can't be easy for you to work her," I said. "But I see that your heart loves these girls and you want to try to help them and keep them safe."

"I do."

"And I think you're amazing for that," I smiled.

"I was just telling my children about you the other day," she laughs. "I was telling them about the story you told me when I first met you; about what happened when the lady broke into you house."

I laughed. "Oh really? Did they think I was crazy?"

"No, they asked what you did, and I told them...well, she made the woman coffee, held her hand, and took care of her. And they said, 'Mom! That sounds like you!'"

I could have fallen over, so overwhelmed by God's perfect plan. But instead, I swallowed a huge lump of tears and said, "Sounds like are hearts look alike."

As I was walking out of the club, I bumped fist with the giant bouncer The Lord has given me a heart for. He laughed and shook his head when I tried to walk with 'swag'. I think I amuse him. The bartender says his heart is like ours too...and I believe her. There's just some people that you meet and you can see their goodness shining despite what the world has tried to do to snuff it out.

I don't know how the bartender and bouncer ended up working in one of the worst clubs I've ever been in, but I know that God is in this...and one day, will be in them...

There's no doubt in my mind.

Now back to the scene where I'm driving home:

So, there I was, smelling like smoke, tears in my eyes, with Jesus in the passenger seat. "Doorkeeper, huh?" I say out loud...still giggling. "You do know, that you could just waltz right in, don't you? You don't need me. You can do anything."

And guess what? Jesus giggled too (totally did too, dude!). And He said, "Yeah...but you're the one that's got my keys. I gave them to you, remember?"

So Jesus doesn't have to stand and knock. I'll dig out His keys, unlock the doors, and together, we'll just walk right in.


Jesus Broke The Rules

Sometimes, I miss the depth and breadth of the passion and love of Christ for all humanity. His love is obvious when He hangs on the cross, spilling His blood so that we might have freedom and eternal life with God the Father. His love is evident when He heals the lepers and brings the dead to life. He is pretty much amazing. This I know, for certain. But today...He gave me a peek into the love that is hidden from scripture and can only be seen when I pause, wait, and look a little deeper. When that happens, my mind is blown.

His! so incredible!

You see, I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. In this story, Jesus pretty much defies tradition and rules when He begins to talk to her. She's a sinful woman; so wretched that she cannot even come to the well and draw water with the other women of the city. She is filled with shame, ducking out when the streets are clear, only to be met by a tired and weary Messiah. Most of us know the story, but what I didn't know was this:

In John 4:4, it says that Jesus was on His way home from Jerusalem. He had been traveling far and was exhausted. Ahead of Him, right in His way, was the city of Samaria. Most Jews would have gone out of their way to travel around the city, for the Jews hated their fellow Jews living in Samaria. The reason goes way back, long before Jesus stood on the road, staring ahead, and making up His mind to journey right through the city.

Generations before, after the death of Solomon, some Jews (those in Samaria) continued to serve The Lord but also followed the way of idolatry introduced by Jeroboam. They refused to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Lord's temple. Instead, they lived by their own rules. Later, the Jews of Samaria intermingled and married outside of their religion. They became 'impure' to the Jews that had held steady to the teachings of The God of Israel. Because of this, the Jews outside Samaria were bitter towards those inside and hated them, steering clear of them and their city at all costs. But not Jesus. He decided that the shortest way home was through Samaria, so He wasn't going around. He was going to walk right in and be, as it turns out, a light to the lone woman He met along the way.

Jesus was not prejeduice. It didn't matter that the Jews of Samaria had messed up and disobeyed. They were His love just the same as those on the outside that honored each law and commandment. He loved them just as much as He loved those that brought honor to His Father's name by upholding tradition and serving Him and only Him.  Jesus doesn't have limits. He doesn't have walls. He came to set us all free. Every single one of us.

When the sinful woman came to the well to draw water, He already knew what everyone else thought of her. It didn't matter to Him that a man had no business talking to such a woman, let alone asking her for a drink of water. Jesus ministered to whomever would listen; whomever had a heart to hear. When this woman realized she was speaking to the Messiah, she spread the word and a city that the Jews on the outside avoided, believed in Jesus (lots of them, anyway).

So what would Jesus do today? Would He tell me to avoid the strip clubs and bars filled with violence, prostitution and drug abuse? Or would He walk into the cities of the lost, sit down and ask for a drink of water? And should a broken woman look into His eyes and see something she had been searching all her life for, would He not share it with her? Would He tell you not to give money to the beggar on the highway exit? Would He have you avoid the poor and destitute and only serve and minister to those filling the church pews? Or would He tell you to take church also out to those ragamuffins that may never make it in?

But I'm going to walk with, and LIKE, Jesus. Should He send me (as He has already) into the wretched places, I am going to go like a light straight into the darkness. Because the captives, the ones that are desperate for freedom and love, are in there.

Jesus broke the rules for me. He paved the way. I'm going to follow in His footsteps. I hope you do to.



Live To Enjoy The Light

 Sometimes, it doesn't seem like the best decision to go in strip clubs bearing gifts for the dancers and their children. After all, these local clubs are not the nicest places. But whenever I go in there, I feel as if my team and I are ushering in a breath of fresh air...and light. When I enter, I wear a huge smile and meet the eyes of everyone that I can. I know the patrons are puzzled, but the bartenders and dancers usually know exactly who we are.

Our latest outreach night was amazing. I came home blasting worship music in the car and drumming the steering wheel, singing at the top of my lungs. I had tears streaming down my cheeks, but they were tears caused by the presence of the Lord. His presence brings love. That is important to note. Because when these ladies and I enter the clubs, we've been saturated in prayer and enter with His presence with us--bringing Him and His love with each breath we take. He is like our perfume. Isn't that awesome to think about? It makes me giggle.

The first club we went in, I've only been to once before. Previously, we weren't there more than fifteen minutes before we were asked to leave by a burly bouncer who wouldn't make eye contact with us. On this night, we must have gotten there before he did, because we were able to stay and pray and be a friend for as long as we wanted. I sat right down at the bar and started talking to the bartender. We brought her a big bag of baby presents (she is due to give birth in April). I mainly asked her about her other child and how this pregnancy was treating her. Eventually, I ran out of things to talk about and suddenly asked her, "What did you want to be when you grew up?" A sad look passed in her eyes and she frowned at me. After a while, she shrugged and said, "Nothing. I didn't think of being anything when I was little." I asked about later in life, what did she want to be? She still said nothing.

"Oh, there had to be something," I said. " one point, I wanted to grow up and be Maverick from Top Gun." She laughed but still shook her head. "Think about it. Wasn't there anything? I mean, I knew this girl once who wanted to be a semi truck when she grew up."

She adamantly held her ground and said there was nothing she wanted to be. She looked sad, explaining that she had all kinds of siblings...and she spent most of her childhood being prince charming. I don't know what she meant by that, but it tugged at my heart.

As we were talking, I noticed a young man on the other side of the bar. He was younger than me, and kept glancing over at our group, listening to us. I didn't think anything of it until a dancer brought him and another man over to our group. She knew my mother-in-law and was asking for prayer for a health problem she was dealing with. As they were praying, the young man turned to the older woman in the group and began explaining how he needed God to help him turn his life around. He spilled all his dirty laundry at her feet, barely bringing his eyes to meet her's, and when he was done, the entire group put their hand on his shoulders, lifted their other hands to the Lord, and prayed over him, his friend he came with, and the dancer his friend lived with...

It was pretty amazing. On the other side of the club, obvious prostitution was taking place, a dancer in her late sixties was on the stage dancing, and yet here we were, lifting up the name of our Heavenly Father, praying for a young man that knew he didn't need to be there. They both left before we did, tears in the young man's eyes.

NOTE: I do not go in clubs to minister to the male patrons. It was a coincidence that the dancer brought her boyfriend and friend to meet my mother-in-law (who is in her fifties). I didn't engage in conversation with these men, but left it to the much older women.  It simply isn't appropriate for me, but I did join them in prayer.

The next club we visited, we entered alongside police. The club was dead, apparently having been cleared of the patrons due to a fight that broke out between two of the dancers. The wounded dancer was sitting in the bathroom floor in a little puddle of her own blood. She took a blow to her head from the heel of her own stiletto. She was in tears, crying, trying to clean herself up. Other dancers were trying to get clothes to her, but were so frazzled and shaking that I took her clothes, purse and keys, and helped her get her ID out for the police and EMTs.

It turns out that one of the officers on the scene knew all about the church ladies and personally knew my mother-in-law, which was nice. We sat at a table near the bar and just prayed silently, being available to help in whatever way we could. This is the club where I got my first kiss on the cheek from a drunk (or stoned) dancer and asked them to play one of my favorite songs: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. The dancer couldn't find my mother-in-law's request of "His Eyes Are On The Sparrow" by Whitney Houston. "You want me to play some gospel up in here?!?!" The dancer laughed. But you should have seen the faces of the ladies on my team when my request blasted to life. I smiled ear-to-ear. "What? I love this song! This is a song I can pick up my sword and shield and go into battle with." They just giggled, but nodded their heads, knowing exactly what I was talking about. Sort of.

For the most part, we were at the second club to bring a peaceful enviroment with us. We sat and prayed as the police did their thing. We sipped our bottled waters, avoided looking at the stage (the nice thing about the police presence is that hardly anyone danced), and made small talk with one another. It might have seemed like a waste of time, but I know it wasn't. We were in the right spot, at the right time, giving the rattled dancers a squeeze of the hand and asking if they were okay. That was enough. Because next time, they might feel they can trust us with more. These girls, they deserved to be something amazing when they grow up. Shine some light in the darkness, and there is the possibility that they will see His face...and know they are beautiful, even in those clubs, in His sight.

"He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light." 
~Job 33:28