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. "Like...at 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."