On November 2, the Showtime Gentlemen’s Club in Waco, Texas, closed for business. On Good Friday, 20 years ago, the first time I walked into a strip club, Waco was home to three such establishments. Now there are none.
I didn’t go to that first strip club as a worker or a customer but for what would become the genesis of Jesus Said Love outreach. I was 25 years old when I rallied my church in Waco (and my new husband Brett) to get behind my vision of going into strip clubs to extend the love and light of Christ.
I was a new mom from East Texas. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and graduated from Baylor University. My husband and I traveled around the country with our ragamuffin bandmates through the late 90s and early 2000s, leading campus worship events.
We rubbed shoulders and shared green rooms and stages with some of the most well-known Christian worship artists. I thought my life and career would be singing and writing worship songs.
I loved what we did. I was energized by the bigness of it all and the belief that we were making an eternal impact.
But women in the sex industry changed my life and led me to sing another song entirely. I thought I was going into strip clubs to carry the light of Jesus to the women working there, but I discovered Jesus was already there and ready to enlighten me.
A lot has changed in commercial sex and society’s understanding of it. But my heart toward it has changed more.
Through proximity and holding space for the stories of women in the industry, I confronted my personal bias and corrupt theological, political, psychological and societal framework. My belief in “equal opportunity” suddenly felt misinformed and harmful while staring into the face of a single mom who had been trafficked by her own mother at 12 years old.
Did she choose the sex industry or did it choose her?
What began as outreaches to strip clubs across Texas evolved into extending opportunities to women who wanted a way out of commercial sex. Outreach was never going to be enough.
Saying “Jesus loves you” with a gift bag while not offering any practical solution or community resources was not only short-sighted but harmful. Year after year, my eyes began to change and my heart beat truer. Women in the industry became my teachers.
We learned to decipher between the sensationalized efforts of