What’s more intimidating to an exotic dancer than a Christian women’s conference?
Nothing, I tell you. Nothing.
Let me explain.
A few years ago I got a phone call from a dear friend and mentor.
“Beth Moore is coming to town, and Lifeway has chosen Purchased (www.thehubministry.com) as the ministry they want to highlight and support while she is in town. You interested?”
Hold on one sec, while I fall out of my chair on the floor, immediately start pit sweating and try my hardest to gather myself, to sound cool, calm, and collected.
“Of course. Tell her we said thank you so much.”
I hung up. Beth Moore? THE Beth Moore?
I mean, if you’re a Christian and a female you have no doubt heard of or studied with Beth Moore.
Who cares that it would take me four full days to complete one day of her studies? I owned every single one of them.
This woman had shaped my view of scripture and had lit a fire in my heart to know more of Jesus.
And now she was choosing the ministry I was a part of to be her highlight ministry at a live event.
It was too much for my little brain to handle.
Let me tell you a little about Purchased.
Purchased works with women who are in the sex industry. Women who are walking the road of prostitution, exotic dancing or pornography. We exist to give them a way out, an escape, first and foremost, through Jesus and then through a community of women who will love them like Jesus and be in their corner every step of the way.
It is the loveliest ministry, and it has been the honor of my life to be a part of it. It is gritty and hard and not glamorous work, but it is good work, and Jesus is leading the charge for it in our city. I am who I am today because of the women of Purchased. They are hands down the coolest, bravest, spiciest and strongest women I know.
So…back to ol Beth.
We were given a block of free tickets for the conference and were told to set up a giant booth at the entrance so that attenders would run straight into us and learn about what God was doing through Purchased.
I immediately knew who those tickets belonged to.
We had a rag-tag group of exotic dancers that were meeting weekly to study the Bible together. We were having the time of our lives as we walked through scripture with these precious ones, who, for the most part, had never heard a single word of the Bible.
These nights were full of questions as we all processed the crazy truths of the Bible together. The girls would sit wide-eyed as they heard truth after truth about who they were for the very first time. They could not believe the things they were hearing and would throw their heads back in laughter over some of the Old Testament shenanigans we would read. They particularly loved stories of women, especially women who were broken…the jacked up ones. They leaned in to every second, soaking in who Jesus was and what that meant for them.
Side note…one time they asked if we could buy an “ark of the covenant” for decoration. Bless it. How does one explain the ark of the covenant…and that it can’t be purchased at your local Hobby Lobby.
These were the women I wanted at that conference. These were the ones that I wanted to bear the tee-shirt of our ministry, to be the mouth pieces for what God was doing…even though they were just now grasping it for themselves.
Now, let me pause here.
A Christian women’s conference is a very hard sell to a group of tatted up strippers.
A hard sell.
“Ok….what is it again?” one asked me.
“It’s called a women’s conference. You know how we all meet every week and read the Bible. Well it’s like that, but there will be 4,000 women coming to do that together. There will be worship, which is just music about Jesus, and a woman named Beth Moore will be coming to teach us about the Bible.”
What I should have said was, “Well…it’s like our little Bible study on crack.”
I helped them process the sheer amount of women that would be present.
I warned them that women at Christian conferences are more insane than women not at Christian conferences. I know this because I lose my cool at conferences too.
I explained that there would be all the loud talking, laughing, weeping, praying, cheering and women feverishly buying every product there was to offer in the lobby. There would be a lot of togetherness and sisterhood and “love you darlings” being thrown around….it would be a lot.
Is that not a women’s conference in a nut shell?
And this, my friends, was their worst nightmare.
For these women, “church” had failed them for the most part. They were beginning to fall in love with Jesus…but His people…they weren’t so convinced. People who claimed the name of Jesus had harmed them, abandoned them in their time of need, or judged them so hard they could no longer hold their heads up high inside the four walls of a church. And women….well their struggle with other women was a unique one. To them, women were competition, a threat…that is how their world worked. Connecting with other women was foreign. And women who were “not like them” had never welcomed them. So 4,000 of them did not feel like a fun time.
They sat stunned.
“Come on y’all. It’s gonna be a blast.”
They agreed, with rolled eyes, to do it.
Cut to the parking lot, the night of the event, where half of them were having panic attacks and the other half were refusing to go in. Good start.
But we did it. One baby step at a time we made our way to our table.
The doors opened and the lobby flooded with women and laughing and high pitched squeals and hugs…..it was on.
I watched as our team engaged women at our table, passed out material about our ministry, introduced themselves, and TOOK CHARGE.
My eyes filled with tears as I realized that, in that moment, behind that table, all wearing the same tees, no one knew. No one knew that they would leave that event to go and dance on a pole. The playing field was level. They were not only equals, but they were ambassadors for the work that God was doing in our city.
I will never forget it.
We found our seats, and the conference began. The worship band fired up and everyone in the arena jumped on their feet and began to raise their hands in worship.
To which, my sweet group, immediately looked down the row at me with looks of “what on God’s green earth is happening here?”
I whispered an explanation and had them pass it down. No telling what the explanation turned into by the end of the line.
Worship ended, and THE BETH MOORE took the stage.
She was visibly bothered. I could tell she had something to say.
What happened next literally blew my mind.
She explained that she had woken up in the hotel that morning, in our downtown, to pray and prep for the conference. As she was praying, she noticed a bright orange light streaming through her closed curtains, the sun was rising outside of her window. She went and opened the curtains, and her heart skipped a beat as she realized that the view from her hotel was the sun rising right over a strip club.
She went on to declare that the sun rising over that strip club was a reminder that the love of God rises over everyone, no matter how broken, how lost, how messed up….that the Son would rise on every life. That His light could cover all darkness.
And then for the next 15 minutes she had the entire arena pray out loud for the employees of that strip club. Those 4,000 women prayed for each and every dancer, bar-tender, bouncer, manager, owner, and patron.
Beth got down on her knees and wept through her desperate prayers that their hearts be saved, their lives be restored and their brokenness mended.
She ended by challenging the full-to-the-brim arena to never close the doors to the broken and spoke truth about the lives of the women in that strip club, pushing everyone in the room out of their comfort zone. She ended by saying that the call of Jesus would never call us away from strippers, but instead it would push us right to them.
WHAT IN THE ACTUAL WORLD HAD JUST HAPPENED.
I looked down the row and every one of my sweet friends was weeping.
What Beth didn’t know was who those free tickets had been given to.
She had no idea that an entire row of women, from that exact strip club, would be present that night.
She could not have known that her words would directly pierce their hearts as they sat feet from her in complete shock over what they were hearing.
And those women watched wide-eyed with wonder as the Lord himself showed His love for them in front of 4,000 women. HE is who spoke through her, directly to their hearts. Those were not her words to them, but His words to His beloved daughters.
He took the largest stage, in front of a packed arena, and chose to make THAT the place where He would speak up for them. He esteemed them in the grandest way possible and stated LOUD AND PROUD that they were His, that He adored them, that He wasn’t ashamed of them….that He in fact loved them.
Worship started, and one of our girls grabbed my arm.
“I want to know this Jesus….” she said wild-eyed.
“Ok, let’s go.”
We began to walk down the arena steps towards the altar.
Arm in arm, we were making our way to her freedom.
And we got a good laugh all the way there as woman after woman looked at us, reached out, patted me on the arm and said “Congratulations!”…. assuming that I was the one making the decision that night.
Maybe it was my mohawk, nose ring and tattoos, or the fact that I was ugly-face crying, I dunno…but this was hilarious to my side-kick.
“All these women think you’re the jacked-up one,” she said through laughter and tears.
And they weren’t wrong. I too had been jacked-up beyond recognition once. Lost, broken, desperate…in need of rescue. I had been the one that Jesus came for, throwing me the rope of rescue deep down into the bottom of my pit. I had felt the deep sigh of relief to be found and known, to know that I had a way out of my brokenness. And now, here I was, walking with a cherished one towards the very freedom I had been offered. She was about to encounter the same loving gaze of Jesus. I could feel the expectancy of redemption…it was a familiar feeling.
That night, at the altar, one soul found her place at the feet of Jesus.
One heart was claimed by Her Savior, and she would never be the same.
And a whole row of women walked away knowing that what they had been reading was indeed true.
That the God of the Bible was real, and that He loved them.
He loved them enough to declare it to an arena of people.
He was not ashamed of them, and He had let the whole world know.
Friends, Jesus esteems the broken. He holds them high, honors them with the way He loves them. He chases after them and makes the light of His presence rise over their lives. And he chooses to do that through us, you and me. We become His vessels, the way He communicates with the hearts of His kids.
Don’t shut out the broken. Throw open the doors of your life and invite them in.
This blog is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, Deb Douglas, who is now dancing at the feet of Jesus, healed and whole and NO DOUBT happy.
She was a true hero in the Kingdom.
She was in love with Purchased and she pushed the Lifeway team to choose our ministry for that Beth Moore event. She was the one who called to tell me we had been chosen and giggled with me in excitement.
Before the event started that night, she came and found me. “I feel like all of this is for one woman on your team.” And she didn’t mean “all this” as in the free tickets and booth we had received…she meant “ALL OF THIS”…the arena, the lights, the sound, the thousands who would travel to be there. It was all for one woman.
And she was right.
It was her push for the broken to be loved that caused incredible God-sized things…like this story…to happen.
Hand-in-hand with Jesus, Deb radically changed the lives of the women of Purchased, a countless others across our community, with just her presence. She championed them, mentored them and constantly pointed them to the feet of their Father.
Her zeal for hearts to know Jesus resulted in a ripple effect in our city that will be felt for generations to come.
Deb, you will be missed my friend. You were a true treasure, a jewel from the hands of Jesus into our lives and now you are back with Him.
Enjoy His presence my friend, you earned it.
Well done, good and faithful servant.