Now before you say, "Linda Kozar is completely out of her mind," listen up! The bus was a church bus and I joined a ministry led by a good friend who founded the ministry over thirteen years ago to reach strippers and sex industry workers with the pure love of Christ.
My twenty-two year old daughter had already gone a couple of times and invited me to come along. But my friend has been inviting me for thirteen years. So it was quite understandable that she nearly fell over when I walked through the door!
|These are some of the gift bags.|
The first thing we all did was introduce ourselves. After that, we got right to work loading over eighty "gift bags" filled with scripture, chocolates, peppermints, a ministry card, and a personal fan with two fresh batteries taped to the package. The bag's contents vary each week, but there's always something fun or useful inside. With all the eager teamwork, we finished loading the bags in a short time.
Then we sat down to pray for the trip but also for individual prayer needs. All told, eight of us loaded onto the bus--four newbies and four veterans.
Was I nervous? You bet. I had no idea what I was in for, much less what I would see.
We pulled up to the first club and we each hurried to collect four or five bags. The bouncers welcomed us with smiles, especially when they received their gift bags. It seemed the "church ladies" their nickname for us, were welcomed, warmly into strip clubs! I followed the other ladies right into the stripper's dressing room, though it's more like an undressing room.
The dancers who knew the group smiled as we walked in. The new dancers stared back at us at first. I imagine they were confused about why church ladies were invading their space. I listened to my friends ask if the dancers needed prayer for anything and they did! So right there in the middle of the janky-looking dressing room, we joined hands--all of us--and prayed.
Most of the dancers are mothers with young children, struggling to make ends meet. They're doing their best to support them, but losing more and more of their dignity as time goes on. The industry is soul-killing. Many turn to alcohol and drugs just to keep doing what they're doing.
The vibe at every club was different, but we had almost full access at each location. It's been years since I'd seen carpet on walls. And you can imagine all the bells an whistles going off if anyone dared to wave a black light around any of those places.
The veterans dove right in--greeting girls, bartenders and bouncers with hugs. It was clear they have established relationships with some of the workers over the years, but they treated new girls with the same regard. At one club I worked up enough nerve to ask a dancer if she had any prayer needs. She seemed a bit embarrassed and said, "No" at first.
But I pressed her a bit. "C'mon, everybody has prayer needs. How's your family? Do you need more money?"
She responded quickly. "Yes, pray for my children and my fiancé and so I can make more money."
I asked if I could lay hands on her and she told me I could. But I hesitated a moment because she was almost naked. I settled on her shoulder with her back to me. Another dancer and another "church lady" joined in and we prayed. Force of habit--I hugged them both after the prayer.
Afterwards, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus hung naked on the tree for us, to pay the price for our sins. Stopped me in my tracks.
We are all naked before God, our sins and desires transparent to Him. He sees who we are inside. With that encouragement, I resolved to pray for the person inside the outer garment.
The managers met us in the hallway. My friend asked one about his son, born with a serious medical condition. The group had been praying for him for years. The other manager was intent on making us comfortable. He offered to give us water and Red Bulls. Though we politely declined, he disappeared and showed up a few minutes later, his arms full of refreshments. We thanked him and accepted his gracious offer.
The last place we visited will forever be the worst on my list. On the way there, the other girls warned us about the smell.
"Smell?" I asked.
They tried to describe it. "She has a lot of dogs and she burns incense and there are other smells as you might imagine. The place is a "modeling studio." I was to learn later that "Modeling Studios" and "Spas" are euphemisms for brothels.
Although we were only allowed in the foyer of the place, the smell hit me right away. I would say the olfactory assault was overpowering--smell on top of smell on top of odor on top of stench and all covered up with the scents of incense and baby powder.
The madam came out the office door to greet our group. A standard bank teller's type window predominated the room. A ceramic good luck kitty paw perpetually waving, enjoyed a predominant spot. The entry room was filled with beat-up furniture--a sofa, rug and coffee table and a credenza by the door. Three ceramic burners on top of the credenza, tiny candles lit, melted incense--the scent of which became distinctly unpleasant the longer you were exposed to it.
An older woman, the madam seemed genuinely happy to see us. She talked with us for quite some time. But I didn't talk much, or rather, could not. I was too busy dealing with the overwhelming odor of the place. In fact, I had difficulty fighting back the bile rising in my throat. When we first walked in, I tried not to pay attention to it. But it was truly a force to be reckoned with.
I realized later after talking with the veterans, that what we experienced there was more than just a physical smell. There was a spiritual aspect to it. The scent of sin and oppression, tangible and as real as any other. The smell of the place clung to hair and clothing and nestled inside our nostrils. It followed us back on the bus--a reminder that "... we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" Ephesians 6:12.
Next Week: The Return