For most Christians, going to a strip club is not something you do.
But there’s one ministry that goes to local strip clubs two Saturdays a month.
And they even bring lunch.
Too often, churches view missions as something to be done abroad and outside of their “home turf,” despite a huge mission field within the shadow of their own steeple.
What if we were to recognize the needs of those around us?
For one pastor’s wife, Tami, it was this revelation that led to Hadassah’s Hope, a strip club outreach ministry based in Jacksonville, Florida.
The outreach began with Tami and a handful of her friends visiting one of the clubs once a month.
The ministry grew quickly, and soon the need for an organized operation became apparent. Tami held a meeting in her home in April of 2017, “with standing room only,” and Hadassah’s Hope was officially born.
The group is now a nonprofit organization with well over 400 volunteers, and they visit 11 of the 18 clubs in Jacksonville.
Outreach teams, consisting of 2 to 4 women, make visits to the girls who dance at the clubs, setting up in the dressing rooms and bringing either homecooked meals or gift baskets.
There are also cooking teams, security teams, and prayer teams who help make these visits a possibility.
The volunteers stay for roughly an hour, building relationships with the girls in an effort to share the love of Jesus.
“Most of these girls don’t know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. No one has ever told them that,” says Tami. “We try to help meet the physical needs to be able to speak to the spiritual needs.”
When asked about obtaining permission to visit these establishments, Tami says, “We just show up, and God paves the way every time.”
Statistically, 89% of the women who work in the industry say they want out but feel it’s the only way for them to survive financially.
“Most people think these girls chose this, so they just write them off, but that’s not the case.”
According to Tami, one of the girls they meet with began working in the industry after she aged out of the foster care system. She needed money to afford living in a hotel.
Additionally, 85% of the women in the industry have been sexually assaulted in childhood.
Tami states, “Every one of these girls has been sexually abused in some way, shape, or form…I have not met a single one who has not been abused as a child.”
With those statistics, it’s not difficult to see why it often takes so long to have real, raw conversations with the girls about spiritual needs. “This is a seed-planting ministry,” says Tami, “There is a lot of groundwork to be done.”
But the ministry doesn’t involve just visiting the clubs. The volunteers and the girls try to have dinner together, go on coffee dates, and even have art parties. This year, Hadassah’s Hope is planning on doing a ‘Friendsgiving’ with the girls to show them they are truly loved.
And their time and patience in building relationships with the girls pays off. One of the girls they used to visit has been saved and started her own cleaning company. To get to that point took time, though – Tami says she met the girl almost seven years ago and she only recently came to know the Lord.
But that is not the end of the story. Hadassah’s Hope has been able to provide counseling to this woman, as well as a few others, and one day hopes to offer more.
They also have plans to unroll a career development program and offer the girls classes on life skills, cooking, parenting, interviewing skills, and resume services.
These plans come with quite the price tag though – as it’s been estimated that it would take $20,000 per girl to go through the program, including the cost of educators as well as compensating the girls for their time at roughly twelve to fifteen hours a week.
Tami mentioned that funding was one of their biggest obstacles.
“I hate asking for money,” she states, saying it just doesn’t come naturally to her, even on behalf of someone else. But she says that “God has been so gracious,” providing donations along the way to keep the ministry going.
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Along with prayers for funding, Tami asks for prayers for wisdom and discernment, particularly regarding the upcoming career development program, and that God would keep His hand on the ministry.
This outreach has already accomplished so much and has very high hopes for the future.
Tami, along with the rest of those involved, know that none of it would possible without the power of prayer and the blessing of God.