In Sept of 2004, I received a newsletter of a ministry friend who lives in Waco, Texas. At the time, my family and I were living in Lincoln, NE. In her newsletter my friend began to describe a new ministry that she was involved with and how it had grabbed her heart. She described feeling like she had no choice but to join God in taking the message of Jesus to the marginalized of society, the places that the church often shuns or turns from because of shame and embarrassment, the places where Jesus himself would go if he was walking around today. The description of beautiful gift bags filled with fragrant lotions, cute jewelry, pink lip gloss, fancy nail polish, and of course, delicious chocolate taken in and handed out with extreme, non-judgmental, freely given love captured my attention. But, what captured my heart was that they were taking these gift bags into men’s clubs to pass them out to strippers.
As I was reading the article in the newsletter, I began to cry and asked God to give me the ability, means, and passion to take gifts to women in the clubs in my city. The story of the woman that washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears continued to come to my mind. You see, I am that woman. I’ve come to Jesus so many times with shame, guilt, and self condemnation. He continually lifts my head, looks at me, and offers his grace and forgiveness. As I was praying for the opportunity to be part of a ministry like this I continued to picture women bowed at his feet, and Jesus taking them, lifting their heads, and changing their lives.
My family along with ten friends, moved to Tucson, AZ in November 2004 to start a church called Second Mile. We were basing much of our ministry philosophy on Matthew 5:41 where Jesus commands that you serve people not in just the first mile, but you go ahead and go two miles. Because I’m a very passionate, outspoken (some say loud-mouthed) person, I immediately started talking about taking gifts to men’s clubs. In Tucson, it doesn’t take long to notice that there are men’s clubs everywhere. As a church, we decided Easter would be our first trip to a club to meet and give gifts to dancers.
I’ll never forget the first time I was sitting in the parking lot waiting to go in and ask the managers permission to bring gifts to the women. It was the Thursday before Easter. We were hoping to bring the gifts to pass out on Saturday night. My friend/accountability support was coming from work, so I had the opportunity to sit, pray, and shake. What would I say? Would the things I had rehearsed easily come out of my mouth? Would the manager know I was sincere with no ulterior motives? Would he believe me when I told him that we didn’t want to preach, just give out awesome gifts? Would he in fact give us permission to come back on Saturday?
The look on his face when I began to tell him that we were from a church called Second Mile and we wanted to bring these gifts (I carried a sample for him to look through) to give to the dancers the night before Easter was priceless. “You want to do What?” I explained that we knew the dancers would work long hard hours and probably wouldn’t have time to do the “traditional” Easter thing, so we decided to bring Easter to them. I again asked permission. Through his shock he said yes, and then showed my friend and me around the club so that we would know where to go when we showed up with 50 beautiful gift bags that weekend. It was the beginning to a journey that I could not have predicted, understood, or imagined.
We have grown to giving out 120 gift bags, 15 manager gifts, and 25 baked good bags for bouncers and male employees. We will be adding another club, 50 bags, at Christmas. Our main gift giving happens at Christmas and Easter, but we will start taking much smaller gifts throughout the year starting in October. We pray, weep, strategize, and continue to ask Jesus to give us his love for these women. We go to them not because we think we are better, not because we think what they do is evil, not because we want to get them out of the business. We go to them because we truly desire for them to experience the extreme, non-judgmental, freely given love of Christ. We go to them because Jesus has asked us to go EVEN IF we never see anyone give their life to him. We go to them because we believe Jesus is on the move and as we are passionately pursuing him we must be on the move with him.