121 || Scarlet Hope: Feeding Strippers
The seedy underworld of strip clubs is not exactly where you think you might find Christians hanging out on a Friday night, and normally, you’d be right. But if you thought that about this ministry, you’d be incredibly wrong. For volunteers at Scarlet Hope, Friday night at the strip clubs is the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel with those who need it most — women trapped in hopeless circumstances, believing the lies of the enemy about their self-worth and their own value and potential.
Rachelle Starr is the founder and executive director of Scarlet Hope, an outreach ministry in Louisville, Kentucky that demonstrates Jesus’ love for women working in clubs and lounges. Scarlet Hope volunteers become the hands and feet of Jesus, even His voice, to the women trapped in a world of sexual immorality.
I tried to envision how someone would just march into a strip club and start sharing the Gospel without either being kicked out, or worse, beaten up. I kept imagining ways it could be done, but I never found one that made any sense to me. But then I met Kendall Perchinski, a Scarlet Hope volunteer, who quickly became my eyes into an industry I never thought to visit.
Tackling the Sex Industry Epidemic
Kendall was 18 when she learned about the world of sex-trafficking. Horror-stricken at the thought of women and children being trapped in a lifestyle with no hope, she was determined to find a way to help them. The problem seemed overwhelming, and she soon realized her solution — a club she started in college to combat the epidemic — was not the answer.
Undeterred, Kendall kept searching until she found Scarlet Hope. Now a devoted volunteer, Kendall says, “Scarlet Hope has changed my life. It has shown me that God does not need me, but He allows me to become a part of what He is doing.”
It makes a daunting, world-wide epidemic easier to address when we realize God is in control, and He doesn’t ask us to do it all; He merely asks us to participate.
Just a Meal, But More Than a Meal
Scarlet Hope consists of teams, usually just two women, who volunteer to go to different strip clubs on a Thursday night bringing meals for the strippers. The meal, usually set up in the dressing room, provides Scarlet Hope’s volunteers with an opportunity to talk with the dancers.
Kendall has found that many of the women are open to conversation. She begins the conversation by asking how they are doing, if they have kids, what they like to do outside of work. Kids are an easy way to get many of the dancers to talk. Most of them are mothers. Scarlet Hope volunteers never push a Jesus agenda at the women. They know that tactic could result in a lost opportunity to establish an open dialogue and develop relationships. Instead, their approach is gentler.
Scarlet Hope volunteers build relationships, listen, and have open conversations with the women. They listen without judgment or admonishment. Once friendships are built, and the time is right, they share Jesus. They meet each woman several times before helping them out of the lifestyle. Sometimes it takes years. But, sadly, some never leave the sex industry.
A Man Followed Them
Scarlet Hope’s mission is to take the love and hope of Jesus primarily to women, yet Kendall has seen how God works to reach men in the clubs as well.
One Thursday night, she and another volunteer had to set the meal up at the bar instead of in the dancers’ dressing room. As they served the meal to the club’s workers, a man across the room watched them closely. At first, she thought he was a bouncer because the bouncers in these clubs tend to be very protective of the church ladies who serve meals and talk with their dancers. As the night progressed, the man’s attention on them never ceased.
When Kendall and her friend left the club, he followed them. Still thinking he may be a bouncer, the ladies walked to their vehicle. Then the man pulled something from his pocket. Leery, Kendall tried to leave quickly because she knew things could get awkward. Volunteers had been mistaken for dancers or prostitutes before.
Finally, the man called out to them and asked them to wait. They hesitated and stopped, not knowing what to expect. When he caught up to them, he said, “I have been watching you all night and how you have been ministering to these ladies in this place. You know, I used to be really involved in church, and I have really fallen away right now.”
He told them the Lord was telling him to give them money so they could keep doing what they were doing, and he handed them $200 to contribute to Scarlet Hope’s ministry work. Kendall said it was a huge encouragement as she saw firsthand what God can do through the ministry. He was not only working in the lives of the women who work in those clubs, but He was working in the lives of the men there as well.
Stripped of Dignity, Clothed with Love
Many of the women working in strip clubs and brothels scattered throughout the world do it because they feel they do not have a choice. Some have children to feed, others have escaped abusive relationships or have been abandoned altogether. They work because they feel they must do something, anything, to support themselves.
The men who ogle the strippers are caught in their own battles and their own issues, and they desperately need Jesus as well.
So what do we do? Do we judge them? Do we forget about them? Or do we offer them hope and love in the name of Jesus? The volunteers at Scarlet Hope choose to love as Jesus loves, like He modeled for us while in this world. He did not hate the sinners. He loved them, spent time with them, and shared the love of God with them. He ministered to their souls.
And that’s what the volunteers at Scarlet Hope do with their meals, conversation and offers of relationship.
Learn more about Scarlet Hope by clicking here.