Community Soapbox by Brooke Perry

Yes, it's true. I went inside a strip club for the very first time with my best friend (and pastor's wife) and three other ladies from our church on Saturday. And it was the most incredible experience I've had in a long time! Sit back, relax, and I'll tell you a little story about it...

I'm convinced that women are some of the most powerful weapons in God's army. I love men! Don't get me wrong, but being a woman is absolutely no easy task, and I believe that is because satan slams us down every single chance he gets. And all too often we let him. We judge, we backstab, we gossip, we relentlessly compare, and we do it all with a smile on our face and regret in our heart. I'm not innocent of this, but I do believe I have found an extremely rare gem of a group of women who are real about our tendencies to do all of these things and more. We are equipped with and willing to use a fierceness that gives us all the strength to fight against those tendencies and love each other powerfully out of those stereotypes.

I think we can all agree that when the idea was presented that God just might be calling us to reach out to dancers at strip clubs that our minds jumped (even if just for a second, or more...let's be real here) to the stereotypes that we all hold about 'those types of girls.' In a strange turn of events however, I think it was that initial stereotype that lit the fire underneath me to seek out what exactly God was telling us to do for these sisters of ours and how on earth we were even going to begin to do whatever that was.

A little over two weeks ago I felt as if God told me to keep driving down McLoughlin when I was driving from downtown to my house, and He impressed on my heart to just start counting the strip clubs. I think I counted four or five and was quickly informed when talking with my friend Nicole who has lived in this area longer, that there are many more than that. So that next day I talked with Jeff and Liz about this strange feeling that God was stirring in me about something the women in our church were possibly called to do...emphasis on WOMEN....:)

Something is a very strange huge and vague place to start, but Liz put it out there anyway to our women's group that next week that we felt like God was telling us do this vague something and encouraged us all to pray about it. God had been doing little things to confirm in our hearts that we were on the right track by giving us contacts like friends of friends or sisters of women in our church etc...that had been or are currently dancers, and asking them what would have made them feel loved. Honestly? The very things that they were coming back with were exactly what makes any woman feel loved:

• Being genuine with no agenda (check)

• Leaving stero-types at the door, or better yet, sending them straight to where they came from (check)

• Wanting to feel thought about and cared for (check)

• Pretty stuff that makes you feel beautiful (check)

• Chocolate /- (insert something sweet that you love) - (check)

Saying that we felt called to reach out to strippers was hardly any different then the calling we had all felt on our hearts for months now, and that was to mend this whole fight between women that comes as a part of almost any group of women you get together. So why not include dancers into the mix? These are our neighbors, these women are in our community, and these women deserve to be loved as much as my sisters, friends and roommates.

Obviously it just carries a bit of a shock factor with it...which isn't always a bad thing in my opinion. We had mixed reactions in our group when talking about this, which was not bad because this amazing group is learning what it's like to disagree in love and still support each of our own callings. That's another beautiful thing to highlight about these ladies that I'll need to do in another blog. But we all could agree on one thing: that we needed an open door!

We're not stupid, but we will take risks if God points us in the direction of one...we needed Him to point.

And point He did.

Three days later we had scheduled our monthly 'basket' day or whatever you want to call it. All month ladies give us names of family members, friends, co-workers or complete strangers that they've heard about or just met that could use a little love! That's it. No agenda, no strings attached, no 'come to our church,' etc. ... Just love. We all donate items we have or go raid the dollar tree or other places where you can get lotions, candles, books, movies, etc...women make cookies, pick flowers, buy grocery and gas gift cards and all pile it onto a table and we start dividing up the loot into these baskets for these beautiful women (and some men, although we pretty much stick to stuffing their baskets with cookies and alcohol haha, something tells me they wouldn't appreciate nail polish as much...) And then we go deliver them with a smile and a note just telling them they're being thought about and they were worth our time and money to put this together for them. It's had amazing results :) People are feelin' the love which is what our vision was for this.

We gathered at my house on Saturday to make these baskets and Sierra showed up with a message on her phone that she said she needed Liz and I to listen to. On this message her friend Joy who she works with. Joy had contacted a friend she went to high school with who is a bouncer at the closest strip club to my house and began to relay that not only the bouncer, (Mike a.k.a. Motor Mouth), was excited and open to the idea of us bringing gifts for the girls that worked there, but the owner and both managers were open to it as well. They practically invited us to come over, they'd waive the cover charge and we could place a basket on each one of the girls stations and talk to any of them who were currently working at that time.

Not only did we get to put together baskets for nine ladies who really needed to be shown love that day, but God provided for 16 more that we decided to take to this strip club! I literally just found out today that there are 15 dancers who work there and one female bartender (who was there and we gave a basket to)....what?! God was so amazing. He actually provided the perfect amount of stuff for the perfect number of girls without us even knowing it! Another confirmation right there!

We decided we'd meet back at my place after delivering some of the other baskets to the lovely ladies who had been on our list and go together to the strip club and deliver the baskets for the dancers. Danielle, Nicole, Kimmi, Liz and I made our way over to the club with baskets in our hands and butterflies in our stomachs. My favorite quote of the whole afternoon was Nicole as soon as she was walking in the doors....'...aaand we're committing'...

This was almost too easy. God opened a door and literally ushered us right on in. I was talking to Liz afterwards and we were actually hoping it would have been more of a fight! It would have made for a better 'sacrificial' story ;) We came in and the only resistance we got was when they thought we were selling the baskets. As soon as we said they were gifts they welcomed us back to the dressing room where I have never seen such a combination of confusion and gratitude as I did from those girls. One wouldn't stop hugging us and they all kept asking us over and over why we would do something so nice like that.

One girl had three kids and was so excited. She kept saying that she was going to make this her Mother's Day gift because it was the only one she'd get and how she'd never had such a nice surprise and present before. Antoher girl actually asked where we met for church (after I RELUCTANTLY gave away that we were actually from a church, we didn't want them to think we had an agenda...) and asked if she could bring in donations for the next time we do baskets because she wanted to give back to them. She gave me her dancer name when we first met her, and by the time we left when I joked that I would remember at least one of her names she specifically asked me to call her by her real one. She wanted to be seen for who she really was.

We stayed for about 20 minutes and chatted with the girls while they got ready for their shifts and then gave them all hugs and left. We put my email on there that had SL2's name in it, but that was the only reference to church that was in those baskets. Other than that we honestly just wanted them to know that we thought they were worth the effort as much as anyone else is to serve and love and create relationships with. That's what Jesus did isn't it? If you're wondering what the correct answer's YES. We offered babysitting to them for their kiddos if they needed it or just our information for if they ever needed anything that we would be happy to try and help.

As we were walking out we waved to a girl who was hanging from the pole and then was stopped by Motor Mouth and 'Sarge,' one of the managers on duty who's retired from the military. They were actually encouraging us to continue to love on these girls and told us they'd help with getting us info on which girls needed specific things (one stereotype that's not always true is that they make a ton of money off of this; they told us some girls are on food stamps right now) and which girls have kids and so on and so forth. We even exchanged phone numbers wtih Motor Mouth so he could tell us the best times to come in based on the needs we were serving. They basically created an opening for us to go in whenver we wanted to go hang out with the girls in their dressing rooms and just build relationships with them. WHAT?!?!

God is so flipping cool.

This morning Liz had the amazing idea to bring coffee and flowers to Joy who created this open door for us. We just wanted to tell her thank you and encourage her that her prayers for Motor Mouth and her passion to see these kinds of places gone is being seen and heard by God, and that she is playing a powerful role in this story of redemption that is just at the beginning.

She informed us that Motor Mouth actually once wanted to be a pastor.

I believe he will be.

With everything in me. I believe that Love, capital L, a.k.a. Jesus is powerful. I believe He's moving. I belive He places 'bizarre' ideas in brains and hearts that are willing to go there so that not one person will be lost on our watch. I believe that those women were some of the most beautiful, sweet and gracious people I have ever met. I believe that even the ladies who don't feel called to this particular ministry are going to be used by supporting us, their sisters in Christ, in a prayerful and huge way so that we have the strength and encouragement to move forward in this, and that we will do the same for them in the areas and people that God is calling them to reach.

It's a beautiful exchange. It's a beautiful love. It's different than any other love I've experienced so far in my life, and I found it in a strip club.

Brooke Perry is outreach coordinator for a small church called SL2 that is meeting in Alder Creek Middle School in Clackamas, an offshoot of larger church, SouthLake Foursquare, in Lake Oswego.

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