February 16, 2018
When I became a part of Justice 180, one of the biggest questions I was asked was, why? Why would you wake up in the middle of the night to talk to girls selling themselves on the street? What difference does it actually make? Deep inside, it's so easy to explain to myself why I do this. God has given me eyes to see these girls - and their customers - the way He does. I know how much they need to be told that they are valued and loved, that they are seen, and that their lives matter; I even needed to hear those things in multiple seasons of my life. Those reasons are often enough for me, but sometimes God allows us to see a bit of the fruit of our ministry and it's for those times that we do what we do. Friday night, during outreach with our partner ministry, Treasures, we had the privilege of seeing a glimpse of that fruit.
Jenny, myself, and one other girl - who actually used to be in the industry but was able to leave three years ago because of the Treasures ministry - were out for our first time during that outreach. The moment we entered the club we had God's favor entirely upon us. We got in with no problem at all, even meeting the manager and getting his personal permission to go to the back of the club where the girls' dressing room was. The bartender, someone who was familiar with us and was impacted greatly by the Treasures ministry, talked to the girls upstairs in the dressing room to come down and see us. One by one they came down, tackling each stair in their platform heels to talk to us. Towards the end, we were told that there were two girls still up there and that they would be down soon. After several minutes of waiting, we decided we would leave a couple gifts for them at the bottom of the stairs and head back to the shuttle. Just as we set the gifts down, we heard them come down the stairs. Excitedly, we hand them the gifts and their facial expressions immediately reward us for sticking around.
"This may not mean much to you, but to me it means everything," one of the girls tells us as she comes close and gives both Jenny and I a hug. She tells us her stage name but immediately tells us her real name because she really loves it and doesn't like people calling her by her stage name. We introduce ourselves and she again reminds us how much it means to her that we were there talking to her, not judging her for what she's doing. "This doesn't mean 'nothing' to us; you are the reason we are here. We do this for a living because you are loved, you are valued, and you are purposed," we tell her.
Her 18-year-old heart becomes so evident as she tells us how much she wishes she could be like every other girl her age, talking about school instead of her job as a stripper. But, with her economic status, being the child of an immigrant family, and needing to provide money both for her family and her school tuition she felt she had no other choice. Over and over again she tells us that she desperately needs someone to tell her that what she's doing, who she is as a person is okay. She explains how hard it is to fight the shame and embarrassment she feels looking into her dad's eyes after coming home from work, knowing what she had to do to provide for the family. Devastated inside, I fought hard to keep my own tears from matching hers; I couldn't imagine the heartbreak my dad would feel if I were ever in that position. "You are not what you do for a living," we say as her eyes begin to allow tears to roll down her cheeks. Her vulnerability humbled me; Jenny and I were strangers, yet we were people she felt safe opening up to and even crying in front of.
She asks if we could be someone she calls to talk to when she really just needs to be assured of who she is. Without hesitation, we both say yes, get her number, and encourage her to attend the support group Treasures puts on each week for the women in the industry. She looks at the card and tells us she's going to put it in her journal to remember that night forever.
Why do we do what we do? Because despite the times where we don't get to see the fruit of our ministry, there are times we do and those times leave us speechless and completely in awe of God's goodness and heart for those girls. He is pursuing them day after day and we get to be vessels of that pursuit. Partnering with Treasures is incredible and I love that we get to work together with God's heart to fight trafficking in Los Angeles. God is faithful in our persistence and cooperation. He is reaching these girls and His heart is beautifully tender for them.