The Choice is Ours

Gender violence, the sexual abuse of women and children, is the #1 factor in global poverty.

A fact of this magnitude and certainty isn’t forgiving. It doesn’t allow us to breeze on by or offer easy explanations. This staggering truth forces us to stop in our tracks, to think hard, to zoom out and acknowledge with humility the single unifying thread that runs so scarlet through our world: when we think about alleviating poverty and all of its systemic issues, we must look at gender violence.

I am deeply saddened by all that has surfaced this past week at Baylor University (my alma mater). For those on the outside, the drama is almost intoxicating. A president fired! A beloved football coach disowned! Hitting the “retweet” button feels like serving up a dose of well-deserved “justice”.

But as we wait for more juicy details to surface, I can’t help but notice a pattern amongst the reactionaries, the satirical quotes around “Christian” University, and the sideswiping comments, of “Art Briles is the devil,” or “Karma has come to Judge Ken Starr.” We did it with Penn State, we did it with “Johnny Football”, and now we’re doing it with Baylor.

I have to wonder if our hunger for drama and justice is actually in danger of unwittingly exploiting the stories at hand. Though many are well-intentioned, it’s far too easy to use someone else’s story for our own gain, our own moral satisfaction, or own personal soapbox. We must be careful in our hunger for justice that we don't begin presuming judgements upon others. This stands true for victims as well as leadership. This is a heavy, horrible situation all the way around and reveling in the drama serves no one but our own selfish appetites.

Gender violence is bigger than Ken Starr, more influential than Art Briles, and covers far more ground than Baylor. Gender violence is a global problem, and the solution begins with YOU.

Baylor has always been a strong partner with Jesus Said Love. A number of my good friends and acquaintances serve in various capacities at this great University. We host internships for multiple departments each semester; we present at Chapel; we teach guest lectures in various classes, including a course on Human Sexuality. In this particular class, we have a brief opportunity to connect with students and student athletes to discuss commercial sex exploitation and its undercurrents, including pornography and its role in the demand for commercial sex.

During a Q&A session last semester, as the scandal was heating up, a male student asked "how do we change the objectification of women?"  I answered: the true agent of change is you, me, the individual. I am presented with the entire buffet of choices every day, from the most inconsequential kind to the life vs death kind. I choose to shower. I choose to pay the bills. I choose to not hit my kids when they frustrate me. I choose not to drive 70 mph in a school zone. I choose to stand up for the voiceless and the abused. I choose not to be inappropriate with another woman and violate my marriage. I choose not to speak to my wife in a demeaning tone during an argument. The list goes on...but the point is: all day, every day, I choose.

And so do you.

Women are not objects, nor are they trophies. They are not reactionary sex toys or indentured servants to supply man’s needs or wants. They are not secondary. They are not an inconvenience when they become pregnant, nor are they simply "support role". They are daughters, mothers, wives, sisters, CEOs, coaches, entrepreneurs, pastors, judges, survivors, humans, made in the image of God.

Changing your thinking changes your behavior, and that will change the world.

God have mercy on the victims at Baylor and throughout the universities nationwide, both the seen and unseen. God have mercy on the offenders, the seen and unseen. God have mercy on the past and present leadership: the ones culpable and the ones unjustly dismissed. God have mercy on us all.

May we all choose to Free Her.

Brett Mills | Co CEO

Jesus Said Love

The Addictive Nature of Victim Mentality

What kind of power have we been granted?

As humans, we love power. We’re drawn to it in others, and we’re thirsty for it ourselves. Even those of us who hate to admit it find ourselves nosing up to approval or credit or attention.But this kind of furtive, fleeting power isn’t the sort of power Christ gives.

We hear in the scriptures over and over that our greatest strength lies in our greatest weakness. But what does leaning into our “greatest weakness” really mean? Do we roll over on our backs like dogs who’ve behaved badly? Are we fated to become worms and dust, writhing in ashes and sackcloth forever?

On one hand, embracing weakness is a humbling experience in which God’s strength and love are magnified. On the other hand, this holy idea of “weakness” can be twisted into something much more sinister. This “secret place” -- this subtle valley where the shadows seem to lurk -- is more commonly known as Victim Mentality, a place the slithering serpent seems to love to pin us down.

Here are some ways that I have seen Victim Mentality present itself:

  1. Suspicious of others’ intentions.

  2. Thinks little of self, poor boundaries.

  3. Isolates, becomes shame-focused.

  4. Chooses comfort over confrontation (with self and others).

  5. Focused on past events, overwhelmed by present.

  6. Blames others for personal mistakes.

To my dismay, I have seen Victim Mentality eat away at community within the beautiful Body of Christ. It rips potential leaders apart and propels heartfelt servants into burnout. I have dealt with its snares in my own life, and too often I have seen it destroy others.

Victim Mentality’s ferocity is that it doesn’t choose between fear, anxiety, control, power, anger, unforgiveness….it tries to drag you down with the whole lot. This heroine-esque mixture can permeate deep into our mentality. When we really believe this is who we are, Victim Mentality proves truly intoxicating/addictive. We really do become what we believe.

But here is the miracle (and I mean an absolute miracle): I have seen Victim Mentality slither away (actually, flee like the devil looking at the Light) when a Trinity of practices are applied.

The Anecdote for Victim Mentality is:

  1. Gratitude

  2. Ownership

  3. Community

Though these three building blocks may seem heavy and hard...we can do it. We can start blessing the small things, even when our circumstances and our past feel unbearable. We can start by owning our mistakes, screw-ups, and addictions to ourselves! Then, we have to open our mouths and take the risk. We speak the truth aloud. We open ourselves to community. In short, we “confess our sins to each other, that we might be healed.” To quote Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India”: “Sail forth! Steer for the deep waters only!/ Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me;/ For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,/ and we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all!” (249-242).

Regret is a wonderful teacher (this is why I have an issue with the “no regrets” mantra). Through the arms of the Body expressed in a non-judgemental and faithful community, we can find a safe place to confront our weakness. The strong expression of our insufficiency barrels through the door of shame and guilt, revealing a portal to power: Christ’s power. The doorway to weakness and strength is one in the same, not other. Christ offers transformation here - death to life, dark to light. It is through this narrow doorway that we find power backed by abounding love and grace. This power grants us a core authority: a power to rest, to be loved, to obey. We are more than conquers. We really are.

College Station: Update + Thoughts

When I was only 21 years old, I heard God ask me to bring Jesus Said Love to College Station. I was young, not-yet-graduated, and full of hope and passion. I knew I was called to this kind of work...but I had no idea of the profound ways these dancers would forever impact and change my life. Over the course of the next five years, I encountered some of the strongest, most gifted, resilient, and hard-working women I have ever met. They are capable and full of potential, and it has truly been an honor to be invited into their lives.

When I received news that The Silk Stocking (the only strip club in BCS) had shut down, my stomach dropped instantly. The faces of women I call “dear friends” began to run through my mind. These are women I have walked through life with...I have been in delivery rooms, baby showers, and family celebrations. We have laughed, cried, and celebrated triumphs. I was invited in to some of the most sacred spaces with them. My heart twisted and turned as I realized that these friends (most of whom are single mothers) were suddenly unemployed at Christmastime.

Immediately, Jean Marie (College Station’s current City Team Leader) began working furiously with a dancer to organize a dinner for all of the women who worked at the Silk Stocking. The purpose of this dinner was to meet and discuss next steps. We knew many women were feeling a range of emotions- sadness, grief, loss, frustration, anger, relief, excitement...and we wanted to be there to listen and to communicate that great opportunities were ahead for them.

As I was making the drive from Waco to College Station, I prayed that the Lord would give me direction throughout the dinner. He did. After everyone finished the meal, I shared for about ten minutes, then opened the floor up to hear from them. What transpired next completely floored me and proved once again that God just asks me to show up and watch Him work. That kind of humble obedience usually provides you with a front row seat to watch the Kingdom come to earth.

One dancer began to speak directly to all of the other dancers as tears steadily streamed down her face: “I just want to let you guys know that when these women say that they care about us, they really mean it. They have been with me through it all. Listen to them.” Another woman began to unfold the story of how the two of us met five years ago in the Silk Stocking dressing room. “At first when I saw these church women walking into the dressing room, I was scared that I was going to be judged. Then one day I decided to open up to Kellie, and her face never changed. She still wanted to spend time with me and listen to me. They really do mean what they say.”

As the evening continued, they began expressing their hopes and dreams, all intermingled with statements of gratitude and faith. I heard a sort of battle song rumbling beneath the surface. These women are overcomers: they have been through difficulties, undergone traumas, and experienced loss far too great for me to even imagine...yet they have never quit.  

“A lot of people look at us and just see women who take their clothes off...but there is so much more to us than that,” one woman proclaimed. Our friends are ready to step into new doors of opportunity. They are infinitely valuable and have so much to offer. I am watching several of the women choose courage and take risks they never would have imagined. I believe now more than ever that the fear that keeps women in the commercial sex industry will not win in College Station.

Kellie Gibson currently lives in Waco, TX and serves as Jesus Said Love's Director of Outreach, overseeing all JSL City Teams. 

Kellie Gibson currently lives in Waco, TX and serves as Jesus Said Love's Director of Outreach, overseeing all JSL City Teams. 

The community in College Station has begun to come around our friends in beautiful ways. We have begun pairing two “alliance partners” with each dancer. These partners are committed to being a friend and an advocate for each dancer in this season of transition. Business owners, church leaders, college students, and Sunday school groups are all stepping up and investing in these women. I could not be more thankful that College Station believes in these women as much as I do. We have always told the dancers that so many people in the community love and care for them...not just the few “Jesus loves strippers” girls who come into the dressing room once a month. At the dinner, one woman who has been working with our community partners enthusiastically told the other dancers, “There are more of them! There are more people who want to help us.”

As a wide-eyed 21-year-old woman, I committed to starting a JSL team in College Station with hopes to impact lives and bring hope and love to dancers. Little did I know that it would in fact be these women who would teach and change me. Their impact and reach will far extend mine… I am sure of it.

 

 

Hello From the Motherside

I have only known ministry in the context of motherhood. This is entirely appropriate, since over half of the women we reach in the commercial sex industry are moms (and many of those are single moms). That being said, our tribe understands the zaniness that is "The Motherside" - childbearing and working and life and everything in the margins.

This parody started as a totally goofy response to a girls' night invitation. When my original video text went viral on Facebook, we decided to make a full length video with my friends from "The Motherside". The Today Show featured that on their website...crazy!

My sincere hope is that this platform, as weird and zany as it may be, will draw people toward the Kingdom work of JSL. We exist to share the love of Jesus with women in the sex industry...Awakening hope and empowering change not only in their lives, but also within our churches, community, and culture.

- Emily Mills || Singer/Songwriter || Founder of Jesus Said Love

You can view the video above and head to The Today Show's website to see their take on it. 

A Door Closed: The End of "The Silk Stocking" in College Station

Waco, Texas (Dec 3, 2015) – Today, the State of Texas Comptroller’s office seized the property of The Silk Stocking, a local sexually oriented business in College Station, for non-payment of state taxes and penalties.

Obviously, this has come to a shock to many club employees. Tonight, our local Jesus Said Love team in Bryan/College Station is providing dinner for club employees and will help them navigate next steps.

We are asking for any local business owners who would consider employment opportunities for former Silk Stocking employees to please contact Jean Marie Rich, City Team Leader (CTL) for Jesus Said Love in College Station. Please email: JeanMarie@JesusSaidLove.com.

Jesus Said Love asks that the community join in praying for those affected by this closure. Pray that employees would look upon this as an opportunity to experience awakened hope: that they would feel empowered to make positive changes toward a sustainable and powerful future.