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.
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.