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Category: Freedom Stories

God Redeems EVERY Part – Stefanie’s Story

Stefanie Jeffers Pic[6]“Well, you all know I used to be a stripper,” declared the woman sitting next to me at a Bible study I had been invited to lead that evening. She then followed this shocking statement by quoting verses from the Book of Zephaniah. She spoke with clarity and passion and her obvious love of Jesus was contagious. Let me be very candid. I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around all of this. I had never met a stripper, not even an ex-stripper. Throw verses from Zephaniah on top of the situation and it was almost more than this little naive mind could take. “Who IS this woman,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got to meet her and hear more of her story.” That is how I met Stefanie.

I describe Stef as someone who “oozes Jesus.” She is radical in her love of God and love of people. She’s very honest about where she’s been, how she got there and the One who saved and transformed her. I’m privileged to go into local strip clubs with her through a new ministry to strippers in Indianapolis. (More about that in my next blog.) She is the epitome of a living, breathing message of hope for the dancers we meet. John Wesley says, “Catch on fire and others will love to come watch you burn.” Stef is on fire for Jesus and I get to watch her burn inside those clubs and IT IS POWERFUL. This is her story:

Three years.  That is how long it took for me to lose almost everything.  And it took almost losing it all for me to turn back to Jesus.

The day I walked out of my job as a paralegal I went to a gravesite to mourn the loss of a child I carried for 4 months but would never have.  It was the day my child should have been born.  I grieved not only for the baby I would never see, but for a life that looked nothing like I dreamed it would.  I was a divorced, single mother of a beautiful daughter.  Dead was the dream that marriage would last forever.  The new man in my life, the father of the child I lost, was abusive and gone.  Dead was the plan that I could create a new family for myself and my daughter.  So on that day, in the pouring rain, I cried out in agony for so many things and I never once called upon the name of the Lord.  Instead, I listened to the whisper of the enemy and walked right into darkness.

At the age of thirty, I walked into a strip club for the first time.  It seems like that should be the day when I came to the end of myself, but it was just the beginning.  For three years I sold little pieces of myself and my soul a dollar at a time.  Each time I kneeled to pick up money that was thrown at me, I threw away another piece of me.  My name would ring out many times as the DJ would call me to the stage, but I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  The only thing I knew was the more money I made the more worthless I became.  I was bitten, grabbed, pinched, groped, degraded, and humiliated and this was a world I walked into willingly.  My surroundings had been dark for so long that my eyes became accustomed to it and I didn’t even realize how lost I was.  What I knew, though, was when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself at all.  The empty shell of a woman looked nothing like the child who once loved Jesus with her whole heart.

It became impossible to separate the darkness of my life from the light of the life I had with my daughter. I tried, but as much as I loved her, I didn’t create a home for her that she deserved, so I lost her.  The day she left to go live with her dad and stepmom almost killed me.  If it hadn’t been for the daily phone calls, the weekly visits, and the weekend visitation I would have just let go and ended it.  My life was filled with a crushing despair that I numbed with drugs.  I lost my daughter, my home, and most of my possessions.  I lost friends.  I disappointed my family.  This is how far I had to fall to land on my knees and cry out to Jesus to save me.  I walked out of the club and left all of my costumes and shoes behind.  I have often wondered how long little pieces of me were walking around the bar on the backs of other broken women.  I walked out, turned back to God, and swore I would never return.

It has been ten years since I left the clubs for what I thought was the last time.  It has been an amazing journey.  One step at a time, God has restored my life in ways I could never have imagined.  I am now married, have a new daughter, and the daughter I lost has been back home for six years.  God’s mercy is not just for me.  I will never pretend that I deserve any of the grace He has shown me.  Without Him I am nothing.  But it was never too late for me to discover His life-changing love, and I have a burning desire to share that with other hurting women.  I have been rescued, redeemed, and restored and THAT is why I have returned to strip clubs.  The love and hope that I know is for everyone who reaches out to accept it.  Someone, though, has to be the one to share Light in dark places, so I go to familiar places I never dreamed I would return to and share Jesus and His love with other women just like me.

Stepping out in faith, saying yes to God’s call on my life, and following Him back into the clubs has been a blessing I could never have anticipated.  To be able to speak the name of Jesus in a place where I once thought I could hide from Him is amazing.  The first club I stepped into many years after leaving the strip world was the same club where I used to dance. I remember getting ready at home that night and how different it was from years ago when I would be getting ready in the club’s dressing room. I put on my jeans, t-shirt and flip-flops. I walked in there as a woman changed by the power of God. He has redeemed everything. What used to be a private dance area for me has become a place where I have been given the chance to share the Gospel with a sweet dancer who needs to know she is loved right where she is. I have even recently been given money within those walls, not for dancing, but for ministry. Yes, He redeems every part and I am so overwhelmed and grateful.

Stef_FFlunchWhen I look in the mirror now all these years later, I see someone who is loved by God.  I see someone who finally accepts His love, full to overflowing, and I share it with others…one step at a time, one club at a time, one woman at a time…in the name of Jesus and for His glory. 

Making All Things New

It’s Holy Week and I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed at all this week represents.  Where would we be without Christ’s great act of love and mercy on the cross?

Brian and I have a tradition.  Every year around Good Friday we watch “The Passion of the Christ” movie.  It has proven to be such a great reminder of what Christ endured for us and it jolts us out of our complacency.  As ridiculous as it sounds there are times when the Passion story has become way too familiar to me and I’m dangerously close to becoming numb to it.  This movie cuts right to my heart and causes me to feel again.  And make no mistake, when it comes to Christ’s act on the cross; we all NEED to feel something about it.

So much of the movie stirs my heart, but perhaps the scene that has impacted me the most is when Christ is carrying His cross through the streets and his mother, Mary, is trying to catch-up to her son to see him face to face one more time.  She finally reaches Him as he is struggling with the cross and He falls to the ground.  He is bloody from the brutal torture He has already experienced.  Their faces meet and He looks into His mother’s tear-stained eyes and says, “See mother, I make all things new.”  In my opinion it’s one of the most powerful moments in the entire movie.  I weep every time I see it.  I am overwhelmed when I think about what it took to make me new.  Jesus experienced such brutality for me…in my place.  That’s what it took to make me new.  Oh, the price He paid.  It brings me to my knees with a strange mixture of sorrow and gratitude.

I recorded a song a few years ago written by Janet Paschal called, THE BODY AND BLOOD.  Part of the lyric says:

This is my body broken for you.
For all you’ve been and all you’ve been through.
This is my blood and when you’ve reached the end
I offer you again the body and blood.

For all you’ve been and all you’ve been through...I’ve sung that line hundreds of times and I still get choked up.  This song helps to remind me of just how serious my sinful nature is.  Christ died not just because of the things I’ve done, but also because of everything I’ve been…a sinful human being.  Oh how He loves us!

I hope you will take some time during the next few days to really contemplate what Christ did for you on that cross more than 2,000 years ago.  When you spend time at the foot of the cross, it makes the celebration of Easter so much sweeter.  Thank God the story doesn’t end at the cross.  It ends with an empty tomb and our risen Savior who is alive and well and sitting at the right hand of the Father!  Wow!  Thank you, Jesus, for doing whatever it took to make us new!

My First Blog….The Road To Freedom

Singing "Finally Free" in Fort Myers, FL

Hello and thanks for reading my first blog!  As the months go by you’ll see that freedom will be a recurring theme for me, hence the title FINALLY FREE.  I’ll talk about other things that I’m passionate about as well, (like worship, music, food and books!), but the topic of freedom will be one you’ll see again and again.  God has changed my life and set me free from some things that kept me bound for way too long and now I believe He’s calling me to share my story with others in the hopes that they’ll also choose His freedom.  

I’ll talk more about my own story in future blogs, but today I just want to remind you about a powerful truth from the Bible about freedom.  In John 8:36 Christ says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In my travels I’ve discovered there are a lot of bound people walking around the earth and that includes those that call themselves Christ followers.  I can say that based on my own personal experience of bondage.  God never intended for us to live that way.  Christ came to set the captives free.  The strange thing is that many of us don’t even know we’re bound.  I got so comfortable with my own chains that I didn’t even realize how heavy they had become.  The world sneaks up on us gradually and puts another chain around us and before we know it we have so many chains we can’t even take a step forward anymore.

There are so many things that can bind us.  Worry, fear, anxiety, depression, bitterness, addiction, low self-esteem, pride, failure to forgive…..the list goes on and on.  Christ came to heal and to give us the power to overcome.  He came to make all things new, including us!  I’m so thankful He wants to do that and He accomplishes it on a daily basis in many of our lives!  

One of the things I love about traveling is getting to meet so many new people and getting to hear the stories of what God has done in their own lives.  There are many out there that have powerful testimonies of how God has set them free, so while I will continue to share little pieces of my own freedom story through this blog I would love to hear about your story as well.  How has God set you free?  How has He changed you?  What has He taught you?  What is He doing in your life at this very moment?   Maybe you’re in the process of breaking free right now, where are you in that process?  There is great power in our stories and God uses them to help encourage others and give them hope.  I’ll look forward to hearing the great things God is doing in your lives and sharing more of my own story and journey to freedom in the coming weeks!

Would you share your story with me in the comment section?