Friends, I’ve been overwhelmed in the best way by the response to my original blog, Bunnies, Virgins and Real Men. You all are amazing!! I can’t tell you how many have asked how they can help. We’ve had suggestions of other ways of raising money to help Katherine Stone’s family. One pastor and his wife offered their own home for however long it takes. Others have committed to pray for both Katherine and Dennis. We actually sent the blog to them separately. We haven’t gotten any response, but we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to get it in front of them.
I’m not even sure what to say or how to begin. I’ve gone from shock, to anger and horror, to having an uncontrollable urge to vomit as I watch the depravity of the human soul on full display. I’ve seen some things in the last 2 years that I’ve been working with Stripped Free. Things I wish I could erase from my mind. I’ve seen the demoralization and degradation of human beings. I’ve seen souls shattered and beaten down over and over again. I’ve seen a twisted and horrifying version of a “savior complex” that has left me shaking my head in disbelief. I’ve seen the depths people will go to in order to try to erase past pain and humiliation only to experience deeper levels of shame than they ever anticipated. I’ve seen the worth of a soul reduced to a dollar in some of the darkest environments imaginable. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this………
I want to grow. It’s not possible to just stay at the same place, so I’m always moving whether I recognize it or not. It’s more a matter of what direction I’m moving and growing? Am I growing closer to my Heavenly Father or further away from Him? Do I desire Him more today than I did yesterday or less? Am I seeking His Face or settling just to seek His hand and what He can do for me?
Can a woman in ministry experience a year of stripping? Should she even say such a thing or talk about a subject so controversial? As I sit here at my computer during the month of March 2015, I can without a doubt say, Yes, 2014 was my year of stripping. I’m sure I’ll get a few choice comments about this like I do every blog I’ve written about the Stripped Free Ministry and going into the strip clubs in Indianapolis to minister to the women there, but I hope you’ll continue to read on to make a very important discovery with me. I had no idea when Stripped Free launched back in April of 2014 that God was not only going to do a work in the lives of the women in the clubs we were going to meet, but He was going to do the biggest work in my own heart and life along the way. You see, Stripped Free is not just about the women inside the clubs, it’s about all women and that has become very clear to me over the past few months.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
Do you have things in your past that you want to forget? I know I do. Poor choices, painful circumstances and tragic loss are just a few of the things we all experience that we would rather forget. But what about the pieces of our past that were joyful and brought great pleasure to our lives? The good old’ days as some like to call them. Do you want to forget those?
I find it interesting that Paul says there is one very important thing he does: he forgets. He forgets or neglects the things of the past and instead he pursues or chases the goal ahead. For many of us, it’s hard to let go of the past no matter how good or how tough it was. I know there are events that will always be lodged in our memoires, but I believe Paul is talking about dwelling in the past.
Where are we living? Are our eyes focused on the failures or successes of yesterday or on God and what He is doing today? God doesn’t want us living in the sorrows or the joys of yesterday. We each have a life that is worth living right now. He has something special for us in this current moment, but many of us are missing it because we are so focused on our past.
Both the triumphs and the tragedies of yesterday are done. There’s no going back. We must press on in this new year. There is too much life yet to live and I don’t want to miss any of it, so let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and what He is doing today in our lives. He is working and moving this very day and has a glorious plan for all of us!
Periodically I will have different people guest blogging for me. God has allowed my path to cross with some amazing individuals and I want you to hear what He’s been doing in their lives. This is my friend and ministry partner, Stefanie Jeffers. Let’s Connect On Twitter: @KimTabor@StrippedFree@stefjeff1107
“I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” Psalm 139:11-12
To many, the dark is a frightening place. Darkness blinds our eyes to that which surrounds us and hides our path from us. But for some, the darkness becomes a solitary place of existence where neither good nor evil seem to permeate; instead it seems timeless, even as days and weeks and years go by.
I once attempted to live my life in the duality of both light and dark. In the light, I was with my daughter. I was myself a daughter, an aunt, and a sister. There were times of love and laughter. But just beyond the light were the shadows of the life I lived in the dark. I would remove the cross necklace from around my neck and turn away from the light. In this dark place I was whoever someone wanted me to be. I was a stripper, a prostitute, a fantasy; I was Carmen or I was Stefanie, and in the darkness the line between the two blurred.
Why, then, did I not run towards all that was lovely and full of light? Where in the darkness did I lose so much of myself that it became home? And once you are gone, lost in the dark, how can you ever find your way home? Please understand this about me and many other women who are in similar situations all over the world…there is often comfort in the darkness. In a world without light, there is relief in the belief that you cannot be seen. In dark places, there is no more expectation placed on shoulders that can barely bear the burdens of surviving the day. If there is no expectation, there is no failure. In the dark you can fool yourself into believing that you are courageous, though fear is the major force that drives you. It becomes what you know, and there is always comfort in that which is familiar. Hope is not an option because it is always followed by disappointment.
“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
There is, however, hope. There are moments in this ministry when this hope is received with the urgency of one who hasn’t had something to drink in years. It is so beautiful to see light begin to dawn in someone’s eyes when they realize they are loved by Jesus. There is laughter and tears, triumphs and disappointments, and love and forgiveness when we journey with a woman who chooses the Light. There are also times of great sadness when we see someone turn away from the gift of grace over and over again. Our hearts break when we see someone we love retreat back into the comfort of darkness, fearful of all that the light both promises and exposes.
And still, we will go. We have been called to be carriers of Light into dark places and we have faith in the God of the universe that nothing is impossible and no one is too far gone for His saving grace. We are learning to love like He loves; knowing that to truly love someone where they are at means sometimes watching them travel back into the darkness while still holding their hand, standing still with the ones who can’t believe, and continuing the slow journey towards Jesus with those who are ready.
“I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” John 12:46
Periodically I will have different people guest blogging for me. God has allowed my path to cross with some amazing individuals and I want you to hear what He’s been doing in their lives. This is my friend and ministry partner, Stefanie Jeffers. What a great reminder that God can use us in places where we least expect it!
Every time I say “never” I’m pretty sure God laughs. I had every intention of keeping my past to myself. God had other plans. Since I was sure that would be all He would ask of me, I was completely firm in my stance on never going back into a strip club. Ever. I wonder how big He grinned when I said that. I currently spend every week in strip clubs in Indianapolis, two of which were clubs where I worked. And since I left the industry almost 11 years ago, I have thought that men were most likely the enemy and there was no way possible for them to help strippers. So what did God do? He sent me to talk to a bunch of men. And He laughed.
A man I highly respect who attends my church asked me to come and talk to his men’s small group about Stripped Free and a little about my life when I worked in the sex industry. Now let’s be honest, this had the potential to be extremely awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing. God, however, doesn’t call us to be comfortable and I am willing to look foolish for Him. After all, He rescued me and I love Him. He also calls us sometimes to teach us something new, not to just be the teacher. I learned that night that godly men are real, they care that women in the sex industry are dying without knowing Jesus, and they want to help. Hallelujah.
Every man who was in the room has a daughter, a sister, an aunt, or a mother. They listened to every statistic I shared and were not just interested, but truly compassionate for the many sufferings of women working in the sex industry. They were shocked to discover that a woman who recently asked Jesus into her heart had to return to a strip club out of economic necessity. One man relayed his sadness to me that his new sister in Christ had to go back to a club to work and if he had known, he would have assisted financially. These men asked thoughtful questions and were honest with me about their own pasts and struggles. The men did not just want to know what was going on in the sex industry, but they wanted to know something more…they wanted to know how to help.
Can a man really help a stripper? If you had asked me that a few weeks ago, I am not sure how I would have answered this question. However, today the answer is an emphatic yes! These men have agreed to stand in prayer for us and for the women in the clubs we visit. This is huge! Prayer is a vital component of this ministry. We would never go out on the battlefield without the backing of some serious prayer warriors. The group also gave a substantial monetary donation to this ministry. We are so grateful! There are so many aspects of this ministry that require funding, from outreach to aftercare, and this gift was a wonderful blessing. These men, my friends, are an example of godly men wanting to show the love of Jesus to women. They know that they can’t take part in outreach or in the aftercare pieces of this ministry, but they are going to do what they can to reach one life at a time in the name of Jesus.
If you want to be a part of helping this ministry, would you commit to prayer? You can also help keep the ministry thriving by donating monthly to the Tabor Ministries Kingdom Fund and writing Stripped Free in the comment section. Your gift is tax-deductible. Your financial contribution will help to provide gifts taken into the clubs, immediate economic needs of women trying to exit the industry, continuing Bible study and discipleship, counseling and/or addiction treatment, and help in many other ways as we walk with women on their journey into freedom in Christ. We can’t do this without you! Thank you!
My heart has been so full in recent weeks! Our Stripped Free team has been privileged to get to meet some amazing new women and to begin to develop friendships with them. Starting new relationships can be hard. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. It takes a while to develop trust and trust must be earned. We’re in the middle of that stage right now with many of our new friends. We don’t blame each other for not trusting fully at first. We’ve all been hurt and had our hearts broken by people that were supposed to love us and the sting of that lasts a while. It takes time to get over betrayal, even if the person who betrayed you is no longer in your life. So we’re patient with each other. We take it a step at a time and that’s good. I love these new relationships. They’re rich and they’re honest while at the same time heartbreaking and frustrating. They challenge me and that’s good too.
The other reason my heart is full is because of the generosity of so many in this wonderful city. One of the things I’ve been learning through this ministry is that almost every woman who works in this industry has kids. Many of them work where they do BECAUSE of their kids. They are doing the best they know how to provide for the ones they love most. For many, they see no other option if they want to feed their families. We wanted to help them provide, so we did two back to school drives for the dancers and their kids in the three clubs we go into. We were overwhelmed at the outpouring of love from people from our churches, Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood and Heartland Church on the north side of Indianapolis. And then there were the other organizations that decided to lend a helping hand with supplies: Good Samaritan Network in Fishers, Teachers’ Treasures in Indianapolis and the Officer David Moore Food Pantry. Overall we gave away 137 backpacks full of school supplies and more food than I could keep track of. WOW!!! And most importantly, we were able to let these women and their kids know, once again, that someone cares about them and that they are loved by God and us. The joy on the faces of the kids as they picked out their backpacks is something I will never forget. I think Jesus was standing right there with us smiling over each and every one of those precious children. His light was shining brightly that day! Thank you to everyone who was involved and gave so much of their time and resources. Being His hands and feet is a lot of work, but boy is it worth it!
We are already experiencing new doors that have been opened with some of the dancers because of these events. Please keep praying for us. That we will continue to earn the trust of these new friends and that their hearts will be open to us and most importantly to Jesus, the great Lover of their souls. We couldn’t do this without each of you. Thank you for reading and thank you for your prayers!! Jesus Frees!!
You can find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StrippedFree and Twitter: https://twitter.com/strippedfree
What a week this has been and it’s only Tuesday! I could barely wait to update you on some of the exciting things taking place with Stripped Free. God is working, my friends! There is no doubt about it. Let me start at the beginning……
On Sunday morning I was standing in the hallway at my church when a text came in from, Stef, my ministry partner. It simply read, “She just accepted Jesus.” What??? I started smiling and could barely contain my joy! Stef and I attend different churches. Many of you have read my previous blog posts about our precious friend from the clubs that received Christ as her Savior during Easter weekend at my church, Mount Pleasant Christian Church. Over the last three weeks we have another friend who has been attending with Stef at Heartland Church. We had been praying that she would begin to realize just how loved she is by the God of the universe and that her heart would be open to Him. When I got the text from Stef I stood there in utter amazement at my great big God. He did it again and I praise Him for it!
I then ran to the lobby to find my friend that got saved on Easter to tell her the good news. I found her and relayed the exciting information and she stood there and burst into tears…tears of joy. She said, “I’m just so happy for her!” We stood there and hugged and let the moment really sink in. May those moments never become “old hat.” May they never lose their eternal significance in our eyes. May we always be in a state of spiritual wonder when we hear, once again, God’s love broke through to save and redeem.
The story, however, doesn’t end there. None of our stories ever do. That moment of spiritual transformation is just the beginning for all of us, but our new sister in Christ had a physical transformation to go through as well. As many dancers do, she had a number of tattoos, but there was one in particular that stood out. It ran across the top of her chest and read, “I Don’t Forgive You.” We recently found out the permanent declaration was aimed at her father. Over the last few weeks Stef had been talking with her about God and forgiveness. She seemed to be finding her way to a place of forgiveness and was open to making a change. All of her tattoos tell a story, but this one had a lot of pain attached to it and was in a very visible place. Stef told her she had a friend who was a tattoo artist and suggested they talk to him to see if he could change it into something beautiful. After all, that’s what God does for all of us, isn’t it? He takes something painful and ugly and makes it beautiful in each of our lives. Only He can do that!
They met with the artist and came up with a plan and she loved it, so the physical transformation of her painful past began on Monday. The statement of “I Don’t Forgive You” was turned into a crown of thorns with the word “Forgiven” in the middle. It should be complete in a few weeks. I had the awesome privilege of holding her hand during the actual process and reading the crucifixion story to her so she would understand the significance of the crown that would be permanently emblazoned on her chest. It was a moment I will never forget.
That night at our weekly Bible study, Stef and I joined our two new friends and watched as hugs were exchanged and a precious gift was given from one to the other as a way of celebrating new life. Words of joy and encouragement were shared. At one point in the evening, one friend looked at the other and said, “Now let me tell you about the power of prayer!” Stef and I caught each other’s eye and just smiled from ear to ear as we watched one tell of the great miracles God has already done in her life and assuring the other that great things await her as well.
These women are hungry to know everything about this Jesus that saved them and loves them so deeply. They are excited about how He’s changed their lives already. Their futures are limitless and their eternities are secured. Wow. I stand in awe of my God because He is good, He cares about every detail and He loves with a depth and passion that I will never truly understand this side of Heaven. All I know to do is to love Him in return and be forever grateful.
For more pictures from this incredible transformation, click here: https://t.co/WyLvNsab7M