Holy Week in Unholy Places.

Today I was given the most beautiful gift.  Better than the best Easter basket you’ve ever been surprised with on Easter morning.  I delivered Easter baskets to strippers.

Captain Sandra Pawar (of The Salvation Army Kroc Center here in Southwest Atlanta) invited me to join in her ministry to women involved in the s-*-x trade industry here in our neighborhood.  Captain Pawar has been involved with these precious women -trafficked and trapped- for some time now.  Her direct ministry in the area’s strip clubs began with a delivery of cupcakes when a dancer’s birthday had been announced on the club’s billboard.  After the cupcakes came the first delivery of Easter baskets for the ladies and their children.  Then a few more cupcake deliveries, prayer walks, tents with hot cocoa for prostitutes on our streets at 3:00 in the morning, community partnerships…her heart’s work has blossomed into something beautiful among the thorns.

Captain Pawar welcomed me at the Kroc around 2:00 p.m., and I was so excited to share this experience with two of my classmates, Annie and Heather, whom I dearly love.  We walked into a conference room to a table filled with this year’s Easter basket swag.  Facial masks, scented soaps, candy, nail polish—everything to make a lady feel loved.  There was also one additional teammate for today’s mission that I didn’t know I’d have the privilege of meeting.  She was stunning.  A beautiful young woman named Shanelle.  We all set to work filling bags with their goodies, and as we packed I learned I had a lot in common with my new friend.  Our daughters have the same name, she’s adopted, her brother’s name is the same as my son’s.  As we finished packing the bags, I realized through more conversation that we were delivering the bags to the place where she worked.   She was a dancer, herself, and was packing these bags to minister to her co-workers. 

You see, Shanelle got connected with the Army’s ministry a few months back, and is growing in Christ.  She has been struggling to find a regular job to support her, her grandmother, and her three children.  It’s tough to find much in this economy in this city.  So every few weeks she has to go dance again to pay for her water bill, her car insurance, her rent.  And every time she has to use her beauty and her body to provide for her family, she is crushed and cries the tears of brokenness.  God has changed her heart so profoundly that it aches when she works in that dark, smoky tomb.

As we prayed over the bags, she began to cry for the girls that were going to receive them.  She prayed for their hearts and their addictions.  She prayed that she would have a ministry to help them see the Truth.  She preached to us.  She testified.  And I saw resurrection power flowing through her veins.

I rode in the car with her to the club.  We got inside and were able to get three bags in the hands of a few of the dancers before her manager very plainly kicked us out.  Shanelle was heartbroken.  She was embarrassed by his colorful explanation of why we weren’t welcome.  She refused to dance there again.  She.  Came.  Home.  With.  Us.  ::Can you hear the sounds of chains breaking?::

Before we got out of the parking lot, one of the dancers that Shanelle particularly wanted to reach, Staxx, called her and asked if she, too, could get an Easter basket.  A grown woman who is making $400 a night is asking for our little Easter basket.  Can that tell you any more clearly that the women in your community walking this path need your love?  So, Shanelle put a basket aside for Staxx.

We picked up some Jamaican food and went to a second club, one that Captain Pawar has worked a long time to build a relationship with.  They respect her and let her make deliveries often.  We all came walking down the street, and quickly the bouncer opened the door for us like honored guests.  The DJ and bartender (both women) welcomed us in and we walked to the back dressing area to leave the gift bags as surprises for the girls as they arrived.  Heather and I exchanged smiles as we prayer walked the entire way back to the dressing room.  It felt like being in the enemy’s camp, all the while holding within me the very Victor that has won the battle with His own blood.  As we walked away the bouncers received our wishes for a “Happy Easter,” and even wished us a “Happy Easter” in return.  “Happy Easter” spoken in front of a gentleman’s club—Holy week in unholy places. 

Later on Shanelle was able to come and worship at the Kroc and watch the Passion of Christ.  She has a water bill due next week that’s $250 (she has a leak in her house that she doesn’t have money to fix).  When she walked away from dancing this afternoon, she got in her car and left an opportunity to make nearly twice that tonight.  She is trusting the Lord for provision, even though she has no idea how He will make that happen.

As she got up from a time of prayer at the altar at the movie's end, I told her that now she dances for Jesus.  The smile and tears on her beautiful face sparkled like jewels on the crown of a princess.  That seems fitting because that’s exactly what she is—a princess.  A child of the Risen King.

Ministry Men.

His people, the reward for His suffering.