Sasha from Jesus Loves Strippers is at it again.
“Why are you even wasting your time in that place? They don’t appreciate what you do; they’re just a bunch of nasty hoes!” she insists.
She’s referring to the other women in the strip club where she works, and the one that I frequent as part of an outreach ministry team. As I’ve quickly learned, this place, and others like it, are definitely not sororities. The women who work here are not sharing beauty secrets, vacation pictures, or adding one another to their Instagram or Face Book accounts. They neither trust nor even like one another; they whisper their God-given names to me so the other girls will not know who they really are.
This time Sasha has stood me up because she’s had her money stolen from the change room, been tricked into accepting a ride from one of the other girls “friends” and has been thrown out of his car in the middle of the night, over 30 miles in the opposite direction of the club. She recounts it matter-of-factly and is more upset because it means that she’s had to cancel plans with me for the second time in as many weeks. I’m less surprised anymore by her all in a day’s work attitude and wearying of the frequently cancelled plans.
She says I’m “cute” and “naive”, for what she believes to be an innocent belief that I’m doing any good in going into the club. I smile and wait for her to come up for air from her tirade.
“So,” I finally manage to say, “Meeting you was meaningless? Getting to know you is a waste of my time?”
She pauses ( a first). “No. You and I were meant to meet. I had nobody in that place ’til you walked in that night. We’re friends, babe.”
Maybe she’s the one that’s naive. I don’t always feel like I’m her friend, and at times I wonder why our paths did cross in the first place. Her mental health issues make it nearly impossible to have a normal conversation and I wonder how we move beyond building relationship to me actually being able to share the gospel with her. I struggle to remember the admonition of my mentor/friend, John, who told me that it will be brilliant when I see her blossom and come into the fullness of her destiny.
Sometimes God will give you a picture of what things could look like-if you just hang in there and let Him do the heavy lifting.
Today was one of those days where He gave me a wee glimpse.
One of my fellow team members has, for months, been sowing seeds of love and time into a young woman who works in another club. This sweet girl was like a sponge, soaking up the Jesus she was seeing in my friend. Instead of trying to rescue her, my friend just held a safe space for her; listening to her with her heart, slowly showing her another way-The Way. Today, Resurrection Sunday, she took the plunge. She came to church and was baptised, experiencing the unconditional love and joy from strangers. They didn’t know her story, but no doubt it would have made their joy even more complete. It is said that when even one of God’s lost children comes into the kingdom, heaven explodes with the sound of angels rejoicing. I can’t imagine them being louder or more ecstatic than we were today as we watched the new Jennifer ( not her real name) emerge from the waters, leaving the former girl deep beneath the waters of an erased past.
As I watched Jennifer being hugged and congratulated, I was reminded of the story of the lost sheep:
” If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away. In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14)
Later in the day, I message Sasha. I share the good news of Jennifer’s baptism. She’s curious for now, happy for me. Silently I pray that God will lift the confusion from her mind and one day it will be her taking the plunge.
In the meantime, I will keep my focus on this one precious lamb with whom God has entrusted me, and as Mother Teresa once encouraged:
” Do little things with great love”
Yes and amen.