I imagine when the Lord called Bambi Flores to begin ministry for dancers that she did not anticipate meeting the women of CLUB X. While the strip clubs that we see are not like how the movies portray, this one is certainly not what anyone could expect. The dancers are several decades beyond the average dancer that we typically meet The neighbors of this establishment are a liquor store, an “adult” store, and a gas station. The entire stretch of road feels desolate and lonely, though it is almost always busy. In front of the door stands a tall, iron knight whose shadow covers the few cars that dot the parking lot. Inside, the women usually are gathered around a television set watching something altogether.
Compared to the ever-rotating roster of dancers at other clubs, CLUB X consistently holds the same women. Many of the women are old enough to be our parents or grandparents even. There are several Asian women who struggle with English, but nod in greeting us before disappearing to the back. In all the times we’ve been in CLUB X, very few customers have come by. We often wonder how they stay in business at all, but for 30 years it has been open. Websites that review bars and clubs have detailed accounts of men visiting and partaking in what the women offered, only to speak horrifying things and describe these women as objects to be used and thrown away, and not revered and cherished.
At first, the women of CLUB X had no interest in Velvet Hearts. The Go Team was met with cold greetings and awkward thanks as they took the gifts. Likely disappointed that they door opening gave way to a group of women instead of paying customers, they offered only a little in the way of hospitality at first. But God, in His faithfulness, continued to call Velvet Hearts to go and meet these women every other week, and the walls began to come down. These women who are daughters, and sisters, and mothers, and grandmothers, who were once just children with dreams in their hearts, who have loved and lost, who have known heartache and pain...these women began to open up their hearts to us. They would yell “The church ladies are here!” And someone would dip behind the bar to grab bottles of water for us. Standard greetings eventually gave way to hugs, and surface conversations soon became deep. Questions started to come like ‘why did Jesus die?’, ‘is my nephew in Heaven’, and ‘what is Heaven like?’ They told us that they look forward to seeing us and are sad when they realize it isn’t our week to come. They shared difficult family topics and prayer requests. We became like regulars to them, each time seeming less and less threatening as we remembered details of their lives and asked for updates on their children or a sick spouse. Little by little, we got to be part of the lives of these incredibly strong women.
From the very beginning of me joining Velvet Hearts, I have had the prayerful support of an older woman at my church. In her thick, Ecuadorian accent, she told me that for years she has been driving by a club on her way to see family. She ALWAYS prays, “Lord, destroy the place, but save the people.” Nearly every Sunday we talk about the exciting things that God is doing in the ministry and she continued to encourage me. I found out that the club she drives by and has prayed for all this time is CLUB X. I explained to her how much this meant to me, and that God is doing incredible things there. She asked if she could provide gifts for us to hand out. And I said yes. She brought beautiful bags filled with full sized Bath & Body Works soaps and lotions, pocket-sized New Testament Bibles, and small toiletries. She prayed over the gifts with her husband and brought them to me at church one Sunday. She said “The Lord’s word will not return void. He is faithful.” What I later learned, was that this woman and her husband were not financially in the place to give such an extravagant gift. She felt the Lord’s call and responded without hesitation, such a gracious picture of the widow who gave her two small coins, all that she had. She prayed and she believed that God is bigger than the club. He is bigger than her finances. And He is bigger than the chains that have bound these women.
The next outreach we took the gifts my sweet friend made. When we arrived it was apparent the place was dead. No cars outside and so dark. We went in as usual and find out from the women that CLUB X is closing its doors for good. After 30 years, these women, some who have worked at this same place for 30 years, are out of work. Closing, CLUB X is closing. The prayers of a righteous women have been heard. No longer will a man enter this establishment demanding sexual favors and call them demeaning names. No longer will they undress under dim lights and hope, somewhat dreadfully, for a patron to bring money. No longer do they have to pretend to enjoy whatever fetish and perversion a customer has just so they might be able to afford to eat this week. How amazing is it that the very outreach for which this woman’s gifts are provided is the same week the club is closing? Some might call this coincidence, but I know it is favor from the Most High.
The prayers of His people are heard. He hears, and His word does not return void. He is so faithful. We don’t believe that CLUB X closing is just happenstance. We believe that we have seen spiritual victory over that club. For the women, this is only the beginning. They are fearful because of this displacement and what it will mean for their income and livelihood. They are being forced out of the only life they have ever known, with no education and no experience outside of this sexually oriented business. At 40-65 years of age, they don’t know where to turn. BUT GOD, in His sovereignty and faithfulness knows each and every one of these fantastically, unique women. He is not surprised by the dramatic shift in their lives. And we believe that He is ABLE to do immeasurably more than what we can think or imagine for them.
Please continue to pray for our friends. Pray that they will be willing to meet with us and let us love on them. Pray that they will feel the Peace that surpasses all understanding and that they would encounter a God who is bigger than all their needs. A God who sees them where they are, loves them more than they know, and is calling them near.
With so much love and thankfulness,
Velvet Hearts Go Team