Mission Statements:

Sending Flores exists to show the unconditional love of Christ to the world. We serve locally and globally and have a calling to be HIS hands and feet.
Velvet Hearts exists to show the unconditional love of Christ to women and men who work in the sex industry and to renew and reaffirm hope and a future to them.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Power of Seeing

Being part of a Go Team is an adventure. In a sense, it’s like going on a mission trip, because you’re leaving the familiarity of your community and traveling “cross-culturally” to another world, one with its own customs, rules, dress, and language. Every other Friday night for a year, I would get in my car and drive just a few miles down the road from my home to meet up with my Go Team. But I felt so out of my element it might as well have been a thousand.

After my very first night out, I recorded these reflections in my journal:

As we entered the club, my senses were assaulted – flashing lights, thumping loud music, and smoke of all varieties. My heart was pounding and I could feel the adrenaline rush – it was exciting and scary at the same time. We quickly made our way back to the dressing room, a large room with rows of lockers, brightly lit counters, and 30 to 40 women bustling around all in various states of dress and undress. I was surprised that their toplessness didn’t bother me, I guess because it was like being in any other locker room in that sense. But I found their outfits to be completely intriguing: lots of lace, G-strings, and platform heels. I tried my hardest not to stare…

As we were walking back through the club on our way out, one of the girls on the pole nearest us stopped dancing for a moment and waved, smiled, and said, ‘thanks for coming!’ It was a powerful moment for me because one minute she looked like an objectified female, dancing around with an emotionally detached look on her face, and the next moment we were making eye contact and I could see her beautiful soul, her personhood, that wants love and affection just like the rest of us. I came home totally shell-shocked and smelling like perfume and marijuana. I kept thinking of that precious soul smiling at me from the pole, and was overcome with a mix of compassion and heaviness that brought me to tears.

Walking into that club for the first time was like walking into another country. I saw and heard (and smelled!) things I had never before experienced. However, the encounter on the way out with the girl on the pole was an epiphany: it reminded me that we ALL are human and want and need the same thing. It doesn’t matter where we are from, what our culture is, what we do for a living, or what our surroundings are. We all are hard-wired to connect with others, to be shown love and dignity and respect. It is what theologians call the imago Dei, the image of God. We are all, every single one of us, are created in God’s image. The imago Dei is the great equalizer.

That moment of locking eyes with the dancer on that first outing with the Go Team stuck with me. From that point on, every time I would go into the clubs I would look the dancers in the eye, seeking to make that same connection. I tried my hardest to look past the things that made us different – the clothes we were wearing, our different backgrounds, ethnicities, life choices – and focus on the things that made us the same… The need for love. The search for meaning. The desire for connection. The need of a savior.

It reminds me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” To see someone from a worldly point of view is to judge people according to outward appearance, or what they do for a living, or what sins they have committed. But what I think Paul is saying here is that we are to regard everyone with an eternal perspective, one that sees that divine spark, that image of God in every person. It is to lock eyes with another and see their precious soul, just as God showed me in that powerful moment. Then, Paul goes on to say, we can be “Christ’s ambassadors” that go into the world and share the good news of Christ with everyone. I realized that when I went into the clubs to minister I didn’t have to get hung up or sidetracked by any of the worldly stuff. I could simply focus on the beautiful souls of the girls, knowing that ultimately we are all looking for the same things.

Being on a Go Team has made me realize how guilty I’ve been for most of my life of considering other people from a worldly point of view. But, with God’s help, I am starting to see others through His eyes. Thanks to my experience with Velvet Hearts, I try and see all people according to their eternal value. Now, back in my own world, when I go to the grocery store, hang out with friends and family, or deal with those difficult people in my life, I ask God to help me remember that they are searching for significance and connection, just like I am. At that point, my heart is ready to be an ambassador for Christ so that all may know His love.

Sara Blakeney


Monday, April 6, 2020

The Power of Timing

The Power of Timing

God can change situations for us when we are least expecting it. I’ll start by saying that my relationship with my parents was distant for as long as I can remember. My parents grew up in a communist regime and had strict traditional Christian families. Therefore, closeness between family members was not something common to experience. As a result, my parents were very cold and impersonal, even with me and my siblings. I’ve felt like an orphan most of my life.

Once I entered into a relationship with God, I began analyzing my life. I came to an understanding that my relationship with my parents was not where it should be or where I wanted it to continue. I began to blame myself for the bad relationship. I mean I should know better than my parents. Right? I should be able to be more loving and caring with them now that I’ve met God. But I couldn’t change it. Anything I tried did not work. I couldn’t change the way I was interacting with them. I continued the distant and cold treatment I grew up with.

Honestly, I didn’t even think that I loved them. And as a Christian, I didn’t understand how I was continuing to feel this way. If I couldn’t love my own parents, I was failing at the biggest commandment Jesus has given us --to LOVE. I’ve felt miserable and guilty most of my Christian life. Every time when I was trying to get closer to God, it was this guilt in the back of my head. It was condemning me for not loving my parents and even despising any time I spent with them. This hatred was blocking me being able to go deeper with God and my desire was to live a full life with Him.

So up to the beginning of this year (2020) I felt like I couldn’t go on like this. I asked God to help just like I have done 100’s of times. I have struggled with this for more than 10 years. I’ve asked God repeatedly to do something – maybe to change them, change me, just to do something. And it seemed that nothing ever changed. But looking back, I see the path He had led me on. He had to teach me that condemnation, shame and guilt is not from Him. I needed help with the anger and I realized I was being deceived by the devil. The devil was winning and I realized it finally. And then, gently God pointed to a very deep pain in my heart made by the unaffectionate way that my parents related to me. I tried to go there but didn’t have the courage. That was about 3 years ago. It was just for a minute, but it was enough to make me back off from it and hide it all over again. It was just too much for me to handle it on my own.

So, this year, 2020, I joined European Initiative team in January that came to do a mission trip in Romania in the villages around my town. This is where I grew up and I was a translator on the trip for the many disciples from all over the world who came to show LOVE to the people around my town. At the end of the week I was sitting in the shared bedroom with Bambi Flores some other women. Bambi and I start to talk about random stuff, and I have no idea when the conversation shifted. With few evenings back I was telling God that yes, I want my heart to be healed but I just couldn’t go through it on my own. So, out of the blue, chatting about the day, I’ve found myself sharing my life experience with Bambi, telling her things that I have never told anyone before. God gave me the people I needed so I could open up my heart entirely and allow Him to do his healing work in my life. As Bambi was ministering to me, the other girls joined and they all prayed for me, encouraged me and held my hand as I was letting go of my hurt. It was hard, it was emotional, and it was sad. But after we were finished, I knew something had changed. I knew God was present and it was time.

After few days, I went home and I had more peace than I have ever had. I had never thought before that I had something to forgive my parents about. I was always blaming myself and I always tried to find explanations for my parent’s behavior. I tried to understand them, but I this didn’t allow me to own my feelings. This made me bury how I tried to understand them.

And now, being at home, I can sit down with my mom and talk normally, about normal stuff without feeling like I want to just leave. I think after this ministry time this was the first normal conversation I had with my mom in my entire life. We talked and laughed, and we bonded for the first time. And it was possible only when I gave up trying my way, and when I allowed Him to heal my heart. It took years, but God was working. He worked at the all the circumstances of my life out and healed my heart. He knew I was needing healing but was not ready to accept it. And He led me gently all these years.

God is working, be still and trust Him.

And I also think that maybe Bambi came all the way to Romania for me........

Diana Cam

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Power of Consistency- Dedicated to T

I remember when Velvet Hearts launched. I was so impressed that someone would step out and go to a place that was so foreign to them. As a child I always wanted to be an oversees missionary so observing from afar as Velvet Hearts was launched really spoke to my heart. Over the years the Lord continually brought Bambi into my life in major ways. In 2017 I had chronic pain and was taking a lot of medication just to manage each day. Bambi spoke about biblical healing at a conference I attended and that very day my back was healed of chronic pain! That story is amazing and the experience with Bambi really put my focus back on Velvet Hearts.

It was clear to me that I was supposed to connect with Bambi and Velvet Hearts. Initially my children and I began to help in simpler ways. We put together the gifts for outreach nights. After a few months of doing this I felt led to join a GO Team. I knew the importance Bambi put on being consistently there for the girls and that meant at least a year commitment from me. Being a single mom, every other Friday would be a sacrifice of time from my children but I really believed it was important, not only to the girls we get to meet but also would be a testimony to my kids of the importance of going out to show the world that Jesus LOVES THEM!

It’s now been 15 months since joining and during this time I’ve realized the importance of SHOWING UP and how just being there is truly a comfort to many of the girls. Let’s be honest, some girls blow us off and are irritated when they see us. They just don’t now know how awesome we are! That’s okay, we get it and our feelings aren’t hurt. In fact, we just hope that over time we may be able to show them that they are loved and worthy. We are often told "it is so important that you’re here. So many of us need you here.” That’s hard to admit even in the best situation. Many of these women have been through hell and back, and to admit that they might like our visits can be a vulnerable thing to say. It’s that reminder that they are women, just women going to a job where for whatever reason they feel is where they have to be right now.

When you only stop by every other week, it’s hard to grow a relationship unless you make sure you show up! Sometimes we get 5 minutes of significant communication with the entertainers, and don’t see them again for weeks or even months and it’s so important to us to make a solid connection and show love. Its also significant to remember them the next time we see them. So many times the Lord brings names to our minds of women we haven’t seen in months and they ask how we remembered? The Holy Spirit, y’all! Definitely not my stellar memory. He loves them and is pursuing them in a ways that is so humbling to witness.

I remember my very first stop on GO Team outreach night. This particular club will always have a special place in my heart. It was a small with hardly any business or employees. Five minutes in-and-out and that was it. No time for connection, and they were happy for us to drop gifts and leave. Truth is they never met anyone like Velvet Hearts. As the weeks went on our 5 minute drop-off turned into a hour+ visit. They had began to have a sense of trust with us, and they slowly saw we were sincere and not there to judge or point fingers. We were honored to be welcomed in, to hear their stories, struggles, fears, and their dreams. They are precious women loved by the Lord! They matter just as much as any one of us and we told them so regularly. We had so many deep conversations with these few women. They had great questions like why Jesus had to be born and why he had to die for us. Why there is sickness and how can we get past hurts so we can be close to God?

One woman from this small club has been on my heart since day one. We will call her “T”. T was older than most women in the industry. On occasion she spoke briefly of the ugly things she had endured while at work. I could sense how this treatment hurt her feelings though she would say “we just have to be patient with people.” I knew she truly felt like she couldn’t make it working anywhere else. T’s husband had a terminal illness and she spoke about how angry she was with the Lord about that. The truth is she was hurting. T grew up going to church, she has a close relative who is a pastor but she doesn’t feel like she can go to their church. It breaks my heart for how much of an outsider she seems to feel. The church should be loving on people, not judging. Jesus doesn’t woo us to him by judging, he does it by loving. We asked why she stopped going to church, and her reason hit deep to my heart. We offered to go to church with her as her cheer team and still pray that might happen. It would be the highlight of my year to be her friend who gets to take her to church. I want nothing more than for her to see herself how the Lord sees her.

Every week we saw T I was so excited to check in with her. I learned about her daughter, her granddaughter, her husband and her childhood. T became comfortable with us and she and the other ladies seemed to be truly happy to see us. On our GO nights we would enter her club and she would excitedly say “Oh good! The Church Ladies are here! I hoped it was a Church Lady night. I’ve been waiting for you.” I kind of felt like adopted family. I’m convinced that the way T felt loved and accepted by us was something only from the Lord. Through consistency- showing up for her, listening, comforting, encouraging, and laughing with her she let her guard down. I’ll tell you something, she spoke more words of wisdom to me than she will ever know. The more I got to know her the more I saw her how God sees her, as His precious daughter and as my sister. As we would leave and hug the girl’s goodbye, I would tell T that I loved her and I am sure she knew it. Not all of the girls believe that we love them, but T did. I’d go every Friday to all of the clubs if there was just one “T” to love on.

~~Kara Chavis

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Power of Serving Brings Healing

I remember the first time I heard about Velvet Hearts. I was attending a Christian freedom retreat and was surrounded by a small group of like-minded women who were eager to seek the Lord for a deeper relationship with Him. We were hungry for more of Him and desired to be free from the bondage of our pasts. That weekend, I met Bambi Flores, the founder of Velvet Hearts, and my spiritual journey with the Lord has never been the same since.
While at the retreat, one of the women in attendance admitted her past in the sex industry. To let her know she wasn’t alone, myself and another woman raised our hands to say we had also previously worked as exotic dancers. Bambi told us how she was being led by the Lord to start a ministry to reach local dancers. As soon as she said this, I felt a deep tug in my heart but immediately ignored it. I had tucked that part of my past deep down inside and wasn’t ready to deal with it just yet.
You see, 18 years ago, I was a part of the sex industry. I worked as a dancer at a local club. The excitement of the lifestyle, the men and the chance to make lots of money lured me in. I eventually left that scene, but due to some shaming comments I had received, I was careful who I shared my past with for fear of judgment and condemnation. To protect myself, I locked away that part of my past. However, I was unaware that by stuffing this away, I was also denying myself the chance to heal from things that happened to me during that time. Years later, I chose a life for Jesus and He began putting influential, loving people into my path as He directed me toward truth and healing.
After meeting Bambi, I would look for her Facebook posts as Velvet Hearts officially launched. I watched as week after week she posted photos and videos of the outreach team preparing to love on the women they would encounter that night. Their faces were all so expectant and hopeful as they held up body scrubs, makeup and cupcakes they would be bringing to show love and acceptance as they visited the clubs to share Jesus with the women working there.  Each time I saw one of her posts, I felt like I was supposed to be a part of that team and that tug in my heart would pull again. I ignored it until I no longer could.
I finally reached out to Bambi offering to share my story with her. She agreed to meet me for coffee. As we talked and she listened to my testimony, something amazing and freeing happened. For the first time, I began to see how protected by God I had been when I worked in the club. As I heard my story unfolding in my own words, the Holy Spirit allowed me to see how God had been in all the little details, keeping me safe. I finally realized that all of this time, God had been chasing me down and drawing me to Him. In that moment, I could sense the overwhelming love He had for me.
Bambi encouraged me to write my testimony down, to get it all out and then ask the Holy Spirit to put me back in that club setting and allow me to see where Jesus was in all of it. I went home and prayed, not sure what to expect. Later that evening, a flood of emotions engulfed me as I began remembering things that I had repressed: things I had done and things that were done to me during that time. The pain was unimaginable and I was questioning why this was happening but giving a name to what happened to me helped with the healing process. I could feel the Holy Spirit working within me and although it hurt to relive my past, I could feel nothing but love as He led me through it. 
I was then able to envision Jesus in every area of that club. He was there through it all: the nights I cried, the times I was disgusted with a customer, when I had an altercation with another dancer, or when I was groped or too intoxicated. I was never alone; He was always there, lovingly watching me and working it all out to draw me to Him. As I relived my past, He showed me so much love, grace and forgiveness. Through this exercise of prayer and writing my testimony, I was able to receive supernatural healing from the hurt I had been carrying for so many years.
Later, I was led by the Lord to join the Velvet Hearts Go Team where I was given the privilege to serve alongside some amazing, godly women. Walking back into that old environment was difficult at first but I eventually fell right into it and looked forward to my Friday nights when I would get to visit with the women I had befriended at the clubs. I loved being able to make connections and show love to the women I saw each week. Nothing else compares to hearing your name excitedly screamed over the loud thumping club music, then turning to see a beautiful, bubbly young woman jumping off of the stage to come hug your neck because she is so overjoyed that you came to see her.
18 years ago, I never would’ve thought I would be on the other side, being the one to share love, tears and prayers with these precious women. During my time on the Go Team, I made connections with many women that impacted me and will forever be dear to me. For some of the women I encountered, hearing my testimony and knowing that we aren’t just “church ladies” who come in to beat the bible over them, but that we have members who have actually been involved in the industry, has allowed them to lower their walls and let us share Jesus with them. I loved that I could relate to them on such an intimate level.
So my support and love for Velvet Hearts is personal. Because of Bambi’s willingness to listen to the Lord and start this ministry, she has reached countless women involved in the sex industry and has given them hope, friendship and a place to turn to where they are accepted and loved. As she does for all of the women she ministers to, Bambi pointed me to God who then offered me healing, love and freedom. He gave me a clean heart and showed me that I am seen, known, and loved.

- Jill Dusza
  Former Velvet Hearts Go Team member

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Power of Prayer

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,

Katie Gregg

Velvet Hearts Go Team