While working in the commercial sex industry, deep into an addiction to drugs and alcohol, for whatever reason— maybe for a moment of comfort, I remember going home for a weekend. Home for me, would be a small town in southern Minnesota that I grew up in.
On this particular weekend, my loving mother, mustering up all the strength she could, pulled me aside to share that she didn’t want to lose me as well. She proceeded to share, previously unknown to me, that her sister Sandy who tragically passed away at a young age, once worked in a strip club. My dear mom had tears in her eyes as she told me she knew where I was working. In the depths of a progressive and deadly addiction, although I remember this moment clearly, I did not leave the industry but several years later.
In 2006, by the Grace of God, I hit an absolute rock bottom. Out of the industry and away from substance use, it was finally time for a new way of life. This new way of life did not come without a battle, but as a Christian, I know the fight has already been won. In the midst of the mess, there was a ministry of reconciliation in the making, where the hearts of individuals would turn towards one another because of love. My heart turned towards a loving God, whom I fell deeply in love with. I experienced His presence in very real and tangible ways. He drew me in, gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit and made beauty from ashes. He replaced despair with joy. All because in the great tapestry of life, from generations past, the power of reconciliation was woven into the storyline. Reconciliation is in all of our storylines, if we choose Love.
Over time, healing sprang up from the inside, because of a man named Jesus. With a focus on my recovery, I went to college to later become a substance abuse counselor, which gave me the privilege of working with men and women who were possibly ready for a new way of life as well.
Working as a Counselor doing what I loved, I had several dreams of the strip club I once worked at, as well as those who were there. There was an ever-growing desire deep in my heart to go back to the daughters, the sisters; the one’s whom God so dearly loves. What I didn’t know, is that I would be going back for the purpose of reconciliation as well. Over time, The Lord brought together a team of friends, those who give their time, help with gifts and who pray together as warriors to in fact, go back with me. The word Bella means to War For. Bella also means Beautiful. Trust me when I say, we go to war for the daughters, God’s beautiful daughters and Love wins every time, so I’ve called this dream of God’s heart, Bella Daughter.
A gift, just like a listening ear, or the sharing of a testimony is a demonstration of love. To be loved and accepted, is at the core of every single one of us. I have to wonder how my aunt Sandy would have responded to a gift, a smile, a listening ear or even a moment of prayer together in the club she worked. The Great Gift Giver, God, I believe has it all figured out. He is a God of reconciliation, a Father who just wants each of us to know how deeply we are loved. Getting closer to His heart, I’ve discovered, He desires for each of us to love one another as well. We have the miraculous gift of partnering with Him as He works out the power of love, grace and reconciliation through the moments of time. He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5 & 20)
Allow me to share an example of this partnership.
On the evening of an Outreach night for Bella Daughter, my mother helped by putting a few gifts together, gifts that would later be given to the ones who were working at the very same club her deceased sister Sandra once worked. And, because God’s gift to His children includes grace, which can make the wrongs right for the sake of love, the Jesus Loves Strippers bible from Strip Church, made it back to the same club we brought them to the previous month. At first, I thought this was a mistake on our part since we accidentally switched the gift bags between two of the clubs. And yet, If this wouldn’t have happened, one of the newer girls would not have received the Bible. She wouldn’t have then looked up Bella Daughter to reach out to us, the two girls who bring gifts into the strip club.
Each time I step into the specific club that Sandra, (the aunt I did not get a chance to meet) once worked, it is love that surges through my veins for the girls, the house mom, the bouncers and yes, even the managers. This love is a love that is kind. It is the kind of Love that does not selfishly take, and that may give a gift. Perhaps the gift is a bit of hope, the kind found in a man named Jesus for the daughter in a strip club. The fragrance of love draws attention from the heart of one who is ready to receive it, a beautiful gift, which can be shown in different ways, whether in a church or in a strip club.
In conclusion, there are a few things we can be sure of in this thing called life. First, love never ends. Second, there is grace in the mistakes and finally, you can step into the design of a Good Father who is in the business of reconciliation if you choose. I have to believe that Sandra smiles from ear to ear each time my amazing mother helps put together gifts that later go into the hands of God’s beautiful daughters. I believe also that God smiles each time one of His daughter’s experiences His love, a kind of love that reconciles, a kind of love that is good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
This featured article was written by Strip Church Network partner Danielle Freitag, founder of Bella Daughter in Minneapolis, MN