This is the story of Strip Church Network partner: Corrine Martinez Santanelli as shared on CBN.
As a child growing up in Mexico, Corrine didn’t understand why her parents were always fighting, or the alcoholism tearing them both apart. What she did understand was her father’s love.
Corrine shares, “That was the one love that I always held on to because even though I would sometimes be in the middle of him and my mom having a fight, I felt that he truly loved me.”
But that love would be denied. Late one night, her mother took 6-year-old Corrine and her two sisters and hopped a greyhound bus, bound for her hometown in Indiana to start a new life.
Corrine says, “I remember feeling alone. But then I had a deeper feeling of fear.”
And it only got worse: her mom dated and lived with abusive men, and was often absent for days – or even months – at a time. At age 12, Corrine started having panic attacks daily.
She says, “I was afraid of death, thinking I’m going to die every day. I literally would feel like I was having a heart attack. It was a thought in my mind all the time: ‘Am I gonna die today? Am I gonna die today.’ The only way I can go about my day is if I wasn’t alone.”
As a teen she found the company of boys and sex eased her anxiety. By 19 she was a high school dropout and making money as a stripper.
She explains, “Something clicked. Guys loved me. And I thought, ‘Wow, I’m good at something. I feel in control, and I’m making a lot of money.’”
For the next five years, stripping and boyfriends would keep her loneliness and anxiety attacks at bay. Then at 24, she moved back in with her mom after breaking up with her boyfriend of three years.
Corrine recalls, “The next day I had a severe panic attack. And I said, ‘I haven’t had it this bad in the past couple of years. I don’t know what to do.’ She continues, “Well, eventually, within that week I said, ‘You know what, Mom? If God is wonderful and all these things, then maybe He can be my medicine.’”
Corrine’s only experience with God or church was when she went to Sunday school as a kid. Now, somehow, she knew that’s where she needed to go.
She remembers, “People are praising the Lord with their hands up. These people seem so free. I want that. And I sat there Sunday after Sunday for a couple of weeks. The pastor preached about, ‘If you never give your heart to Jesus Christ, your eternity won’t be with Him. It would be in hell.’ I suddenly became afraid to be forever separated from true love. I just remember praying, ‘Remove this panic, this anxiety for me. If you are who you say you are, all-loving, and if you’re a healer, and I get to feel that forever, I really want that.’”
The next day, she realized something else: “I said, ‘Oh my God. I went all day and I didn’t have a panic attack.’ I hoped so bad that this was real. But to be honest, I-I still wasn’t sure. I’ve always carried an attitude of expecting the worst. I’m gonna find something wrong, where I can say, ‘Oh, I hoped you were real, but it turns out you’re not.’”
Corrine was afraid she couldn’t fully trust God with her heart, and her life. So she kept dancing on occasion for money, and going to church on Sundays. One night at the club, her dance was disrupted…by a worship song she’d heard at church.
She says, “I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, I think I’m hearing things, like God is speaking to me.’ It was like I was alone for a moment, me and God. Then the scripture that says, ‘I purchased you for a price, therefore honor Me with your body,’ fell on my heart. It wasn’t just knowledge anymore. I had godly insight.”
Corrine continues, “That void in me all along was a lack of love. I was spiritually dead. He raised me from the dead that day. And love will do that. Love will chase you down. And it took for Him to come inside the strip club to do that.”
Corrine immediately walked out of the club, and never looked back. She went on to finish school and earn her degree as a physical therapist. She now has a strong relationship with her mom, and, after years of searching for each other, she and her dad reunited.
Today Corrine is married to Mike, and runs a ministry to share Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry. She says, “I went back to the clubs with such excitement that I wanted to share with them the love of Christ. Because in my mind, well, Jesus came to visit me in the club, so if Jesus is with me everywhere I go, then He’s going to go visit them in the club, too.”