Ministry to Strippers by ex dancers

Discussion in 'Missions / Witnessing / eVangelism' started by dianetavegia, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. dianetavegia

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    Ex-dancer's message of hope connects strip clubs and churches

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 04/07/2005

    Like a SWAT team of spirited Easter bunnies, a half-dozen evangelists descended on a Buford Highway strip club called Rooster's Barnyard Etc., their hearts nervous, their hands full of gift baskets.

    Inside the club, the Saturday night crowd was in full swing. Rock music rattled the walls, men hooted and knocked back shots of brandy, while naked women shook their moneymakers on a lighted stage.

    The gift-bearers, all female, bypassed this scene, walking directly to the dressing room, where a handful of dancers in abbreviated costumes sat or stood, chatting and fixing their hair.

    Within seconds the dancers clamored for the baskets and the gifts inside — perfume, scarves, jewelry, inspirational books — while the givers handed out brochures inviting dancers to join a support group or simply call a hotline.

    "There was a little girl dancing for the first time tonight," reported Andrea Johnson to her colleagues when the group met later that evening at a restaurant. "Her name was Michelle. She had that little, sweet innocent face. And after tonight it's going to be gone. I can't get that little girl out of my mind."

    A murmur of sympathy went around the table, and then Johnson, 35, and her team members prayed for the dancers by name.

    The basket brigade is part of Victoria's Friends, an Atlanta group that ministers to the estimated 4,000 strippers who work at the 40 adult clubs in the metro area.

    Like urban diplomats, the members shuttle between churches that offer financial support and the clubs with dancers they hope to help.

    It's a tricky balancing act. "It's not a ministry widely accepted within the church," said Lisanne McMurray, of Anthony, Kan., a former stripper and author of a book, Web site and gospel newsletter tailored for exotic dancers.

    Churches would rather help the poor and homeless, McMurray said. The sex industry makes them nervous.

    Credit Victoria Teague, 42, with fashioning the unlikely alliance. With what her husband calls "the gift of gab," she built a support network of about a dozen churches that extends from Dawsonville to Fairburn, receiving significant help from such megachurches as Victory World Church in Norcross and Perimeter Church in Duluth.

    She also has won the confidence of dancers and club owners, claiming scores of conversions in five years.

    Her street cred helps. Teague was a stripper for four years known as Diana to the patrons of the Cheetah until she retired her high heels in 1989.

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