Tucked quietly inside one of our most beloved stories about Jesus, "The Woman At the Well", is the word ἔδει. It means it was necessary for. It is mentioned in John 4:4 when Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee. It says, "it was necessary for Him to pass through Samaria" on His way.
Only, it wasn’t necessary. Most Jewish people went around Samaria. They didn’t want to pass through Samaria because of the religious and ethnic prejudice they had toward the Samaritans. Why ἔδει Jesus? Because she was there. He just had to go and be with her. He had living water to offer her.
All of us have some ἔδει; a person or a place where The Spirit compels us to go. One such place for us is the strip clubs in San Francisco, where there are women who need to taste, touch, and feel the love of Jesus and to hear about His living water.
There are approximately fifty strip clubs in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Strip clubs are often one of the least-reached domains of any city, with little access to the church or the gospel. And, yet, there are hundreds of people in need of Christ’s love working there everyday.
Imagine if, for every one of these strip clubs, there was a small group of Christian women who committed to regularly enter the club to bless the girls who work there: to serve them, build true relationships with them and share the love of Jesus. What could God do with that time?!
This is a lofty goal, but our prayer is that God would do this work over the next several years. For today, we have started with one neighborhood, one street, one club and one group of Christian women with the hope of multiplying this effort throughout the city. We envision women across the city from different churches coming together to make this happen. I am excited to share with you what God has and is doing in the ministry and how you can play a part in bringing the gospel into strip clubs in San Francisco.
+ The History
Let me start at the beginning. Citizens Church began with ministry to people who lived outside in Golden Gate park. Citizens is still highly active in this ministry. However, early on we saw that many of the people we love and serve tend to be men. So, a year and half ago, some of Citizens’ core women began praying and asking the Spirit how we could begin tangibly reaching marginalized women in the city.
As we prayed and listened to the Spirit, strip clubs came up in several of our minds independently. So, I (Renee) started researching and found Strip Church, a ministry that SPECIFICALLY trains churches up for this exact ministry. I went through the application process, had a few interviews and was evaluated by Strip Church to confirm that we were a good fit to begin a ministry to strip clubs.
Once we were accepted, a team of eight Citizens’ women sat down for an evening and went through all the training videos. Not sure which of San Francisco’s fifty clubs to join, we decided on a neighborhood and just went to walk and pray and see. After walking the main drag of North Beach, encountering over twenty clubs in a four-block radius, we unanimously heard the Spirit guiding us to a small club called Garden of Eden.
On Mothers Day in 2017, we walked up to two bouncers with cupcakes and goodie bags containing bibles and treats for the girls. We told them we were there to love on the girls, but we wouldn’t interrupt their work. And so they let us in! In shock, we walked into the club. We walked past girls on the stage and men sitting around back to the dressing room. Once there, we were greeted with such warmth and love from the girls. They LOVED our gifts and many mentioned shock of a bible that would say Jesus loves strippers on it.
Since then, we have faithfully entered this same club every month for more than a year. We have handed out 300 bibles so far, but only just begun the slow work of building relationships with a forgotten and outcast group of women, many who are hurting and broken.
+ An Encounter
There are many great stories to share about our last year of ministry, but one in particular stands out.
It was December, and we had brought Christmas presents and treats to the girls. One regular who we had met before was particularly chatty that evening. Since she was so leaned in toward us, I boldly asked is she had any big needs with Christmas coming up. Moving closer so no one else could hear, she told me, "I have no presents for my eight-year-old boy. All the money I earn here goes toward rent and food." So I got her number and had her text me his favorite things. She only texted me this he needed: clothes, shoes, a backpack, but nothing kids really WANT for Christmas. But her son is the the exact age as my son, so I took Keane with me to Target and told him we were buying presents for a boy his age whose Mommy didn’t have any money for Christmas gifts. With Keane's expertise, we picked out a bunch of toys.
The next week, I texted C and we met up. As I opened the van hatch and she saw the bags of both necessities and toys, she squeezed me as tight as she could and wouldn’t let go. After putting everything in her car, she began to share some of the more raw realities of her life. It was heart-wrenching, but I was so grateful that she trusted me enough to speak up.
Many of these girls have been so used and abused by others, they live in a constant state of self-protection, never sharing anything real with people. But, then a woman hands her a Bible, telling them Jesus loves and adores them. And this woman and her friendfs keep coming back, offering love and help. C has loosely stayed in contact with us. I can't believe the story is over just yet, but this work is long and slow.
Our hope would be that every single woman who works in San Francisco's strip clubs would have a meaningful encounter with the gospel, like this one. Not just once, but many times. To see Jesus for who He is, the One who can love, heal, restore and rescue them from their stories of hurt.
Edei plans to use the experience of Citizens Church with the Garden of Eden as a model for other churches and organizations. Now with two years behind us, we want to equip and train others in San Francisco so that one day every strip club in San Francisco is regularly hearing and seeing the love of Jesus for them. Our prayer is that our one group would multiply into two and four and eight until all fifty clubs are reached, by Christian women from different churches in different neighborhoods..
How you can help
In order to support and build this ministry, Edei requires more than our spare time and effort. Our first goal is to raise 1500.00 per month.
The first 1000.00 will provide a part-time salary for Renee, so that she can give 10-15 hours per week to the work. Renee will spend her time visiting clubs and building relationships with bouncers, owners and girls; casting vision to local churches for ministry to this abandoned corner of our city; and training new leaders and teams as they begin to invest in a particular club, going with them until they are comfortable to continue on their own.
The last 500.00 will be for ministry resources (Bibles from Strip Church, gift bags, food, special projects for club dressing rooms, training resources, etc.)
If you’re excited about this ministry and able to help, please consider giving financially to Edei. All your gifts to Edei are tax-deductible. Just a little per month will go a long way to making sure these women know the deep love Jesus has for them.
Just as earnestly, we need prayer. This ministry is dark. There are spiritual forces always fighting us, competing for the hearts and minds of these girls.
Please pray for me and our team and the clubs on a continual basis. Pray that bouncers and owners would not prevent us from bringing gifts to the girls, and would even welcome us. Pray that the girls would receive our love as genuine and free, and that they would truly believe that Jesus loves strippers, and so do we. Pray that we would have everything we need, and that we would be faithful.
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