Thursday, August 26, 2010

Expo - Last Day (8/25/10)

If today had been the first day, I would have been disappointed, disillusioned, and distressed because it seemed like forever before someone stopped by to pick up a bag. But once people started coming by, it was good. Again, we had more in-depth conversations with men than women. The one question that almost everyone asked was "what if the girls don't want out, what then?". Our answer surprised and pleased them:

A man stopped by and said, "Are you for us or against us?"
Me: Huh? I don't know who you are.
Man: I'm a club owner. Are you for us or against us?
Me: We are for the girls, and we have great relationships with club owners and managers.
Man: I have a problem with right wing evangelicals.
Me: I do, too. Not with all of them but with some of them.
Man: Answer me one question: if a girl doesn't want out, what do you do? will you still help her?
Me: Absolutely! It happens all the time. We love them no matter what.
The man stuck out his hand to shake mine and said, "You're one of the good guys. Keep it up."

A young man with pink hair on one side of his head and a darker-pink goatee stopped by our booth. We saw him yesterday, but he never stopped by or seemed to acknowledge us. He said he was in a band, and he and his 2 buddies who are in the band with him got in to a discussion about religious people. The buddies told him no religious people would ever be in a place like the Expo. He was at our booth asking for a card to prove to them that religious people would be there. This young man was the most polite and respectful guy. We gave him 3 bags and 3 CDs -- 1 for him and 2 for his buddies.

We gave out 200 CDs and over 300 cosmetic bags with our card, a card introducing Jackie Key's CD, and chocolate candy. As Tammy said, "God probably created chocolate just for outreach because it seems to be the thing that draws everyone." Most of the girls were touched by the message on the bag "You are loved."

The other thing that seemed to impress everyone was our logo. It always brought smiles. People would take pictures of it whether they talked to us or not. Some took pictures on the sly thinking we didn't see them. It was pretty funny. Several asked for posters, bumper stickers and t-shirts with our logo. We will begin working on more products with the logo.

I didn't know what to expect when we came here -- whether or not we would be accepted, would anyone talk to us, would it be a bust -- but I knew we were supposed to be here. God didn't let us down. He definitely showed up in a place where most people wouldn't expect Him to be. I'm glad God doesn't like to be kept in a box.

Thanks to all who gave and prayed. This definitely was a team effort.

Show over. Going home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 2 - Trade Show begins

Our booth
The trade show began this afternoon at 1p.m. We weren't sure what to expect since this was our first strip club industry trade show. Most of the conversations were with owners. Many conversations started with people asking us "So tell me about this. What is Jesus Loves Dancers?" We told them about our ministry, and every owner told us they thought we were doing a good thing. Many called us "a support organization" because we are willing to help the girls. For at least two hours straight, we were constantly talking to people and handing out bags. Here are highlights from our first day:

  • "We like what you are doing."
  • "Is this a gag? No? Hey, this is cool. Really cool. I mean it. Really cool."
  • "I've been dancing for 17 years and took time out to teach Sunday School."
  • "I saw other girls with these bags. I wanted one. They are so pretty. 'You are loved.' Aw, that's so sweet."
  • One girl walked up and saw our name. She turned and walked away. Tammy called out to her that the bags contained chocolate. She came back over to the booth and picked up a bag. I offered her a CD. She asked what it was. When I told her it was the Bible told in an animated way in less than 60 minutes, she backed off and said, "No, thanks. I've got enough Jesus in my life." She started to walk off and came back and returned the bag and couldn't get away from us fast enough. Later her boyfriend approached the booth next to us. She stayed on the other side of him up close to a wall and avoided all eye contact with us.
  • I waved at a girl who came over and told me she is grateful to be where she is, and she gives to a women's shelter. All of a sudden she teared up and said, "I can't believe I'm crying. I know I'm not where I'm supposed to be. I know I'm supposed to be helping people. I know that's my calling." I told her God had a plan and a purpose for her life. She assured me she knew that and walked off.
  • We met the owner of a club in Ft. Myers Beach, FL who said she has a group of church women who come in her club and have prayer with the girls and give them gift bags. I started this ministry when I heard about a church in Ft. Myers Beach, FL who ministered in the strip clubs.
  • One of the first people we met was from Ohio and was intimately familiar with the conflict between the church and strip club who recently made national news. (The church has been picketing the strip club for 4 years. The strip club owner finally had enough and started picketing the church.) Long story short, this man likes what we do and how we do it. We will have further conversations with him about future opportunities to work together.
  • Another person does erotic parties and works with "disenfranchised" people. He took our card and said he will put it in his portfolio as another resource for the disenfranchised.
  • We met a man from Harlingen, TX who ministers in the strip clubs in South Texas. He was glad to see us there and encouraged us to keep coming back every year. He's been coming to this event for the past 15 years.
It was an awesome day. I was nearly in tears after the first three conversations because I knew this event was God-ordained. We are looking forward to tomorrow!

Wes making more bags.

Thanks for your prayers!

Drenda, Wes and Tammy

My badge

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 1: Expo Setup

Tammy, Wes and I arrived without any trouble and after a quick bite when to the convention hall to check out the Expo. The boxes were waiting on us at the booth. We started an assembly line and put together 200 cosmetics bags containing a business card, a temporary tattoo with our logo on it, a card introducing Jackie Key's CD and chocolate candy. The cosmetics bags are pink and have "You are loved" imprinted in silver.  We also have "The Essential Word on the Street" on CD to give out. It's too big to put in the cosmetics bag.

We had several men stop by our booth and ask what we are selling. One guy was on his cell phone and said to the person on the other line, "You will never believe what I'm looking at. A booth called Jesus Loves Dancers. It's crazy. I can't wait to talk to these people." He walked off without talking to us, but I think he will be back. Another man asked if we are like "Jesus Loves Porn Stars". I told him yes. He asked if we knew of JC Girls. I told him yes. He's a photographer helping out a company who is at the Expo marketing a new toy.

The trade show officially kicks off tomorrow at 1p. Our booth sits in the middle of a pasties booth and a real estate booth selling strip clubs. Across the aisle are apparel and distillery booths. Down a few booths are modeling agencies. Sound checks were going on all around us. We should be hearing some good music the next two days.

We are looking forward to tomorrow. Not sure what to expect but we know God is in this.

Thanks again for your prayers and support!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Last night (8/10/20100

Last night we went to the strip clubs and took gift bags to the girls. Each bag contained nail polish, an invitation to church, an encouraging scripture and chocolate candy. We had a smaller team than usual, and we had a new team member. We added 2 clubs to our usual route. Here are the highlights:

At one of the two "new" clubs (we've been to both of these clubs in the past but not on a Tuesday night), the manager talked to us a little before letting us in. He said the previous evening his mother told him he was "working in the devil's house." He told her that light could shine anywhere -- even in the darkness, and here we were. The manager tried to warn us of what we might see. We told him we've been doing this for ten years and wouldn't be surprised at anything we saw.

As we passed out bags, a female approached me and told me we couldn't be in there. I told her the manager gave us permission. She said, "He doesn't know what he is talking about." Then she started trying to grab the bags out of my hands. I again told her the manager said we could be there and continued handing out bags. She stomped off and went over to my mother and told her we couldn't be soliciting. My mother told her we weren't soliciting. The female told her we couldn't be selling anything. My mom told her we weren't selling anything. She stomped off again.

Several girls came up to me and apologized for that one female's behavior. Each girl told me how much they appreciate us and what we were doing. The female came back to me and pointed towards the door. The manager sheepishly waved us over.

We went outside and talked with the manager who said the female is the daughter of one of the owner's. As we talked further with the manager, we found out he attends the same church as our newest team member. This is a 2nd job for him where he works a couple of nights/week. He said he was on a 10-day plan to get out, and he had 9 more days to go. I told him after tonight, he might be out faster.

Earlier in the evening, a dancer approached me about getting out of the business. She says she is doing this to make ends meet until she can find a job in corporate America. I gave her my contact info but haven't heard from her yet.

A manager said he is tired of the business and wants out but nothing else pays as well.

Most of the clubs were pretty slow.

When you think about it, please say a prayer for the girl and two managers who want out.

We will be leaving for Vegas in 10 days. The Expo starts 8/24. I'm excited! We have cosmetic bags imprinted with "You are loved", a CD and temporary tattoos of our logo to give away. Thanks to everyone who has given and who is praying for this event. I know God will show up.

I will blog each night after the show ends. I will try to have (family friendly) photos and/or video uploaded as well.

Drenda and the team