Standing outside a strip club for the first time in her life, Tonya clutched a plate of home-baked cookies wrapped with a bow. With few church friends beside her, she prayed for courage, a chance to share Jesus. Her hand trembling, she knocked on the door.
“It was scary,” she says now, reflecting on the years she devoted to that ministry. “And it was the same every time we went. I never felt in physical danger, but we were carrying light into such a dark place. I just had to realize there’s not a crowd of Christians willing to go, and these girls are seen and loved and chosen by God just as much as I am.”
When we follow God, it often leads to unexpected encounters in unconventional places. Jesus’ transformational grace, offered freely to all who will receive it, is just too good not to share. But sometimes we get a little too comfortable right where we are, lulled into complacency, maybe insensitive to the deep brokenness and pain all around us.
That’s why I chose to write about my friend Tonya’s ministry at strip clubs in my meditation, “Unconventional Places.” I never tire of hearing her experiences and marveling at her willingness to push past her own fears and discomfort. She extended friendship in Jesus’ name to women who were living lives incredibly different from her own. I’m hoping as I’m inspired by her example, you will be too.
As disciples of Christ, we’re called to love the vulnerable, the struggling, the forgotten—no matter how inconvenient or improbable the circumstances appear. Consider this verse:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” — James 2:14-17 (NIV)
A few times, with that Scripture echoing in my heart, I’ve said “Yes!” when God opened opportunities disguised as leaps of faith. I’ve shivered in an eastern European orphanage hugging children, and I’ve sweated in a Caribbean field hospital holding hands with hurricane victims. What an incredible privilege—and adventure—to live as an ambassador for the King of Kings! Even when the assignment feels too big or too strange, the Lord promises to accompany us and empower us.
And the outcome? That’s left in the Father’s hands. Tonya says they did not witness a lot of dramatic spiritual conversions over the years of meeting with women working in strip clubs, but there was undeniable softening of hearts, seeds of faith planted, and gratitude conveyed.
One girl wore a beaded bracelet the ministry team gave her for two years. The word AGAPE was inscribed on it and they explained it means God’s love is unconditional. Later she told the team, “My dad got cancer and I gave it to him to wear. When he died, I got it back. Thank you for letting me share that love with my dad.”
God’s agape is for all. Where is a broken place in this world that you might share the hope of Christ? What’s the most surprising way the Lord has called you to live out your faith? I appreciate you taking time to read this blog and my accompanying devotion, “Unconventional Places.” I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below. Blessings!
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what is it that you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s People and like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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