A faith-based group called "Cherished" in Virginia is devoted to aiding women in the sex industry by providing friendship and hope.
Carlie Gabbert, Cherished's director, and a group of volunteers visit these dance and strip clubs once a month, bringing love and presents for the ladies. In contrast to the treatment many in this industry get, the Cherished team always leaves these women with encouraging remarks.
"We go into the club, we have these little pink bags and sometimes the ladies will say, 'Oh the pink bag ladies are here," explained Gabbert.
"Beforehand, we just write notes," said Gabbert in an interview with CBN News, "and the Lord prompts us to put a scripture, or a specific prayer and that note is what has really been really wonderful in our outreaches. Oftentimes the ladies will pull it out and they'll say, 'How did you know I needed this right now?'"
As with other sorts of ministry, prayer is crucial to the effectiveness of the initiative.
"We can actually circle up inside of the club like right there in the middle of the club and pray in a circle and everyone will pray and then we hug. It's just amazing. It's like kicking Satan in the face which is wonderful to me," she said.
Their efforts bore fruit. Gabbert said that they have seen ladies quit the sex industry, with some recommitting their lives to Christ and attending church on a daily basis.
Alynna, a rape victim who attended a Christian school as a child, is one of them. While looking for employment in a strip club, she came upon the ministry.
"I was just quoting scripture," she said recalling her time with one of the volunteers. "We were quoting scripture back and forth and she was like, 'You know the word.' I said, 'You know what, it was in me.'"
Alynna attributes her peace and wholeness to God, Cherished, various ministries, and her church. She now works as an interpreter at a vaccination facility and serves as a source of inspiration for others in the sex business.
"There's a way out and God will do it for you, 'cause he did it for me. Look at me. I'm here. I'm alive. And we're here to help everybody else to survive," she assured.
Gabbert's encounter with the ministry
In an interview with CBN News, Gabbert shared that she felt compelled to support women who work in strip clubs about a decade ago.
"One day I was driving down the interstate on an overnight trip. We drove past a strip club. You know my first thought was to look away, and God really just kind of said, 'Why don't you minister to those ladies instead of looking away from them'," she said.
Gabbert learned two years later that the Cherished outreach had been started by the Established Footsteps ministry in Hampton, Virginia. The ministry emphasizes on forming friendships with stripper women. Many of them, she discovered, are simply trying to get by.
"A lot of them have a second job as an insurance rep or as a nurse's aid or dental assistant or they work in a restaurant," explained Gabbert.
Understandably, the pandemic's impact has led to an increase in the number of women seeking employment in strip clubs. Gabbert, on the other hand, sees this as an "opportunity" to help more women and show them that God cherished them.