(originally posted on Washington Times Communities)
For most people, this past Easter weekend was composed of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, connecting with old friends and family, and enjoying a delicious Easter dinner. It was an uplifting opportunity to focus on our gratitude for God’s everlasting love.
One charity embraced the call to demonstrate God’s love in an effective and groundbreaking approach. Jesus Said Love (JSL) conducted their annual “Fill the Bag” effort, in which they collected gifts, clothes, Bibles, and other necessities from community members and distributed them to strippers on Easter weekend.
Ten years ago, JSL began as a small group of women that visited local strip clubs. Rather than trying to preach to or convert the dancers, they simply wore T-shirts that said, “Jesus Loves Strippers.”At first, people inside the club were taken aback. Was this some kind of joke? The women, however, began to hand out gifts and T-shirts to the dancers.
Beginning with this act of unconditional friendship, closer relationships began to develop. Soon the women were helping the dancers find support with “The House of Love” – JSL’s network of other charities, local churches, and small businesses.
Jesus Said Love is different than most organizations and government agencies. “Our organization focuses on relation and connection,” said Brett Mills, the CEO. “We meet dancers in their environment and begin building friendships.”
Strip clubs are easily overlooked and often scorned, so JSL’s mission is even more impacting. Through their efforts, they have seen countless examples of lasting change. They have helped numerous dancers transition into better employment, settle financial problems, and regain dignity and self-worth.
The outreach carries its own set of difficulties. Mills told the story of one dancer, Dixie, who had developed a close friendship with members of the organization. When Dixie was suddenly and tragically killed in a car accident, Mills spontaneously committed to pay for a proper funeral that her family was unable to afford.
At first, the idea seemed impossible. According to data from the National Funeral Directors Association, an average funeral costs over $6,000. Mills said,
“Unexpected challenges is the world we live in. Our approach is simple and measured. We pray…a lot. And every single time, God comes through.”
In 48 hours, $7,000 was raised from all 50 states, Poland, and France. It truly was a testimony to God’s power. Over time, Jesus Said Love has continued to grow, starting branches in Dallas and Bryan/College Station.
As an organization, Jesus Said Love fulfills a very distinct purpose – an outreach that invests time and money into building restorative relationships with those forsaken by society.
In talking with founders Brett and Emily Mills, it is immediately apparent that they desire to make a lasting difference in dancers’ lives, whatever it may take. The “Jesus Loves Strippers” shirts may seem startling at first, but they describe a deeper truth. JSL is a model for confidently vacating the comfort zone and embracing the call to share God’s love with those around us.
Looking toward the future, Jesus Said Love is focusing on hiring more staff members in order to increase their capacity for outreach. The best way to donate is at JesusSaidLove.com, where you can buy the T-shirts and even begin your own fundraising page. Mills says it best,
“Sometimes flexible response looks like stepping out in blind faith and watching God do wild and crazy things that don’t make sense.”