Nothing brings people together quite like a home-cooked meal. 

Whether it’s a holiday meal with family, a potluck with friends or a backyard barbecue with neighbors, food is a catalyst for community.

But for Scarlet Hope, a ministry that seeks to share the hope and love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry, food does more than bring people together.

It’s missional.

“A meal is the vehicle with which we take the Gospel,” said Scarlet Hope Outreach Director Kari Clark. “The women we serve need to know the hope and love of their Savior just as much as we do. We’re not trying to save anyone; that’s God’s responsibility. But what we are trying to do is show them that Christ loves them, and we love them because Christ loves them—so much so that He laid down His life for them.”

Each week, Scarlet Hope staff and teams of volunteers prepare, cook and deliver about 180 meals into strip clubs, massage parlors and spas around the Louisville area and to the women in Scarlet Hope’s Career Development Program, which teaches women life skills, provides Bible classes and employs women at Scarlet’s Bakery.

Each meal is an opportunity to share the love of Christ with someone, and every step of the outreach process is intentional, prayerful and done with love.

Longtime Southeast members Haylie Bennett, Diane Schulz, Candis Rogers and Kim Clough have been serving behind the scenes, helping cook these meals for years.

They spend one day a week whipping up anything from baked spaghetti to enchiladas to send to dozens of men and women who work in the adult entertainment industry.

Nearly 10 years ago, Schulz and Clough felt God was calling them to serve outside the church. They connected to Scarlet Hope, a Southeast local missions partner, and began helping prepare meals for outreach. It wasn’t long before their friends joined them.

“We were just looking for a place to serve,” Schulz said. “We all enjoy cooking and serving however we can, and we all enjoy being out of the spotlight, so preparing meals for Scarlet Hope is the perfect niche for us.”

Affectionately nicknamed the “Scarlet Love” team, Bennett, Schulz, Rogers and Clough, along with all the other teams of cooking volunteers, work hard to provide quality, well-balanced, made-from-scratch meals.

“What we take for granted, the girls don’t,” Rogers said. “You don’t realize how much love people feel in the little details.”

Clark agreed and said that it’s the details that show others the grace and the love of Christ.

“The extra effort you put in matters so much,” she said. “The homemade desserts and well-dressed salads are a way of showing that we really do value these women. And I think that’s how God engages with us. He meets our needs and provides for us so specifically. That’s how He shows us He loves us—through intentional, specific, extravagant care. It’s because God loves us so much that we make that extra effort. We’re just sharing the love that has already been poured out on us.”

Once meals have been prepared, packaged and prayed over, teams of volunteers take the meals to clubs and spas with the intention of building relationships. As volunteers and the women they serve gather around the table, walls start to come down and opportunities to listen to broken pasts, deep hurts and big dreams open up.

So do opportunities to share the Gospel.

“We are not a catering service,” Clark said. “These women are fighting many of the same battles we’ve fought and have experienced a lot of the same trauma and hardship that we’ve faced. And when we get to come together over a hot meal prepared with love, the defenses come down, women start to open up, and we see that we have a lot more in common than we might have thought. Jesus modeled that for us by breaking bread with others, and God uses these meals to break down barriers.”

Southeast member Susan Bramer, who serves on Scarlet Hope’s outreach team, said that the women she gets to talk to have shown her that God never stops working.

“I’ve seen God at work in so many conversations I’ve had with women in the clubs,” Bramer said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but God loves these women so much, and He continually reminds me that if I faithfully show up with a meal and a listening ear, He can use me to bring His Gospel to women who may never otherwise hear it.”

It takes a village

Providing 180 meals each week is no small feat.

There are currently eight churches and more than 300 people who contribute to Scarlet Hope’s outreach efforts. These churches, Bible studies, home groups and individuals provide meals, volunteers, donations and financial support. Scarlet Hope also receives donations from Dare to Care and Gordon Food Services, but sometimes the pantry is bare and the cooking team has to get creative to pull a full meal (complete with a main dish, side dish and dessert) together.

“Preparing these meals has definitely strengthened our trust in the Lord,” Bennett said. “It often reminds us of the feeding of the 5,000. God is able to take the loaves and fishes that are graciously given to us and turn everything into a great meal.”

“God always gets the glory,” Clough added. “We couldn’t do this without Him. In nine years, we’ve only had one bad day. No matter how stressed we are, God always works it out.”

During their time with Scarlet Hope, Bennett, Schulz, Rogers and Clough have learned a lot about ministry and their own relationships with God.

“In the beginning, we were willing to serve anywhere, but I think God has shown us over and over again that we don’t have to do everything; we just have to be faithful to do what He’s already given us to do,” Schulz said.

Bennett added, “I think God has really strengthened the gifts He’s already given us. I’ve learned so much about this ministry and have even been able to step outside of my comfort zone and serve in other ways, like by going on mission trips with Southeast to The Samaritan Women in Baltimore. They serve women who have been victims of human trafficking, and if you had told me 10 years ago I’d do something like that, I wouldn’t have believed you. But God used Scarlet Hope to open that door for me.”

Donations

Scarlet Hope is continually accepting the following donations:

>Disposable silverware, plates and to-go containers

>Heavy-duty foil pans with flat lids

>Salt, pepper and other spices

>Nonperishables including pasta, rice and canned goods (preferably large cans)

>Milk, butter and other dairy products

For information on donating to Scarlet Hope, contact outreachdirector@

scarlethope.org. For information on serving opportunities, contact volunteer@scarlet

hope.org or visit www.scarlethope.org.