When police officers knock on Josh Starr’s window as he’s parked outside a strip club, he has some explaining to do.
“At first, it was crazy to try to explain that my wife, who is a Christian, is in the strip club serving food,” he said. “One time I had to call Rachelle out of the club to corroborate my story.”
Josh is thankful God led them to reach out to the adult entertainment industry through Scarlet Hope.
It’s a place few “church people” dare to tread.
Not Josh. Certainly not Rachelle.
On Friday, Oct. 11, Scarlet Hope will host its annual An Evening of Hope Gala to celebrate what God is doing through the ministry.
Since Scarlet Hope began in 2007 to reach women in the adult entertainment industry with the hope and love of Jesus, more than 200 women have turned in their spiked heels in a special ceremony that signifies leaving life in the clubs. Dozens meet for Bible study the same night that more than 165 volunteers and hundreds of prayer warriors from a wide variety of churches make outreach in clubs possible by cooking meals, praying and going into clubs to build relationships.
Last January, Scarlet Hope began the Hope Program, a five-month program designed to provide a foundation of healing, rest and renewal. It includes attending worship services, enrolling in a Celebrate Recovery program, Bible study, attending Life Skills classes and counseling. After 30 days, women graduate to the second level to build a résumé, meet with a career coach, begin writing out their own story and serving. In Level 3, they establish a budget and bank account, join a community group, get a job, begin to tithe and give back to the community.
Each resident receives addiction recovery support services, alcohol and drug counseling, medical assistance, dental assistance, spiritual growth activities, workforce development services and a psychiatric evaluation.
Scarlet Hope is a primary partner of Southeast Christian Church’s Missions Ministry.
Though much is happening in the ministry, there’s still a lot to do.
“Kentucky has 5,000 sex industry workers. There are 27 clubs in Louisville,” Rachelle said. “Our goal is that they all know Jesus. Thankfully, God is doing that one person at a time.”
Each week, volunteers with Scarlet Hope take homemade “comfort food” to the clubs, talk with dancers, bouncers and owners. In the clubs, many call them the “church ladies.”
“In the clubs, a woman’s worth is fast cash,” said Rachelle. “Many feel worthless. Not every woman would agree with that, but as we get to know them, we teach them that they are bought with a price, the blood of Christ.”
That resonates. One dancer who recently left the industry said, “I may have ashes at my feet, but there is no soot on my soul.”
Josh said 85 percent of the women they meet in clubs were sexually abused as little girls.
“That sets their life course into the adult entertainment industry,” he said. “Those in the industry for decades don’t have much hope. When they get the hope of the Gospel, that God loves them tremendously, their eyes are opened. Most have never experienced the love of a Father like that. They see that God has gone to great lengths to bring them to Himself.”
Josh said he’s encouraged with outreach, but often discouraged by how much more there is to do.
“Our biggest need right now is men and women joining us to bring the Gospel to the industry,” Josh said. “We need financial partners. We need people willing to give to see the adult industry change to experience life through Jesus.”
Josh said some of the men and women in the clubs are resistant to the Gospel because they’ve been stung by condemnation and judgment without the hope of the Gospel.
“When our team goes into those clubs and talks to them about Jesus, it’s not hopeless,” he said. “The Gospel changes club owners just as He changes our hearts. After coming to know Jesus, one owner shut down her club. What we want is every woman and child to come to know Jesus.”