It's a new take on helping those in need, but one woman and her husband seem to be up for the unusual but rewarding challenge. Meet Erin Stevens, the wife of the lead pastor at Friendship Community Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, who in October 2012 launched "strip church."
"I just thought that I've got to do something. So I felt the Lord say to me, 'Go feed the strippers'" explained Stevens as to what drew her to this unusual cause. According to the church's website, "Strip Church" is a member of the national Strip Church organization and exists to "equip and encourage dancers by loving them right where they are as they are."
Twice a month, Ms. Stevens brings home cooked meals to a local strip club in Nashville. In addition to moral support and general counseling, Stevens provides a nondenominational, judgment-free approach, she said.
Since the program began, Stevens has met with approximately 100 exotic dancers around Nashville, and she tells the women that "Jesus knows all that you've done and still sees you as 100 percent forgivable. God sees you as valuable and I see you as valuable." Stevens' is not alone in her work. According to Strip Church's national ministry there are more than 60 chapters worldwide, including in cities such as Chicago and Miami.
While these women may have disturbing pasts, in Ms. Stevens' eyes, that doesn't disqualify them from receiving help, and as a Christian she believes she has an obligation to help those in need, even if they happen to be strippers. One such woman Stevens helped was a 23-year-old mother of two who stopped working as a stripper after meeting Stevens, and is currently seeking her degree in criminal justice hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement.
"I told these girls they may not need God right now in their lives, but they will at one point," Stevens told MyFoxDC. "We never go in with a Bible and we never go in with a prayer sermon. We don't try to change them, we just love them."