Three Views: Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?
Image: James O'Brien

Yes, to Heal the Abused

Dawn Herzog Jewell

An out-of-the-way topless bar and club off the highway was a regular Thursday evening destination for Anne Polencheck and her outreach partner. Every two weeks the women faithfully toted gift bags of handmade cards, homemade cookies, earrings, and lotion to the bar and club. With a word of kindness, a prayer, or a hug, they hoped to share Christ's compassion with women who worked there.

Polencheck, a former software engineer, leads New Name, a ministry to strip clubs, bars, massage parlors, and so-called spas in the western suburbs of Chicago. Volunteers pray together and regularly visit venues. It's a slow-going ministry that emulates Jesus leaving the safety of the fold to seek the one lost sheep. Often the workers are busy with customers or simply aren't interested in chatting.

One week, Polencheck met Debbie, a 20-something who recognized the "church ladies" from their previous visits. "I'm seven months pregnant. I need a new job," she said. After their visit, Debbie stepped outside and prayed: "God, if you're real, can you help me?"

When Polencheck and her ministry partner returned one week later, they handed Debbie a flier for Refuge for Women, a Kentucky residential program for those choosing to leave sexual exploitation. It usually had a wait list, but it had one opening.

Debbie's plea came after years of despair. Her childhood was marked by sexual abuse that started when she was 5. At age 9, Debbie was placed in foster care after she showed up at school black and blue from violent beatings. Twenty times, she was shuffled in and out of foster homes in part due to her anger-driven rebellion.

The wounded ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
From Issue:
Read These Next
Also in this IssueAlec Hill: Inside My Slavery
Alec Hill: Inside My Slavery Subscriber Access Only
How Jesus' most troubling parable finally made sense to me.
RecommendedTragic Church Bus Crash Ends Student Mission Trip Before It Can Start
Tragic Church Bus Crash Ends Student Mission Trip Before It Can Start
Accident kills teen girl from Alabama megachurch who felt God’s call to Botswana.
TrendingFinding My 'True Self' As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
Finding My 'True Self' As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
In my young-adult struggle with sexual identity, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me floundering.
Editor's PickForgive Us Our Debts: How Christian College Grads Pay the Price
Forgive Us Our Debts: How Christian College Grads Pay the Price
Evangelical schools work to capture the real cost of student loans.
Christianity Today
Three Views: Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?
hide thisJuly/August July/August

In the Magazine

July/August 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.