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STRIP CHURCH: Finding Hope in a Loveless Place

INSPIRED

Stripped to Redemption…  Sandra’s Story              INSPIRED

I grew up feeling alone and isolated and spent a large amount of time by myself and at the age of 10 found some magazines that sparked an addiction that began to rule my life even at that early age. I thought “Hey, that is what a woman is supposed to be” and by the time I got into college I had full blown addictions in hand and created sheer destruction around me and everywhere I went.

I tried to fill this void I felt in me with excessive partying, and it didn’t work. I got married in college, divorced him, started drinking heavily, and after my sophomore year I dropped out of school and went to North Carolina for the summer.  The fall after I spent a short time in OH with some friends – and became a go-go dancer to help pay some bills. My friends asked me to move out and I moved in with a customer who was almost 40 years older than me. I made him believe I loved him so I would have a place to stay, but hated every minute of it.

After saving every penny I could, I got on a bus and moved in with a man I had met and had an affair with that previous summer. He became my 2nd husband after leaving his wife due to our affair. We didn’t have a ton of money and by this time I had an addiction to alcohol, pornography and cocaine. I started dancing at a club in town, thinking since I had been a go-go dancer, this wouldn’t be much different. I was unhappy in my marriage, so I turned to other men in the middle of it and began to have a series of affairs. As a result of that I became pregnant twice and had two abortions. We moved from state to state and town to town, but nothing helped the downward spiral of my heart. One night- after a three day binge- I overdosed on crack cocaine and almost died. By the age of 24, I had destroyed my 2nd marriage, and asked him for a divorce.

To leave the world I had created around me, I fled to Mexico City. I began a massive string of encounters with men and women that left me alone in hotels waking up not knowing who I had been with the night before and waking up with multiple partners around me. I started having sex for money with anyone who would pay enough. Then one morning I woke up on the side of the road after having been raped and thrown out of the car by 3 police officers and a taxi driver. I knew I needed help for my addictions, so that week my manager called an English speaking 12 step program in Mexico and I began the road of sobriety. On July 15th, 1996 I had my first day of sobriety from alcohol and cocaine and have been sober since.

After getting sober my attention turned to making as much money as I could. I would try to have “healthy” relationships with people, I thought that healthy meant living together, and trying to not sleep with other people yet all the while I was stripping and watching up to 5 hours of porn a day on 8 channels.

I then began booking entertainers into Mexico while I was dancing. We took their passports and made them pay back what money they owed us by stripping. In 2002 I went to England for the summer with a friend and when I flew back to the US I landed in Miami for the Internet Porn Convention. I had just began looking at starting a pornography production company with a friend of mine and by the end of the convention, I was so upset and I had no idea how my life had gotten to where it was – I felt TOTALLY ALONE even though I was surrounded by people. I thought a change of locations could change me so in the fall of 2002 I moved to Lexington Kentucky.

I gave up my adult entertainment booking business to my partner in the Czech Republic over the phone and left all of my belongings in Mexico City. Not long after I moved home, a friend of mine asked me to come to church and I thought THAT was the craziest idea I had ever heard. I was used to this idea of hell fire and brimstone, hymns and condemnation, and that if I started going to church I would have to stop wearing makeup and wear dresses with little flower print on it all the time. I felt disqualified from loving or being loved.

When I first walked into the church I was met with love and grace from everyone there and from God. I asked lots of questions about who this man “Jesus” was and if He could really love me despite what I had done and even will do – the bad and the good. And it turns out He does. After 6 months of questioning and pondering about my purpose in life, on April 27th 2003, I finally got a picture of grace, and that all I needed to do was to ask Him for His forgiveness, come live in my heart and lead my life. He made me a brand new person, and He changes me every day to look more like Him. He is restoring and redeeming parts of my life that I had no idea could be healed.

During those first few years after giving my life to Jesus there was a lot of healing work to do. I got to walk through the earlier abandonment issues I had. I got to really forgive myself for the decisions I made, and began to see myself the way that God sees me. Pure. Forgiven. Redeemed. I became a worship leader and stepped into the things God had in mind for me since the beginning of time. I had to grapple with the fact that I led people into huge amounts of bad decisions but that I could use my leadership gifting to lead people to freedom and life. I got to ask forgiveness from some of the ladies that I booked to work in Mexico and am now friends with some of them.

In 2006 I developed numerous groups for women to find freedom at The Mat, a ministry of Quest Community Church in Lexington KY. Since starting in 2006, almost 1000 women have found freedom and hope from their addictions from substance abuse to sex and pornography and all women’s issues in-between. In that same year I got a really clear picture from God about what it would mean to walk back into the clubs and let women know that no matter what has happened in their life, that they are loved and wanted by Jesus. I started praying through taking in little gifts and cards with my email on it, and in 2007 I stepped back into a club. We started the ministry BeLoved and we have seen so many lives changed.

My passion is letting people know that, “no matter who they are or what they’ve done that they are loved and wanted by God.” Whether that is by teaching, leading worship or connecting with people affected by the sex industry. And God still kept redeeming everything in my life. After never thinking I would get married again, in 2010, I married the man of my dreams. He is such an amazing gift to my life. Also, in early 2011 we joined the Strip Church Network, knowing that we are stronger together and that it was such an amazing gift to have a network of women across the globe to partner in prayer, leadership and support with. We are so thankful for the Network.

My most recent battle came on November 17th, 2011. That was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a shock, but with Jesus I knew that there would be a plan of redemption from even that. Here’s the deal – I gave my life to Jesus April 27th 2003. That was the day that the battle was already won. My life is His, and He will walk us through everything. Now, I am cancer free and my husband and I recently moved to Miami Beach, Florida to co-pastor a church, Everyone Makes It Church on South Beach. We are also continuing with BeLoved ministry and connecting with women in Kentucky and South Florida who have been affected by the sex industry as well as providing support groups to all.

I truly believe that through God, ALL things are possible and ALL things can be redeemed and restored. If you think that you have gone too far, that there is no hope for a fantastic life, that you could never be loved, borrow hope and courage from me. No one has gone too far – everyone who runs to Jesus makes it. ~ Psalm 18:30 (MSG)

Harmony and Sandra (left)

INSPIRED

 

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