– There are 3800 adult clubs nationwide which employ over 500,000 people.

– Currently ore women work in the sex industry than in any other point in time.

– Between 75-90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children.

– The sex industry brings in $57 Billion worldwide annually.

– And $15 Billion in the United States.

– Women in the sex industry have higher rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, rape and PTSD.

This is not only their story.

It’s also, the story of my best friends who still find themselves trapped inside those walls.

It’s the story of friends that I’ve lost to substance abuse and the ones I’ve lost to extreme cases of domestic violence.

It is also my story.

I was a part of this industry for a little over 14 years. I started when I was 18 years old and have been out for almost 5 years now. I tell people I found God, but honestly, He found me.

The first time God spoke to me I was 24. He said, “Leave and I’ll take care of you.” I’d love to say I listened, but I didn’t. I ran it by someone else and we concluded I was probably hearing things or just really emotional that day.

So I went back to work.

It would be 8 years before I heard that voice again. This time it was louder. And this time the one I would run stuff by was in jail. It was just me and god and I had a decision to make. That night the ladies of Love Nashville had been there showing God’s love like they always do. What these ladies didn’t know were the cries and the screams out to God that I made on the way to work that night. I told Him, “If you’re coming, where are you???”

After the ladies had left and things got back to normal in the club, me and a girlfriend were standing there griping about what a crappy night it was when I heard that voice again. God said, “You can come with me and start something new or you can stay here and continue to do what you’re doing.”

First, I asked Him, “Are you serious?!” He was!!! Then, I asked if He meant for today or for good. He meant for good. That night I chose Jesus. I cleaned my locker out and, in a sense, left everything I had ever known to follow God.

The first time I ever met Denise was in this building. We were talking about the industry and girls who had pimps and girls who did not. I remember telling her I wish I could tell you I had a pimp. I wish I had someone to blame but I’ve done this to myself.

A couple months later, God deposited in my heart. He said, “Do you remember when you told Denise you didn’t have a pimp? You did, Mary. You were pimped the whole time. You were lied to and deceived. You worked for someone else and got to keep hardly anything and in the end when you walked away, you left with nothing.” I was pimped by the ultimate pimp — the enemy of our souls.

I’d love to say that after I left the club that night, my life was just rainbows and butterflies, but it wasn’t. Because, like pimps do, they come looking for you whispering lies. They say, “This is all you know. You’ll never make it without me. You are worthless now and too damaged to start over.”

This has honestly been one of the hardest seasons of my life. It is a daily struggle to hold on to the promises God has given me. That is why I’m here today. To thank God first, but to also thank Denise, Edie and this ministry for everything they have done for me…paying for counseling to help get over past trauma, giving me a gas card when I can’t even afford to get from point A to point B, helping me find a job, ministering to my whole family…they show God’s love to the people I love as well.

They are and have been truly walking this thing out with me.

They are a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, ears to listen, and a mouth that continues to say, “Don’t look back. Don’t give up on what God has for you.”

Without them I could not have made it this far.

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” I Peter 2:9-10

There are still days I want to run back with everything I have in me. And on those days, I’ve learned to lean into God and turn to these women.

No amount of words will ever fully describe what this ministry means to me and all the ways they have helped me.