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Ministering in ‘dens of iniquity’

By Becky Reigel

Jeanie Turner’s mission field is filled with darkness and perversion. The Fort Myers (Fla.) resident ministers to exotic dancers working the city’s three strip clubs, but when Turner steps into the "dens of iniquity" — as she refers to the clubs — she’s covered by prayer.

Each month Turner delivers a gift to every dancer at the clubs. The gifts contain a gospel message and an invitation to the Help for Hurting Women Bible study at First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, where Dan Betzer is pastor.

"As soon as I walk in the club until the time I leave, I don’t even feel my feet hitting the floor. It’s like I float," she says. The reason, Turner says, is the prayer partner or partners praying in the car and the ministries that support her. "I wouldn’t go without them [the women who pray]. I believe God protects me; and when I have someone in the car interceding, I know He will direct me."

The direction is evident, she and others involved with One Way Out Ministries say. Turner’s known as "Angel Lady" or "Church Lady" in the clubs.

"Jeanie has found favor with the owners and whoever is at the doors," says Karen Wortman, Turner’s friend and prayer partner. "They know she’s going to share the gospel. You would think those places would shut her down, but she’s received favor."

And dancers from the clubs have begun attending the Bible study and area churches — some have left the profession.

"The first many, many months were spent just sowing seed," says Pastor Connie Weisel, minister to women at First Assembly. "Now we are getting reports that the seed has taken root and we are beginning to see the results — and a harvest of freedom and life is beginning to come forth in these women’s lives."

Getting started

Turner’s ministry is "to women in life-controlling situations."

"God hasn’t just called me to strippers," she says. "If there’s a woman that has a problem who needs God, I want to help."

The burden became evident several years ago, she says. "I’d be driving down the road and when I would see a prostitute, I just wanted to tell her about Jesus … and I would wish I had a gift to give her."

Her own background contributes to her compassion.

"Before I got saved, I had way too many relationships," Turner says. "I wasn’t a dancer or a prostitute, but I looked for love in the wrong places. I didn’t know the love of God. Until I met God, I didn’t know what real love was."

At the recommendation of her pastor’s wife, Harolene Cass (Turner attends Revival Tabernacle in Fort Myers), Turner began attending First Assembly’s ministry to hurting women.

There she met Cathy Mehl, who began the outreach to Fort Myers’ dancers. Mehl was leaving to attend the School of Ministry at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Fla. When Mehl made an appeal for someone to continue the ministry, Turner volunteered.

"I just walked up to her and said, ‘I want to be involved in this, but I don’t know if I can do it.’"

Nearly two years later, Turner is still delivering gifts to dancers. "Praise the Lord, the mantle was just passed to another woman," Weisel says, explaining that it "takes a woman who is absolutely appointed and anointed to do this work."

Message of love

The gifts Turner delivers are unique and feminine, with attention and prayer given to every detail. She’s given white roses; teacups with a bag of tea; white handkerchiefs embroidered with red hearts; homemade chocolates; devotionals and audiocassettes — all with encouraging words and Scripture verses.

"They are beautiful gifts, very feminine. They always look stunning. The gifts are ones any woman would look at and say ‘I want one of these,’ " Weisel says. "Each gift includes a letter or article with the message ‘We love you. We care about you.’ There is absolutely no condemnation, absolutely no criticism. It is totally a ministry of love."

Nearly every package includes something purple, Turner says, explaining, "Whenever you see a cloth draped over the cross, it’s purple — it looks like the color of forgiveness."

Cindy Weber, a ministry partner who prays and helps prepare the nearly 40 gifts each month, has made chocolate hearts and Easter candy.

"It shows the love of Jesus," she says of the carefully prepared gifts. "I don’t think some of the women have ever felt His love. I don’t think some have felt genuine love at all. And for a total stranger to come up and give you a gift — it’s all just to express Jesus’ love."

Delivering the message

When Turner and her prayer partner or partners arrive at the clubs, she has them park in an adjacent parking lot. Then, they begin praying as she delivers the gifts.

"All the gifts are in a basket. I walk in the door and the first thing I do is give the bartender a present and say, ‘I’m going to give the dancers their gifts.’ Some of the dancers are working. If they don’t look at me, I’ll lay the gifts next to them."

Wortman says, "The blessing is watching her when she walks out. She’s walking into a pit of darkness and sin, but when she comes out she’s glowing. When she walks in and out, there’s a confidence. She walks in the Spirit of God."

Expecting big things

Turner has faith that there’ll be a harvest from the seeds she’s planting. "Every time we take something we pray over it. It may not affect the dancers immediately, but eventually it will. We’re giving the Word of God and God says His Word will not return void."

And Turner is preparing to help in the harvesting. Recently, she learned of similar ministries in Texas, Arizona and other states and has begun networking with people in those ministries.

Lisanne McMurray, a former dancer now with Lightdancers, a ministry of Phoenix (Ariz.) First Assembly, sent Turner 50 devotionals. And she’s received information from other ministries offering former dancers support and guidance as they leave the clubs.

"They have so many strongholds on them after they’ve involved themselves in that kind of sin, and it’s hard to walk away from that kind of money," Turner says.

"God has me there to plant seeds; but if I can lead them out by the hand, I want to. I want to be able to point them in the right directions — jobs, housing, day care for their children."

Weisel is excited by the possibilities.

"It’s amazing how God has been moving all across the nation at one time," she says. "I’m really expecting this is going to become huge."


Becky Reigel lives in Springfield, Mo.

 

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