June 30, 2000 09:00pm
On Convention, Missionaries Hit the Strip Clubs
Source: Private Dancer Magazine
(ORLANDO, FL) -- For most of their lives, Pam Tate and Dot Spear criticized the women who danced at gentlemen clubs.
But one Saturday in June, instead of looking down on the sin, they brought the message of salvation and love to women at the Original Doll House and at the Cabaret along Orlando's South Orange Blossom Trail.
``Before I came in, I didn't think I could do this,'' said Tate, from Lakeland's Great Commission Baptist Church. ``But I realized that I had been judgmental and God doesn't see any one sin greater than the other.''
``I think we sowed some seeds [for Christ],'' said 75-year-old Spear, of Plant City's First Baptist Church.
Tate and Spear were among 28 missionaries who are members of the Southern Baptist Convention, which held its convention in Orlando last month.
During the convention, the group participated in ``The Kindness Force,'' a movement that goes to the seediest of places to let women who dance topless for a living know that someone loves them.
Begun four years ago by Lynn Latham of Orlando, the missionary experience was for the first time shared by others from as far as Texas and Georgia.
Latham, director of the church and community ministries with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association, a Southern Baptist affiliate, started the ministry to help break the stereotype of ``fanatical'' Christians who spew fire and brimstone teachings.
``I think there are many out there who think we will hit them over the head with the Bible,'' Latham said. ``But we really do want them to know that we really do care.''
``There are a lot of women on the street who are lost,'' Latham said. ``They are caught up in a lifestyle and may not know their way out of it.''
Tate, Spear and the Rev. Manuel Galindo of Texas sat in the Doll House as several dancers told their stories of despair.
While the missionaries listened, they passed out makeup bags filled with toiletries and a gold commemorative dollar coin, a signature piece that speaks to how each person is priceless.
``I met one girl who wanted to be a journalist, another who is in school to become a veterinarian,'' Tate said. Thumping music enveloped the room while a topless girl danced along a stage where men put money in a garter around her thigh.
``They don't want to do this,'' she said. ``I didn't believe how women could exploit themselves. But these women need big money and fast money.''
Two women who worked at the club confided to the missionaries that they didn't want to work at the club, but needed the money. One needed a car. The other was divorced and had to support her three children.
``It's a job,'' said one woman.
Each conversation ended with a hug and a smile. The missionaries promised that they would return.
Latham said the group passed out 200 toiletry bags in a two-day period.
Initially, more than 100 people were expected to participate in the ``Kindness Force,'' but many withdrew or never showed up.
`It's hard to get people interested in doing something like this,'' said Jean White of the convention's North American Mission Board. ``It's risky and it takes building a relationship. You just can't hand out a tract and walk away.''
Latham said the ministry is directed at showing the mission of the church.
``We have got to get out of the church and reach hurting people,'' Latham said. ``If we don't, the church is going to die.''
About 10,000 people are expected to attend the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando. The Christian organization has 40,000 churches and nearly 16 million members worldwide.
From the Lapdance News Service