2016-06-30
Lori Albee of JCs Girls Girls Girls
Some Christian ministries attempt to spread the word of God on street corners. JC's Girls Girls Girls prefers strip clubs. The group is part of a larger ministry called Matthew's House, run out of Sandals Church in Riverside, California.
 According to their mission statement, JC's Girls "seek to share God's message of hope and forgiveness by reaching out in a nonjudgmental way to those who are in the sex industry." Lori Albee, one of JC's Girls, is a married mother of two who goes to strip clubs with the rest of the group. They pay for lap dances and use the time alone with the dancers to spread God's message of love and invite them into their church.   

Albee talked to Beliefnet about her unique ministry, her recent trip to the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, and why pornography is bad for Christians.

How did you start the ministry?
 
I was an acquaintance of this woman, Heather Veitch, a former [exotic] dancer. She attended my church [Sandals Church in Riverside, California]. Last February, I found out that she was a hairdresser, so I started going to her to have my hair done. 
 
[One day] while she was doing my hair she started talking about how she is so crazy in love with God. She told me how he’s totally changed her life. She told me she had a friend in the industry who had passed away and she only learned about it later on. Her girlfriends, who were strippers, didn't know what to do, so to celebrate [her life] they all poured alcohol on her grave. Heather really felt bad about her friend's sad, lonely death, and started to think, "I could have told her about God."
 
Heather's passion started to move in me the passion that I felt when I first became a Christian. She told me she felt she should go back to the strip clubs and tell the girls about God. I thought there was no reason I could not help her.

On Good Friday last March [2005], we organized a team of six girls at our church to go to a local strip club. Each of us was to choose a girl that we would buy a private dance from. Once we were back in the booth, we would, of course, tell them we wouldn’t want a private dance, and then just talk to them about God and see if they were receptive.

Tell me about your experience approaching a stripper for the first time.
 
I asked a girl for a dance, and she said yes. This girl was adorable—she looked like any girl on a college campus. We start walking back to the booth and she said, "I have never had a girl ask me to dance before." And I said, "I have never asked a girl to dance before." It was a little weird for me, too. [laughs]
 
We were laughing and building a rapport before we ever got [to a private area], and once we did, I told her, "I really don't want you to dance for me. We're just here because we love you girls and we want you to know that there's a God out there who loves you, too." And she said, "I cannot believe that girls like you would come to a place like this to tell us about God."
 
I said, "We just want you to know that if you want God in your life, he's there for you. There's nothing you've ever done that's so bad that he would not forgive you." [Her eyes] instantly started welling with tears, and she was like, "Thank you so much. I keep feeling like I want to go into church, but I feel like I'm going to turn into a pillar of fire."
 
I told her, "Absolutely not. There is nobody in that church who is better than you are. God wants you as much as he wants anybody." I then asked her if I could pray for her, and she said, "Please, pray for me." Then she grabbed my hand, and I just prayed that she would remember this moment in time when God came to her right where she —and that God would protect her, because she's in a dangerous job. That was really it. It was very simple and short—the length of one song, about three minutes. 
 
JC's Girls
JC's Girls at the Las Vegas Adult Expo: (left to right) Lori Albee, Tanya Huerter, and Heather Veitch
 
So your group is supportive of these strippers even if they continue stripping?
 
We have strippers in our church right now. They come to church, but they’re still at their jobs. We don’t ask them to stop their jobs. That’s just not realistic. What we do is give them an opportunity to know God if they want to. We let God and them decide what needs to change in their [lives].
 
Have any of the strippers you've talked to reached out for help in leaving their jobs? Have you tried to help them find new ones?
 
One of the girls who we have coming to our church right now, Roxanne, wound up becoming pregnant. She went to get an abortion, but while she was there she could not go through with it. She was like, “I have God in my life and I know he doesn’t want this for me.” Now that Roxanne is pregnant, she does need to change her career. But the good thing about being part of a church is that you have a big support system—there are a lot of people who could pull together resources to help her seek out something different, a new lifestyle, new employment. We’re actually in the process of helping Roxanne do that right now.
 
How many girls do you think you've reached?
 
When we went into the clubs that first night, we realized that there are way more girls than we can reach. We reached six girls [that night], but we had to find a way to reach more. That’s when the idea came to us that we could do a website. Instead of reaching six in a day, we could be reaching thousands.
 
Jimmy D, a pornographer and an excellent glamour photographer, offered to do all our pictures for the website for free, which was great, because we're broke. Then, we found Maria, who is our website developer. She actually designs soft-core porn websites, so she was just naturally able to give it that feel.
 
The site has been up since August 2005. We had well over 60,000 hits on our website just in December. And we've had as many as 15,000 in one day.

Do you still do the personal ministry--going into strip clubs?

Yes, we make it a goal to go out once or twice a month, locally.

Does the money that you spend at strip clubs come out of your own pockets? 
 
When the girls go out to the clubs, they know that they're funding that themselves. There are no funds. 
 
Jesus was always really forgiving of those who suffered from sexual sin. Christian tradition has portrayed Mary Magdalene as a sexual sinner. What are your thoughts on her? Shouldn't she be your poster girl?
 
Yeah, and we do use her on our website. [Another] example is the woman at the well. The classic example [from the Bible is] the men who found a woman right in the middle of her sexual experience with a man she wasn't married to, and they dragged her before Jesus. He said, "He who has no sin should cast the first stone." 
 
And they all walked away. [Jesus] did have a lot of compassion and all these women are our poster children. Jesus went to Matthew's house, where the tax collectors and the prostitutes hung out. That's how [the ministry at our church] Matthew's House, got its name.

Tell me about going to the Adult Expo in Las Vegas. 

Our whole approach with [JC's Girls] and our website is that we do glamour—big hair and makeup—because we know how important physical beauty is to the girls in this industry. [So] we wrapped Bibles in zebra-stripped tissue paper and then we wrapped around that a black T-shirt that said “Holy Hotties—JC'sGirls.com” in hot pink, which we then wrapped with a bright pink ribbon. We passed out over 200 of these packages to people in the industry that weekend.

JC's Girls
Surrounded by men at the Adult Expo, JC's Girls handed out cards with a Christian message. The men "thought we were porn stars," says Lori.
We also gave out little postcard-sized cards that say "Three for the Price of One." At the bottom it says, "JC's Girls Girls Girls." On the other side it says, "With God, you could have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all for the one price that Christ paid on the cross for you."

When guys would come up to us we'd say, "We're going to play a game. We're JC's girls. We want you to read this card and figure out who JC is."

It was so cute--guys would read it and they'd be like, "Je-e-e-s-us Christ?" [laughs]. Then we'd say, "Yeah, you got it!" and we'd give them a little sticker.

We wore jeans and tank tops to the convention every day, nothing revealing. As we walked around, some of the camera crews that were there would go up to girls that we had just given a Bible to and ask them, "What did you think of this experience?" Over and over, the girls were like, "It was so easy to talk to them because of how they looked. They looked more like me." For us, that was really good confirmation that our approach worked and that we were on the right track.  

Have you ever gotten negative responses from any of the girls you've tried to help?
 
A girl has said, "No, I don't want you to pray for me in a place like this." There has never been anyone—even at the adult convention—who was negative to our face. They were all very sweet and receptive. It was bizarre. We expected to go and have this really hard experience, and we were just pleasantly blown away by the fact that it was not what we thought.

What was the most surprising thing you found at the Expo?

I think porn is getting more and more geared toward violence.  It's not natural; it's not how God made us to have a sexual encounter.

The most shocking thing for me was that Heather got her nerve up to go to the GayVN [Gay Video Network] section—a part of the convention hall that's set aside just for gay pornography—to take over a couple of Bibles and T-shirts. She takes these packages over and comes back and says, "Lori, grab a stack of Bibles, we've got to go back!" All the guys were like, "This is so sweet.  This is so great."
 
Do you think pornography is bad for Christians? Is there ever a time when it's OK? Maybe between two married people?
 
Somehow the world continues to push this message that the best sex is going to be with multiple, random partners, whenever and however you feel, and with as many toys as possible. What I believe is that God really intended the sexual experience to be between two monogamous partners in marriage.
 
When you're looking at porn [as a couple], in your mind you're thinking, "[Is my partner] thinking about me? Or is he thinking about the chick in the video?" It just develops insecurities between partners and creates a fantasy expectation of a sexual experience that's not reality
.