KOKOMO, Ind. – To most people, rescuing women who dance in gentlemen’s strip clubs from a pejorative lifestyle probably seems an impossible task. But 12 women living in or near Kokomo have taken on the task to show God’s love as they proclaim the Gospel to this unique audience. It’s been a priority for them during the past two years.
Four women members of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Kokomo host the group, known as Light in Darkness Ministry, Monday evenings, to pray half-an-hour then split up into smaller groups to visit one or more of Kokomo’s six strip clubs. St. Luke’s member Cindi Meyers was the force that brought the group together. Other volunteers are from Kokomo area congregations. Not all are United Methodists, but all take their mission seriously with faithful tenacity.
The Light in Darkness Ministry is headed nationally by Dr. Carolyn Knight, a Bible professor originally from Mississippi, who now lives in Greenwood, Ind. Knight works with groups of women in five cities both here in Indiana and other states. She was part of the group when Together visited the ministry at St. Luke’s the evening of June 9. Joining Knight, a dozen women spent 25 minutes in prayer for the dancers working in the six Kokomo strip clubs before going to visit in two clubs.
One woman prayed, “Give us boldness to interact with conversations. Bring these women through their darkness. Holy Spirit, give us your words.”
Another prayed, “May they become knowledgeable of Jesus Christ, not under condemnation but under conviction… God may your light come into their darkness... Manifest yourself through us.”
Several volunteers prayed for individual women by name with whom they have built relations in a club. Still others prayed for the women’s children.
Special prayers were directed to the women from the group who would be encountering the dancers in the clubs that evening.
About half the group headed for two clubs – The Hip Hugger and Tease. Together joined the group going to The Hip Hugger. Once at a club, two members go inside to interact with dancers one-on-one, while one or two volunteers remain in a car in the club’s parking lot praying for their colleagues and dancers who are in the club.
The Hip Hugger building is a nondescript, one-story tan-colored concrete-block building without windows located just off the main highway running north-and-south through town.
Paula Shrock, a member of St. Luke’s and Indiana Conference Prayer Coordinator, who hosted Together for the evening, said the club is owned and operated by Don Draper, who is in his 70s. She said he welcomes the group’s women into the club, even into the dressing room, to minister to the dancers. Draper also allows a locked box in the dressing room where strip-club dancers can leave their prayer and other requests to which the ministry responds.
Knight estimates the dancers in Kokomo clubs range in age from 18-to-30 years. Some are married and others are single; some work a few hours a month and others work numerous hours a week. Shrock said Draper boasts that 150 women work in his club. Knight estimates that approximately 300 women work the six clubs in Kokomo. Drapers club is nationally known and frequented by men traveling to Indianapolis. It’s only an hour north of the capital city.
Knight estimates 90 percent of young women working in these clubs have been sexually abused when they were little girls. Many continue to be abused.
Basically, the clubs are drinks-only bars with topless waitresses who mostly strip to music as well as perform sexual teases, nothing illegal in Indiana.
Even though the clubs in Kokomo appear to be doing nothing illegal, they can harbor illicit activity which can happen as a result of the club’s existence but outside of the club. Some critics claim even within the clubs.
“We know, through testimonials, that trafficking is occurring in Kokomo,” Knight said.
The dozen or so cars in the parking lot come from Indiana and neighboring states. During the 40-minutes we were there, half-a-dozen men drifted in-and-out of the club one-at-a-time.
While parked across from the club, both women prayed for the two women who went into the club, who talked with the women in the club who might hear and received the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pray “the sinner’ prayer.” They also prayed for the families of dancers who work in the club, especially their children, the husbands to whom some of the women are married and that the club would eventually be closed.
Near the end of our stay, the Rev. Deborah Cooper, one of the ministry volunteers who went into the club, came out to inform us she was taking one of the women home because she was very ill. That ended the night’s visit.
The mission of this and each of the five Light in Darkness Ministry groups is: “Bringing the light of Christ into these places where darkness reigns.” According to the ministry’s website (www.lightindarknessministry.com), “We are following the Lord’s instruction to go right where they are. Many women have exclaimed over the years, ‘I am so glad you came in here to find me!’”
During the past five years the Light in Darkness Ministry teams nationally have rescued around three dozen women from this life-style and have helped some obtain other employment.
Those rescued from the clubs in Kokomo now work in care facilities as certified nurse’s assistants, in restaurants, in telemarketing, in retail businesses and in home health care.
For more information or if you would like someone from the Light in Darkness Ministry to speak in your church, contact Dr. Carolyn Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 601-953-9586.
Photos by Bruce Shrock
Light in Darkness Ministry volunteers pray at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Kokomo before splitting up and visiting one or two of the six strip clubs in town.
“God, may your light come into their darkness.”
– from a prayer of a Light in Darkness Ministry volunteer