“Is there a bomb in those bags?” Her eyes glinted with intrigue as we handed her a gift. We watched as she opened the dainty, pink bag, clearly not believing her own words. She unwrapped a lip gloss and a pair of earrings, and looked up in disbelief that it was actually a gift—a fun present for her, without any strings attached.
“No one does anything nice anymore,” she clarified her previous skepticism. “This is so nice of you.”
“I’m wearing the bracelets I got from you last year,” chimed in another woman working in the club. She raised her hands and shook her wrist, clinking together two gold bangle bracelets. “I love them!”
There was a warmth to our nights out in Vegas. In almost every club, we were escorted to the dressing room where we personally gave gifts to the women as they prepared to go out on the floor.
The gifts truly made a way for us. As we approached some of the clubs, we would watch the bouncers pore over us, measuring our motives and preparing to turn us away. We were out of the ordinary for their weekend crowd, and business runs smoothly when there are no outliers. Their stares would move from our faces to our hands that carried pink gifts, which from far away looked like pom poms coming to cheer on the women. Their brows, furrowed in a posture of protection, would raise slowly into arches of curiosity and would eventually settle into acceptance and invitation as they realized what we carried.
The same was true for the women who hadn’t met Treasures before. Although many already knew who we were, others eyed us with confusion or skepticism until they received the gifts and saw in it earrings that fit in their upper holes and lip gloss that matched the outfit they were wearing. Then they were so happy that we were there.
“This is so awesome!” A woman gleamed, showing us her shiny, smiling lips. “I forgot to bring lip gloss tonight, and you guys brought lip gloss!”
One woman squealed with awe that she got a present on her birthday.
Another looked straight in our eyes and said, “You have no idea how much I appreciate you. So many people judge. Thank you for not judging.”
Another said with sadness, “Your gifts are the only gifts I ever get.”
A lot of people aren’t nice anymore. It’s true. It can be easy to believe that we don’t deserve kindness if it never comes our way. But these gifts went before us, meeting small needs for jewelry and makeup that, so many times, sparked a conversation and created a memory that would remind these women that they are loved, that they matter, that they do deserve kindness.
Over the course of the weekend, 45 strip clubs, sex clubs and escort agencies invited us in, and we were able to give over 1100 gifts to the women!
Just as it is with our monthly outreaches in Los Angeles, the managers and bouncers and club owners recognized that there was goodness in the gifts we brought, and that the women working in the clubs would benefit so much from receiving them. They might not have understood what the goodness was, but they welcomed it nonetheless.
The goodness that was in the gifts was the forgiving, non-judgmental, patient, merciful, gracious love of Jesus.
Two women were sitting at the bar trying to understand what these gifts were about. “Take it,” one of them said. “You guys are friends with Jesus, right? Jesus is good. Jesus is good. Take the gift.” They both took the gifts.
The warmth with which we were received on the outreach was also true for Harmony and Chris’ time at Juvenile Hall. The young women listened to them share their story, gripping to the hope they saw in someone else who was once like them, whose path they could follow.
Harmony and Chris talked about what love is and what it is not. Harmony asked them to think of their pimp or boyfriend and ask, “Is he patient, is he kind? Does he not envy, does he not boast, is he not proud? Does he honor you, is he selfless, is he slow to anger, does he forgive you? Does he despise what is evil and rejoice in what is true? Does he protect you, does he trust you, does he hope for you, and does he always persevere for your sake?” She told them, if not, then that is not the love that God intended them to have.
Chris followed that up by teaching them what a gentleman is and how a godly man builds up his girlfriend or wife, so she can flourish. Chris and Harmony were offering their relationship as an example of what these young women could have; they were showing them a path they could follow that would bring them into wholeness through God’s love.
It was a late night, but the security guards happily allowed the young women to stay up past curfew to ask questions and share their stories.
In true Vegas fashion, all our nights ended up being late nights, but they all had a tangible sense of goodness to them, even in the dark hours. I pondered our time in Vegas on the long bus ride home, so grateful for the goodness of God in unlikely places.
I noticed that across the aisle from me were a dozen roses, vividly pink, that were carefully stowed, propped upright between two carry-on bags. They were a gift to our team member Roe from Jim for their 40th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated the Saturday of our Vegas weekend.
Those roses made me smile. They were soft and beautiful against the non-descript backdrop of our Megabus. Yet another picture of goodness in unlikely places.
by Lindsay Hall