Lavishing Ladies With Love
Nicole Phillips of Panama City, Florida, was 17 when she says she felt the call of God to minister to women working in the sex industry.
Phillips had come across a television interview with Hookers for Jesus founder Annie Lobert, who shared her story of redemption after years of prostitution.
“I just knew from the moment I heard Annie speak, that’s what I wanted to do,” Phillips says.
Phillips went on to obtain a degree in Biblical Studies from SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary in Panama City, and then traveled to Edison, New Jersey, for training on strip club outreach through Strip Church, a ministry of the Las Vegas-based XXXChurch.
In November 2014, Phillips, who now is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and a missionary associate with U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries, launched Lavished Ministries, which is based on 1 John 3:1 (“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”).
Every month, Phillips and her team visit four strip clubs in Panama City and hand out gifts to the dancers, such as jewelry, makeup, gift cards, and baked goods. Handwritten notes with Scripture and a link to the ministry website are included.
Phillips says the initial reaction of the women is usually disbelief.
“It never gets old to see the look on their faces when they realize that we don’t want anything from them,” she says. “We are just there to bless them.”
Phillips keeps the visits brief so as not to interfere with business. However, she says a lot of ministry occurs during those few minutes in the clubs.
Women have received salvation, been filled with the Holy Spirit, and experienced healing in their dressing rooms.
“You feel the power of the Holy Spirit just as much in the dressing rooms as you do at church on a Sunday morning,” says team member Angel Mueller. “God is in everything and everywhere – even in the darkest places.”
Mueller and Phillips attend First Assembly of God in Panama City, which serves as the host church for the ministry. Mueller says she felt a heavy burden a few years ago for women who are victims of sex trafficking, but she didn’t know what to do about it.
Her answer came when Phillips invited her to join the ministry team. Mueller uses her outgoing personality to help get the team past the front doors of the clubs and into the dressing rooms where relationships are being built.
The team helps women leave the industry, enter halfway houses and drug rehab centers, and connects them to organizations that can meet their needs.
In August, the ministry will expand to Atlanta. Georgia is home to 135 strip clubs.
Shameika Snipes, a close friend Phillips met while interning at Griffin First Assembly, will oversee the Atlanta ministry, which is expected to reach approximately 200 women in six clubs.
Phillips is also in the process of establishing the ministry as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Her short-term goal is to develop outreach times in more cities across the country as well as to educate churches about the exploitation that often occurs in the commercial sex industry.
In the meantime, Phillips and her team will continue to lavish attention on the women they encounter.
“If we’re able to pray for a girl, that’s a win. If we’re able to give a girl a cupcake, that’s a win. If we’re able to have a 30-second conversation with a girl and she begins to let you slowly enter her life, that’s a win,” she says. “We always want these girls to know that they’re beautiful, that they’re valued, and that they’re loved.”