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Baptist women share friendship, kindness with exotic dancers

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The new dollar coin bearing the likeness of the Native American heroin Sacagawea gained new meaning to many exotic dancers on New Orleans’ notorious Bourbon Street June 8-9. It became a symbol of both God’s unconditional love and the concern of Christian women willing to step out of their comfort zones to bring them small no-strings-attached gifts as a way of demonstrating that love.

About two dozen people participating in Southern Baptists’ Crossover New Orleans evangelistic emphasis visited many of the strip clubs as a way of letting the women know they care about them and want to help.

“Basically you use the woman on the coin as a symbol that God created women with special gifts and abilities,” said Jean White, a ministry evangelism associate for the North American Mission Board. “Women are created in the image of God and God loves them very much.”

The circle of the coin, she said, is a symbol that “God’s love is unending, and there is nothing they can do that’s bad enough to keep God from loving them,” she added. And the color is a reminder that “they are more precious to God than gold.”

Ginger Smith, a NAMB missionary who works with the Brantley Baptist Center in New Orleans, said at first she thought the coin concept was “the corniest thing I’ve ever seen,” but she was surprised to see how women responded at the simple expression of genuine love.

“We walked straight into Satan’s territory, and it was just total peace,” she said.

“So many of them say, ‘I’ll never spend this coin,'” White added. “It means so much to them for someone to tell them God loves them. They don’t ever hear that.”

White said they would then give the women an evangelistic tract and let them know they would be welcome to contact the number on the back to talk.

The dancers also received a gift bag with some makeup samples donated by a cosmetics company, some candy and a few other small items. A total of about 300 bags were distributed, most to the dancers and a few to other women they met on the street.

“One girl said, ‘It’s been a long time since anybody ever gave me something for nothing,'” said Linda Middlebrooks, associate director of the Rachel Sims Baptist Center in New Orleans.

The group of Baptist volunteers traveled in teams, with some staying outside and praying for those who went inside the clubs.

Lura Sheppard of Dahlonega, Ga., another of the volunteers who also coordinates NAMB’s Alternatives for Life ministry, said she was struck by how many of the women professed to be Christians. Others, she said, have been hardened to Christianity for various reasons.

“This is the most draining ministry I’ve ever done in my life,” Sheppard said. “It’s not the type of ministry where you can just walk up to people on the street and pray with them. It’s a really tough ministry because you’ve got to break down the barriers that are there.”

White said she hopes the effort will result in a long-term ministry to the dancers, because often it is only with repeated contacts that relationships are formed that can lead the women to place their faith in Christ.

“Now you’ve opened the door, and if you come again in a month they will know you,” she told the group. “The more you come the more they open up to you, start sharing with you, and start praying with you.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SHARING GIFTS OF LOVE IN THE BIG EASY and BAPTISTS PREPARE FOR MINISTRY TO NEW ORLEANS’ EXOTIC DANCING CLUBS.

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  • James Dotson