Beyond Samaria.

Arriving to Toronto, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This trip and convention, I was told, would be much different than the Atlantic City Exxxotica. This was “Everything to do with Sex”  and it would be large still but geared toward couples. I had no clue what that could mean.  All I knew for certain was: Jesus loves people and I was there, in Toronto, at that convention, to share the love of Jesus to people and patrons of the sex industry.

Over the course of three days, we encountered thousands of people. Some were with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Others were with their partner. Still others were alone. There were all sorts of costumes and personality in the wardrobes present at the show. Calendar men (firefighters specifically), Hustler girls wore their booty branded undies and tops, several body-painted ladies wore….body paint, dancers and strippers of the industry walked around in the latest lingerie and pasty fashions, while still others wore the best burlesque they could. And of course, don’t forget “Thong Man”- the 70+ senior citizen who changed his thong outfit every hour- police, Rambo, army, energizer bunny…. I’m sure he has dozens of different thonged outfits. Who knows where he buys them.  Everything pornographic from couples to dungeon had a booth, though still most gearing their audience for couples. But don’t worry… there were booths for tattoos, body-casting art, back massage chairs, travel Toronto, boots, dresses, and even food trucks! Plenty of fun stuff right? I’m not gonna lie… I bought a crepe from one of the venders. No shame at all. It was delicious.

In the middle of all of that there was xxxChurch. Surrounded by adult toys, sex therapists, and lingerie, we had our neon colored hippy-esque booth. We gave the industry girls gift bags, bottles of water, and tanks. For three days we handed out 2,000 Bibles [book of John actually] and 3,000 stickers. The hot pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers were the attention grabbers and hot commodity of the weekend… other than the porn.  But we got attention. We got everything from confused looks to giggles but often immediate questions on what we were exactly.

That is the point.

In an environment where so many people have been rejected by Christians, here we were xxxChurch in all our neon glory, with a 20 foot booth inviting people to ask the real question they ALL wanted answered… Does Jesus really love porn stars? Does Jesus really love… me? Even though I’ve done [fill in the blank]? So many people wanted to know the love we offered freely. The love that was not condemning, judging or critical. Yes we were and always are honest about what we believe about pornography, sexuality, and God however, the first step we try to stick with is just letting people know that Jesus loves them.  No one in that convention hall was less than enough for God. None were less worthy than myself or anyone else. Not one person has done enough “bad” for Him to reject them. That is the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

By offering love and grace first, it opened so may doors for conversations for people to want to know about God. Between theological discussions and debates to confessions of wanting more to honest conversation on desiring God, we were the Church in the middle of a sex and porn convention.  I can’t help but think of Jesus going to the land of Samaria. He had to go to through Samaria even though he actually had another route option. Instead he chose to go to a city Jews avoided to go to a well that no one acceptable would be at during that time of day to speak to a woman who was a known mistress to many. The Samaritans were bi-racial outcasts of society. And even in their being an outcast, Jesus met this woman who was even more of an outcast because of her sexual behaviors. Jesus chose to show love and kindness to this woman. He chose to meet her where she was not ask her to change everything first. After their discussion furthered he offered something more… forgiveness and new life.  The beauty of the story is that Jesus’ love changed this woman, not the woman changing for him first. His love- unconditional, redeeming, perfect love- was this reason she changed her life and started living different. It was the reason she ran back into town to tell everyone she knew about Jesus.  (read John 4)

xxxChurch goes to these conventions to offer that first step. We go to an area most Christians avoid either because they are critical or because they don’t know what to do in that kind of environment. We go to a group of people, though often glamorized, are still largely deemed by society as nothing less than a lay, a mental image to find gratification, and another person to call a name. We offer nothing but love and kindness to everyone in the building. Of course we want people to know Jesus personally, but its not our job to convert. Its our job to be the Church and love of Jesus, and his job to do the rest. At the end of the weekend, I had such joy in my heart. I know many of those people from this weekend’s convention want to know more. They want to find freedom from addiction. Some might seek restoration for their marriage. Some might want to know Jesus personally rather than just a cuss word. Some might want out of the industry. All I know is that there are a few thousand people that can’t deny that they were told and shown a love that is rare. One worth dying for. One worth going to Samaria for. One worth giving everything for.

[title credit to Sue]

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Jesus Loves Porn Stars.

[I’d love for you to read this update, but please know, I am not using a filter nor am I dumbing down what I experienced for the sake of offensive material]

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up. All I knew was that I was going to Atlantic City for eXXXotica… the nation’s largest adult entertainment expo. Let me put it more simply: I knew I was going to a large porn convention. I am a Christian and I love Jesus. Because I love Jesus, I also love people. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from…I just love them. That was my motivation behind going to eXXXotica. Myself and a dozen others went with an organization called XXXchurch, a non-profit designed to reach out to those in the sex industry and their patrons. We simply went to tell people one message: Jesus loves them.

For three days, my surroundings were x-rated.  Upon entering the main doors, “hotties” greet you, dressed in 6″ heels, a g-string, and pasties barely covering the nipples. That was not an uncommon scene. In fact, most of the “hotties” and “entertainers” wore something similar-  minimal clothing,  high heels, and glitzed makeup. The exhibitors at the expo were set up just like any job fair, festival, marketplace… the difference being the  material in which they sold or advertised. Nearly every table would greet the guests of the expo with nearly naked women [and some men], x-rated materials of hardcore and softcore pornography, and of course… giveaways and freebies of their merchandise. Fetishes of all sorts were present-Dungeon and S&M sex fetishes were actually a large area of the venue. People could meet and get pictures with their favorite strippers, porn stars, and other lady entertainers. Tables everywhere were selling dildoes, various forms of vibrators, condoms, flavored condoms, lotions and sensual massage oils. Don’t forget the “lolli-cock” stand… chocolate and fruity flavored lollipops in the shape of varying sizes of penises. In case anyone wanted to test their balance skills paired with sexual pleasure they could also jump onto the mechanical penis… basically a mechanical bull but not a bull. The other  option was the pleasurable see-saw which we were lucky enough to have right next to our booth of XXXchurch.  With exhibitors to met every fantasy, lust, fetish, and more, every person coming to  eXXXotica would leave happier than when they came in…

Surely not an environment for the easily offended or the prude. Good thing I’m neither.

And yet… Jesus loves them. Yes even them.

How dare we, the collective Church, believe that the love of Jesus cannot extend to those of this industry. Jesus loves the strippers, the go-go girls, porn producers, porn stars, escorts, and don’t forget the consumers and patrons. The moment we start thinking Jesus can’t or won’t love someone is the moment we have missed His heart. It is the moment we have missed everything He lived and died for; His reason for everything is love. Not the grotesque display of love as shown at an expo like eXXXotica, but a love that goes deep, that is intimate, that is real, that is tangible and that changes your life forever. That love infiltrates the darkness. By XXXchurch being present at eXXXotica in Atlantic City, we brought forth the light of Jesus’ love into a world deemed unfit and unworthy by so many in the Church. With scrutiny by Christians, we proceeded to be present. We proceeded to tell people that Jesus does IN FACT love porn stars and everyone else associated with the industry. Jesus loves them all. I’ll take it an even further step… Jesus loves even the child pornographer. The rapist. The molester. The trafficker. The pimp. He loves every single person that I saw walk through those front doors passed the “hotties” with the pasties and the mechanical penis. He loves every single one of the ladies walking around in their 6″ heels. He loves every single porn producer selling their merchandise. His love goes deeper.

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In the midst of the hypersexualized environment that I had voluntarily placed myself, I and my friends of XXXchurch gave out books called “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”.  They were actually the Gospel of John with stories of people from the sex industry mixed in, people that discovered how true His love really was for them. We gave those brightly colored books to anyone who would take them. People love free stuff, so we gave it to them along with HOT Pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers. In fact people loved the stickers so much they kept coming back for them. We would stick it on their arms, chest, even butts… and for the ladies.. the boobs on top of their clothes or their pasties. But the point was that we were walking into their lives, their turf and were not afraid and not backing down. We don’t go to convert everyone. We went to share His love and let His love do the rest. I know there were so many people that didn’t get the books, either from refusing to take it or just not stopping by our booth. But there were those… the ones that took it were maybe snarling, laughing, chuckling at the sight of seeing a colorful covered book with the line that “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”. Some took it with appreciation. But I know, I just know, that some of those people will open it. They will read it. They will discover.. discover truth and love unlike anything they have ever seen or heard before. Some of them will take it another step… they will contact XXXchurch, among the many others thousands a year, and want to know more, want to be free, want to have love- real love- His love.

I will do this again. Some day, hopefully soon. But beyond that, I want to not forget. I met some amazing people this weekend. I also met some creeps, some drunks, some pervs that I even still cannot forget. I met some amazing ladies of the industry. I can’t forget them either. Jesus loves every person I met this weekend. Not a single one was not worth my time or money to be there. Every conversation and every Bible or sticker we gave out matters to me because it matters to Him. I have list of people I met and I will be praying for them.