God Loves and Forgives the Exotic Dancer

Stan Russell   -  

That’s an unusual title for a blog, isn’t it? But it’s true! God will love and forgive everyone who comes to Him with a humble and repentant heart. The letter below is one written to me by a woman who found Jesus at Horizon Community Church.  She wrote it anonymously, so to this day I do not know who she is. The letter vividly illustrates the amazing grace of God.
Dear Pastor Stan:
            I have felt the pull to write you a letter for quite some time. Many times I’ve been unable to put the pen down on the paper. I have a tendency to want to appear perfect. Haha! What a joke that is!
            Nevertheless, here I am on Easter Eve with actual ink on a blank page! Tonight is the perfect time to share with you how amazing my walk with Christ has been; and how instrumental every aspect of the Horizon experience has been in my choice to receive the forgiveness Jesus gave me by dying to forgive my sins.
My adult life has been nothing short of disaster after disaster. I dropped out of Oregon State during my sophomore year and worked full-time since I was 19 years old. I worked in retail and hospitality until I was 22 when I decided to audition to be an exotic dancer. I was hired and quit my full time job as a reservations manager at a Red Lion Hotel when I was making twice the money in one hour that I would make in an 8 hour day. I spent 15 years dancing. Luckily I never did drugs but I drank, prostituted and was suicidal 90% of the time. This is a story that is too long to tell here and now, but it’s important for you to know that I am one of the people you are talking about when you say, “It’s life or death!” I don’t think a lot of people believe that. I am saying it’s true, more often than anyone would ever imagine.
            I came to Horizon in January 2009. My friend’s parents attend and my desire to attend church surfaced in a conversation. She agreed to go with me, so I met her and her family there. I was so nervous. I used to joke that I didn’t go to church because I didn’t want others to get hurt when the building fell as I walked in. (You have mentioned people like this and I crack up now!)
            By this time in my life I was married with a 1 year old daughter. I continued to come…it was an easygoing atmosphere. I could easily get up, get my daughter dressed and throw on some clothes, BAM! out the door to church. Nobody bothered me… I learned a lot from your sermons… and I cried a thousand tears. You let me know that God loved me no matter what. You gave me proof through scripture. You shared knowledge in a way that I understood and felt comfortable about. I felt very convicted every Sunday, but I would learn so much that I would keep coming back. Plus you are hilarious!!! I didn’t know a man or woman of God could be so “normal”! (Meaning (for me) down-to-earth.) I wouldn’t raise my hand to come to Jesus, though, because I went back to working in the adult industry after I got married. (My soon-to-be-ex-husband required me to bring in an income that I was unable to with an hourly job.) I worked until I was 6 months pregnant with our 2nd child. In January 2010, I finally raised my hand… oh what a feeling!!
            When my 2nd daughter was 1 month old, I returned to church. We (me and my girls) had begun living at my parents – my husband had abandoned us in most ways, and my mom and dad came to church with me the first time back. You had an altar call. I had never come up, I was too shy before. But with my parent’s strength to help me I came up, holding my tiny daughter on my shoulder. You looked right at us and I knew you felt my/our pain. (I am sure that gift is hard to bear sometimes.) You talked about how we are not alone with our pain, that God is with us. I was baptized 3 months later, in July, with my 2 daughters watching right there on the lawn.
            Pastor Stan, I know you get quite a few letters, probably hundreds. I have heard you read some. The common thread is how you have relayed God’s truth in a way that expresses the depth and breadth of God’s love and grace. You, the pastoral team, the elders, staff, volunteers, and church members have each contributed to my life “being saved” both physically and spiritually. Awkward Sunday showed me how important the light is, lowered, so one can feel a sense of privacy. The woman who opened the door for me many, many, many times with a smile when I was feeling harried. Having the card to scan to check in my children quickly is wonderful. The coffee, the clean restrooms, the sermon notes in the flyer…are things I love about Horizon. I love that it’s fun! I love that the truth is told! I love that, even being a large church, it really does feel like family.
            The words thank you are not sufficient for all of the people and all of the things that have been done to lead me in the direction of Christ. I simply want you to know how deep my gratitude runs towards Horizon. The touch on my life has touched my daughters, my parents, and (I am sure) others who I don’t even know. I just hope that the parts I play in Horizon will give someone else the environment they need to hear the truth, feel the grace and love of God, and see the amazing body of Christ that I did and still do see.
(name withheld)
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  (NLT)