Interview with Robin Paul
Robin Paul, an Open Bible credentialed minister and member of Open Bible Praise Center in Boonville, Missouri, is the founder of Central Missouri Outreach. Central Missouri Outreach is a frontline ministry sharing and demonstrating the love of God to individuals working in the sex industry or affected by sexual exploitation. CMO provides emotional support, prayer, and spiritual guidance so those affected may discover God’s purpose and their value in life. We interviewed Robin to learn more about this ministry.
When did you begin this ministry?
In February of 2017 I was talking with a dear friend who told me about a conversation with her nine-year-old son. He had always thought the triple Xs on one of the buildings along I-70 meant that there was a bowling alley inside! But as he grew older, he started to question his assumptions and asked his mom what was “really” in that building.
She tried to explain it to him, as best she could to a nine-year-old. It turned into a great spiritual lesson as she emphasized that we should pray for the lost in the world. As my friend shared this story with me, an intense feeling swept over me. I kept hearing these words in my head: “This is what I have been telling you to do. This is what you have been prepared for, to love on women who feel unlovable.”
When I looked back at my life, I realized God had indeed been preparing me to love the unlovable – from my suffering abuse as a child to working in a male prison for ten years. I was reminded of learning about another friend a few years ago who ministered to women who worked in brothels in Las Vegas. Even at that time, I thought, “I can do this!” But as I contemplated the idea, I questioned how someone living in Missouri could minister to women in brothels and had let the idea slide.
I shared these feelings with my friend with the nine-year-old son, and she gave me the contact information of a woman in southern Missouri who worked with a group of women from a local church that ministered to women who work in adult entertainment clubs along I-44. Once a month for the next ten months I drove to southern Missouri and went out with the team there. My husband and I also started driving to clubs in central Missouri where we sat in the parking lots and prayed. We prayed over the women and men working in the clubs and their families. We prayed for the customers who entered the clubs.
I talked to whoever would listen to me about what God had placed on my heart and eventually formed a team of women who were willing to go in and minister to these women. My husband, Darin, agreed to drive us to the clubs and wait in the vehicle while we went in. I have always felt prayer is the most important part of our outreach, so we always try to have two to three people in the vehicle praying over the building, the women, the men, and everyone in the club. They also pray for the team of women going in, for their safety in both body and spirit.
Who do you specifically minister to and how are you able to conduct this ministry?
We specifically minister to the women working in adult entertainment clubs; the majority are dancers. A few may be bartenders or front door persons. God has opened doors for us. I remember the first time, in December of 2017, that we were going to deliver Christmas presents to the women, and I had to call the clubs ahead of time to ask for permission to come in. I remember being in near panic. I thought, “We have spent the past ten months praying in parking lots. I have driven to southern Missouri once a month for several months. The team has trained, prayed, and prepared for months, and now it’s time. What if the owners say no? I mean, really, why would they let a bunch of women come in to talk about Jesus? It’s a pretty dark place; we represent the light.”
Someone reminded me that we had been obedient, and if we were not allowed to go in, then God had other plans. We were to just keep praying and doing what we had been called to do. I gathered the courage to make those phone calls, and the first club owner who answered recognized me from a club he owned in southern Missouri. He said absolutely, we could come in! He also told me when I contacted the other clubs to let them know he was letting us come in!
When we go into the clubs, we are allowed back into the dressing rooms and break areas. In one of the clubs, we are seldom allowed to speak with the women, but we still show up every month and deliver a small gift and a snack for the women.
How receptive are the women when you first approach them?
A few obviously dodge us, but most are excited to see us. One told me when the “church ladies” (the name they gave us) come in they know it’s going to be a good night. They say even the customers are nicer to them after we have been in.
We talk with the women as equal to, not below us. I don’t know how many times we’ve heard that they appreciate that we look them in the eye. We have conversations about whatever is on their minds. We listen, we love them, we hug them, we pray with them. We always ask for prayer requests. Many of them will stop and pray with us while others may quietly ask for a prayer. Once they build trust with us, they will begin to share with us their beliefs or ask questions they may have about our love for Jesus. We have found that many of the women have known the Lord or at least have been brought up in a home that believed in God. Many of them have been hurt by those they love or trusted.
What measures do you take to protect your team?
It’s not only our physical safety that we constantly try to be aware of, but also our spiritual safety. We always go into the club covered with prayer. We have extensive training regarding safety. We always have a leader over the team going in. If at ANY time the team lead feels we need to leave, she will advise the team it’s time to go. At no time are we to question our lead as to when it is time to go. The team lead is observing what’s going on in the club while the other team members are visiting. We are NEVER to be alone or out of eyesight from at least one other team member. We will never enter clubs without a man waiting outside in our vehicle. The men sit in the car with the other team members who do not go in and observe the parking lot. If it is unsafe for us to enter the parking lot, we have safety measures outlined as to what the team is supposed to do. We learn to pray with our eyes open.
What kind of obstacles have you encountered?
Our team realized early on that every week before outreach we are going to be “tried” on many levels. We MUST be prayed up.
What are your goals for this ministry?
To love on women who are at risk while working in the sex industry. We do not have resources to help them physically, but we have an extensive list of resources to refer them to. We are here to love them as Jesus does, to let them know that Jesus will meet them right where they are. It’s not our job as a team to “rescue” them from their job or to tell them what they are doing is wrong; we are here to love. This is a frontline ministry. We are planting seeds that we may never see sprout. This is where we must have faith and trust in what the Lord has called upon us to do. Our team consists of men and women from several churches in our area.
Can you share any highlights from this ministry?
The community and churches have been very generous in providing gifts to the women. Every year we have a group of women gather for the afternoon and highlight verses in Bibles that we will give to the women as part of their Christmas present. They also write notes or letters of encouragement. One of the women told us how special that was to her. She said that one year not all the women had taken their Bibles home, so she took them. She said it was amazing to her that each Bible had been marked so differently and that she always seemed to pick up the Bible she needed to help her at that exact moment. This last year a women’s ministry group from a church south of our community asked if they could do the Bibles. A church in another community donated bath soaps, lotions, and other items to put in their bags. Monthly gifts can consist of nail polish or socks, things that will put a smile on the women’s faces.
I have also had the opportunity to speak to women’s and youth ministries regarding the identification markers of young women being groomed for trafficking. If anyone is interested in hearing this information, I would love to share what I have learned. How to share Jesus’ love with women in this industry is a subject I could talk about forever. I will talk to anyone who will listen!
For more information about this ministry, you may contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Darin and Robin with their puppy.