Ministry gives hope to former dancers
By Michelle Williams
Two Fishers women are deep into serving women through a ministry that might be unexpected to some people. Kim Tabor and Stefanie Jeffers have spent the past 18 months in Indianapolis strip clubs – bringing compassion and community to the female dancers through their outreach ministry called Stripped Free.
Over a decade ago, Jeffers was employed as a dancer. When she made the decision to break away from the industry, she said, “There were two things I said I wouldn’t do. One was talk about the fact that I used to be a dancer, and one was go back into a strip club. God had completely different plans for me.” The first club she stepped back into was the place where she was once employed – only she returned in a capacity to serve others like herself.
Tabor and Jeffers met in 2012 at a bible study. Tabor listened to Jeffers tell others about her experience in the clubs, and her feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Jeffers quickly became a part of the Finally Free Women’s Conference speaking team – the women’s ministry portion of Tabor Ministries. Their connection triggered an outreach effort, Stripped Free, aimed at bringing hope and love to a group of women who are often abused and misunderstood.
“There is a common misperception among people who are not familiar with the sex industry, and this used to be me,” said Tabor. She explained the common misperception is that dancers earn a generous amount of money, they enjoy what they do and their profession is their first choice. “No little girl grows up dreaming of being a stripper. I’ve never heard one of these women say they love what they do,” she said.
“When you come to the place in life where you’re about to walk into a club to get a job, you are broken.” said Jeffers. She has encountered women who have been trafficked, grown up in group homes or shuffled around in the foster home system. She said many of the women have not finished high school, have no access to a vehicle and presently live in abusive situations.
In describing the objective of the ministry, Jeffers said, “We don’t go into the clubs telling women ‘you have to leave here.’ Even if they want to, they don’t think there’s hope. We just go to tell women that more is possible. If they become interested in finding out more about this Jesus we talk about, we will walk with them and take the journey together.”
The ministry provides support that is customized to each woman’s unique needs, such as financial assistance, job training and placement, medical assistance, counseling or help completing unfinished levels of education. “Part of the discipleship process for us is to help women feel comfortable in a church setting.” said Tabor. Stripped Free has partnered with two Indianapolis churches – Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood and Heartland Church near Fishers. Each church provides extended support through a network of men and women’s groups. The women served often become a part of these communities, forming new friendships and support systems.
Looking forward, Tabor and Jeffers are making efforts to partner with more churches and women’s groups in Indianapolis. They have also been in contact with groups expressing an interest in bringing similar outreach efforts to other cities across the country. “We want to have others who will just scoop these women up and love on them. There’s so much joy in that, and we want other women to see lives transformed before their very eyes – and have their hands on it.” said Tabor.
The long-term goal of the ministry is to open a transitional home where women served can live with their children in a safe environment. “The huge dream is to have a transition place where they are safe and can go through the programs so they can heal, find new employment and get back on their feet – then move out and move on. And preferably they continue to disciple other women as they come out,” said Tabor.
To learn more about the Stripped Free ministry and serving opportunities through Tabor Ministries, visit www.FinallyFreeConference.org/stripped-free or www.TaborMinistries.org.