Hookers for Jesus. Yes, you read the name correctly. Hookers for Jesus: a bold name, rivaling only the boldness of its endeavors and its fearless founder.
Annie Lobért began the international, faith-based organization in January 2005 to address the realities of sex trafficking, sexual violence, and exploitation linked to pornography and the sex industry, “fishing” and “hooking” men, women and youth out of the industry and helping them find peace in God. She knows the abuses of the industry firsthand, working as a prostitute, stripper and escort for eleven years. After feeling unloved and lonely in her younger years, Lobért tried to fill that void through the industry. “I was always chasing just to belong, hungry for acceptance, just to be loved. When I gave myself sexually to men, for that brief moment, I felt ‘wanted’ and ‘loved’,” she explains in her personal testimony. While the money, glitz and glamour satisfied her for a while, the dark side and abuse quickly emerged. Lobért remembers being beaten, raped, kidnapped and gagged; having guns pointed at her; and even being stalked by crazy men. When she finally left the sex industry, her past still haunted her. Sixty-nine percent of former sex workers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after leaving the industry. “One night, I was just so desperate. I was telling God that I hated him, ‘I hate you. Look at what you did to my life.’ And I actually overdosed on cocaine. I was living in my car, at just the lowest point in my entire life. I had hit rock bottom. I took a hit of it; I didn’t mean to commit suicide, it just kind of happened. I had a heart attack and I just remember everything turning black, just completely fading to black, and just this total emptiness and there was nobody there. And I said, ‘Jesus please help me. I’m alone. Please help me,’” Lobért recalls in an interview on Nightline News. This was the definitive experience of her life. After the near-death experience, she began seeking the truth through God, and over time found clarity, hope, forgiveness, restoration and love in Him.
[Lobért] knows the abuses of the [sex] industry firsthand, working as a prostitute, stripper and escort for eleven years. After feeling unloved and lonely in her younger years, Lobért tried to fill that void through the industry.
Instead of hiding away, Lobért began using her experiences to reach out to those in the sex industry; those living the lifestyle she once found herself trapped in. “There’s a lot of shame associated with being a prostitute. You feel really dirty,” she says. “You feel like somebody’s going to find out. I kept my lifestyle very secretive, I never let my family know, my friends know.” But through the organization, she no longer hides the past, using “Anything we hide has power over us” as a common mantra found on the organization’s website. As a sex industry missionary, she hopes to provide healing and restoration to those affected by sexual abuse and trauma. Shockingly, over 400 children were found working as prostitutes in Las Vegas in 2007 alone. From her base ministry in Las Vegas, she works with other like-minded organizations to reach those involved in the sex industry, either as professionals or as consumers. In league with the Church of South Las Vegas and its pastor, Benny Perez, Hookers for Jesus ministers to incarcerated women at the Clark County Detention Center, as well as the Juvenile Public Defender’s Office and Family Court.
A few of the many services the organization provides are private visitations, mentorship, cultural events, and Bible studies. Hookers for Jesus also opened the Destiny Center Home for Women, which provides a protected transitional home for female sex workers who would like to reestablish themselves outside of their old careers. The organization has also established a financial support network to meet the needs of men and women nationwide who are transitioning out of the sex industry. Hookers for Jesus builds awareness within various communities through workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, roundtable discussion, and producing literature on the issue. Lobért herself will soon be releasing her autobiography Hooker for Jesus and is working on a joint media project called “Saving Sin City.”
“[Prostitutes] are still daughters. They’re still sisters. They’re human. They’re real. They’re not some rejected tramp or rejected leper that can’t be loved,” says Lobért. “Knowing what you’ve done doesn’t define the rest of your life.”
For more information about Annie Lobért and her ministry, visit www.hookersforjesus.net –Leila Evangelista