Right now counts forever. So do something.

by Shawn Maree McCowan | July 27, 2009

In the pre-dawn hours of a recent weekend in downtown San Diego, women and some teenage girls sit, some joking to avoid the reality of their situation, some in disbelief, their faces glazed from the shock of being arrested for prostitution. It’s a sting operation, and the women now wait to finish police processing.

Theresa (right) and a fellow JC’s Girls volunteer

Theresa Scher approaches them.

“Are you okay?” she asks. “We’re here from the Rock Church. We’re here to tell you that Jesus loves you and if there’s anything at all we can do…we understand what you’re going through.”

Some are hardened. “Yeah, yeah, heard it before,” one says. “Whatever,” says another. “This is my life. It was my mom’s life; nothing’s going to stop me.”

“We’re not here to stop you, we’re just here to support you. Can I pray with you?” Theresa asks one girl. Nine times out of ten, they say yes.

“No thanks,” says one. But another, on the verge of despair, takes her hand and bows her head as the tears flow. Afterward, they hug and Theresa gives her a care package containing a pink Bible, journal, face wipes and other toiletries. Something to look forward to when they get out of jail.

“If you need anything, call me. I understand,” Theresa tells the woman.

And she does. Theresa understands because she herself worked in the sex industry, and has sat in the processing chair following a sting. (Please see side story, "JC’s Girls: Theresa’s Story.")

Theresa knows that many girls will be back in the processing seat again, their young lives hardened by cycles of abuse and broken promises of love or financial security. But others will seek a door to get out.

That’s when JC’s Girls will be there.

Standing in the Gap

Located just minutes from the Rock Church is an infamous strip club and self-proclaimed “World Famous Body Shop.” For Pastor Miles, the pink and white building is a constant reminder of the church’s purpose to engage every segment of society.

“When I first heard about [JC’s Girls] I was proud to know the women of the Rock would be standing in the gap and witnessing to women who may not otherwise experience the love of God,” said Pastor Miles.

“When I first heard about [JC’s Girls] I was proud to know the women of the Rock would be standing in the gap and witnessing to women who may not otherwise experience the love of God,” said Pastor Miles.

“Every time I drive down Rosecrans and see those neon lights, I am reminded why we do what we do,” Pastor Miles added. “So many people are hurting. They go to bars and strip clubs to self-medicate. What many of them don’t realize is that those places will never meet the true need of their heart. My prayer is that the Rock Church will continue to be a place for people to come, get saved and equipped but ultimately that they would do something with their faith and go out to minister to a broken and hurting world.”

Theresa, 32, started the ministry in 2006 at the Rock Church in San Diego to reach out to women who are or have been involved in the adult entertainment industry. (Please see side story, "JC’s Girls, Part 2: Delivering Daughters from Darkness.")

A Different Kind of Promise

“Money is the big issue for some of them,” said Sgt. Ernesto Servin, an 18-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department and member of Rock Church. It was his idea to bring JC’s Girls out to talk to women following a recent, two-day sting operation.

“(Prostitutes) … have a pimp who works on their self esteem and promises glamour and fame,” said Servin. “He promises the world but never actually delivers. If there is a way we can promise them the world that actually delivers, that can turn things around for them.”

It was the desire to “DO Something” (a motto of the Rock Church) that gave Sgt. Servin the idea to connect JC’s Girls with the San Diego Police Department.

Having a police/interfaith connection is an unusual tactic that the SDPD is hoping will pay off—one that also provides a more human face for the officers accustomed to simply making arrests, while providing intervention for the girls, as well.

Theresa prays with women arrested for prostitution

“I saw … the humanistic side come out,” said Lt. Rudy Tai, who worked the stings while JC’s Girls was present.

“You can see some (girls) can be really hard and they break down very quickly. There’s a physical connection they’re making. They’re crying and hugging, really bonding. I thought it had a positive impact on what we were doing.”

A 19-year veteran of the force, Tai has spent the past 8 months in the vice unit. He said there were nearly 700 arrests made for prostitution last year. He emphasized that the department has a desire to work with both faith and community-based organizations that will help women break the cycle of dependence on living through the sex industry.

“We want to reach out and be able to break the cycle, and JC’s Girls … that’s another tool we will continue to use.”--Lt. Rudy Tai, SDPD

“JC’s Girls have been there and they share their experience,” said Tai. “We want to reach out and be able to break the cycle, and JC’s Girls … that’s another tool we will continue to use.”

As far as Sgt. Servin knows, such a connection has never been done before.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Sgt. Servin. “We’re not accustomed to using community organizations, even less faith-based organizations…but it’s something that's worth a try. It’s worth the effort.”

He added that helping the vice squad is a great opportunity to contribute to the Rock Church’s goal of donating 600,000 volunteer hours to San Diego, a promise Pastor Miles made to Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“If we come in contact with one prostitute and change one around … we succeeded,” said Sgt. Servin. “I’m looking at this from the perspective that I want to see God working through JC’s Girls and through the police department and through me to transform these women and help them.”

Support after Hitting Bottom

Though arrest is a serious consequence, Theresa acknowledges it can also be the tool God uses to bring about change. She confesses she has been arrested twice in sting operations, for which she now is thankful.

“I’m glad I got arrested twice, and got into all that trouble,” Theresa said. “I’m glad I went through that bankruptcy and lost all my friends. All I had left was God and that’s when you truly realize that’s all you need.”

JC’s Girls make it a point solely to support and encourage, rather than criticize or condemn. That support even includes going to court to offer encouragement to women who agree to testify – sometimes despite the threat of bodily harm – against their pimps.

“We just try to offer love and support and encouragement,” said Theresa. “It’s never our intention to get them out. If they ask, we will help them. Our job is to love them no matter where they are. They already know all the issues that come with the business. We help them when they want to get out.

“They have to hit their own rock bottom,” Theresa explained. “We love and we let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. That’s God’s job to tell them, ‘You need to get out of the business.’

“It’s like when Jesus was in Matthew’s house and He’s just loving on that prostitute. That’s what we try to emulate.”

Related story:
JC's Girls, Part 2
If you would like to help JC’s Girls, visit their website at https://www.sdrock.com/ministries/jcsgirls. Donations of funds and toiletries are needed for care packages.

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