The strong scent of perfume, hairspray, and alcohol surrounded me. My heart was pounding, and my palms were sweaty. I had never done anything like this before. “Here I am, in the dressing room of a strip club,” I thought to myself. Walking towards the end of the room, I turned around to look at my surroundings. On my right was a row of 50 lockers, 25 on top, and 25 on the bottom. “Star, Kayla, Cookie, Angel, Honey, Missy, and Nikki,” some of them read. To my left was a mirror that canvassed the entire wall, and below it was a makeup table just as long.
“Hey Taryn, they should be here any second.” Bonnie said, with a smile on her face. “God knows what he’s doing!” She assured me as she opened the package of paper plates in her hand. She seemed so content, but I knew this wasn’t her first time in a place like this.
Suddenly, the door flung open and the beating music entered the room, along with a group of women. One by one, dancers began to fill the room. Some looked as young as 18, while others were in their 40’s, and each of different ethnicities. Hair dryers, curling irons, make up, hair spray, and perfume began to scatter across the table. Stilettos and lingerie lay out of the duffle bags that sat on the floor, and soon the ladies began filling the lockers with their belongings.
“Bonnie!” One of the ladies exclaimed. “I know you got some good food today! What did you bring?” She asked, as she walked towards us.
Leaning over for a hug, Bonnie began to speak, “We have some chips, veggies, fruits, cookies and meat loaf today. We hope you all enjoy it. You can eat whenever you’re ready.”
“I have a friend with me today,” Bonnie included. “She’s giving free massages to those of you who would like one. She’s a Massage Therapist, and her name is Taryn.”
Hoping the sadness in my face didn’t show, I put on a smile and asked, “Would you like a massage tonight?”
“Yes.” She said. “But I have to get ready first.” Then she tilted back her head to take a large gulp of the alcohol in her glass, turned away, and began putting on her makeup.
As I looked around the room, I thought to myself, “What am I doing here, and why on earth, Lord, did you ask me to do this?”
I immediately heard Jesus respond to my spirit, “Don’t you know that if I were physically here on this earth, THIS is where I’d be?”
In that moment my heart began to break.
“How on earth did these women get to this point in their life? I wish I could ask each of them their story and share the love of Jesus with them.” I said to myself.
Memory by Taryn Chula- Year 2007
Taryn wouldn't know until 2 years after that day, what God had planned, and why he had her serving in a strip club. Fast forward to today. I spoke with Taryn Chula in order to learn more about how her time serving in that club, led to her starting a charity called Run For A Reason.
“When did you realize that you enjoyed running?” I inquired.
“When I was young I only ran to stay in shape for the other sports I played. I HATED to run!” she exclaimed. But as Taryn got older, she “wanted to try something new, to get in shape, and shed a few pounds,” so she started running for her own benefit. After her first race, Taryn began competing with her own time, and ran more often.
I have found that with every runner, there is a story that pushes them to do what they do.
Some people might run because they are in fear, want to win something, desire to eat more carbs, improve health, or to increase their self esteem. Many run to be involved and feel connected with the community, while others choose to run because it gives them control.
For Taryn, she ran for herself, and did so for many years. But then something devastating and life changing happened, and she stopped running. She had lost all motivation to do things she once enjoyed, and depression set in. As the reality of the brokenness in her own life began to surface, she reached out to God in one of the weakest times of her life. At this point, life was a spiritual battle as much as it was a physical battle.
“I went through a traumatic divorce and needed something beyond me. I felt hopeless, and was full of despair and fear. Physically, I became weak and had lost a lot of weight.” She told.
Taryn then quoted one of her favorite verses during this time of her life.
“But those who hope in the Lord,
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not grow faint.”
Isaiah 40:31 NIV
Two years later, and with the strength of the Lord, she was pushed to run again. Not just for herself anymore, but this time she would run for a purpose.
“When did you know that God was asking you to run for women who have been involved in Human Trafficking?” I asked.
Taryn responded with a faint smile on her face, “About six months after my marriage ended. I was at home by myself, taking a shower actually, and the Lord said, ‘Hey, I think it’s time to run a race again.’ The Lord called me out.”
“What specific words can you remember the Lord saying at that moment?” I questioned out of curiosity.
“It’s time to get the focus off of you.”
She said with laughter.
Thinking back, Taryn recalled the newness of RFW, “At this time, Refuge for Women was just starting out and the board had only met once or twice. It was still forming.” So she didn't really know what to think, or how to plan, but she had faith that God would work out all the details.
Quickly finishing her shower, Taryn grabbed her towel from the bathroom sink, and took immediate action. Standing in a puddle of water, and with excitement, she called the founder, Ked Frank. “I told him what I wanted to do. To run and raise money and awareness for Refuge for Women. But there was a long silence.” She uttered.
Recounting that moment, Taryn continued “Once Ked finally spoke, he said ‘the board just finished a meeting. The board discussed the issue of awareness and fundraising for the ministry.’ They wanted ordinary people to think out of the box and raise funds and awareness.”
So, once again Taryn hit the ground running.
Although, this time she was running harder, faster, and stronger. Her motivation to run was no longer for her own self, but this time, she would
Run For A Reason!
“When I ran I would think of the women I met in the strip clubs, and of the future women who would occupy the first Refuge house. Some days were full of anger and frustration about my situation. Other days, I felt gratefulness and joy. I just spoke to God as if He were my running buddy, and there was nothing that I could say that would make Him not want to run with me.” Said Taryn.
Philippians 3:14 (NIV)
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Today, a literal outward expression of running, allows human trafficked women to run the race towards Jesus Christ.
Refuge For Women is so thankful for the support of those who choose to join the cause to fight human trafficking by registering with Run For A Reason. If you would like to learn more about how to register for an upcoming race, please email firstname.lastname@example.org