Hope 918 was founded in 2011, but it really began years before as some of the now staff members were made aware of the ever-growing, often devastating sexual exploitation globally and the impact it was having right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hope918 truly began with prayer: Prayer for those whose lives were being torn apart from friends and family. Prayer for those who were being sold for sex. Prayer for those who had been victimized as children and adults. Prayer that God would help us figure out how to best love women who were working the sex industry, who were being coerced into sex trafficking, or whose vulnerabilities made them at-risk to become victims of trafficking and abuse.
In 2011, God brought about an opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence at a local high school football game. We did some research and came up with a name – Hope 918. We choose Hope 918 for two reasons. One, the word “hope” is defined as a person or thing that may help or save someone, or grounds for believing something good may happen. We want each of the girls we interact with to have grounds for believing something good may happen to them, and we believe those grounds are found in Jesus. We want to reignite hope in women whose present reality seems the opposite of hopeful by exposing them to the good news of the gospel for each of their situations. Secondly, we chose “918” perhaps most notably because it’s the area code for Tulsa, but most importantly because it’s a reference to Psalm 9:18, “…For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the afflicted shall not perish forever.” Our prayer led us to action. We soon expanded our work from football games to awareness/prevention events at schools, colleges, and bible studies. We were able to start some conversations about the depravity of the sex industry, the objectification of women, and the effects of pornography.
Soon we began to realize we were only addressing part of the issue, so in 2013 we started a weekly support group for girls in middle school and high school. This is a vulnerable age for girls. At Girls Club we are able to engage the girls in supportive friendships and have important conversations about issues they may face. Additionally, girls clubs created another important avenue for prevention and awareness efforts. Our hope was to empower these young girls with knowledge and confidence in Jesus they could then share with their circles of friends.
As we became more aware of the hardships and adversity many of our women and youth face, our hearts grew for the underserved women who worked in the sex industry in Tulsa. These clubs were often seen on the news with protesters making many accusations but offering little hope. We had been praying for one specific strip club in Tulsa for many years before we decided to attend a training hosted by Strip Church Network to learn practical ways to love this specific group of women in our city. While we were at this training we met another group of women who had already been doing some outreach in Tulsa at the same club we had been praying for all those years. It was amazing how God had already answered our prayers through this other outreach group!
Shortly after returning home, we started visiting a different club in our neighborhood. God has immensely blessed us in allowing us to build friendships with the ladies in this club and seek to remind them weekly of Jesus’ love for them through notes, gifts, conversation, prayer, and encouragement.
Currently Hope918 has two local girls clubs, one that was started in 2012 and one in 2015, and one strip club outreach group that began in 2015.