After over a decade in the sex trade, Annie Lobert overdosed on cocaine. Yet miraculously she experienced the truth of Psalm 139:8: “if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (KJV). In a hospital room, Annie accepted Christ, and she never went back to her old lifestyle. A few years later, she founded Hookers for Jesus, a ministry that helps women get out of prostitution, get the help and healing they need, and find out who God made them to be.
Now living in Las Vegas with her husband, Stryper lead guitarist Oz Fox, Annie is writing, leading Destiny House, advocating, and speaking God’s Word and the truth about the sex industry. Annie’s is a story of God making all things new—and in her life, that’s everything.
Tell us your story, Annie.
Growing up, I only knew that my mom loved me. My father was a recovering alcoholic, and a very strict, distant parent. I’d go to church and hear God was my Father and think, If God is my Father, he’s jacked up. I had a skewed view of fathers. I wanted love.
In high school I started seeking out love through physical attention. My identity came from the attention I got and what pop culture told me. I started dating a guy who I thought was my Prince Charming. I slept with him; I gave him my whole heart—but he broke it.
After graduation I worked three jobs in downtown Minneapolis. I went out to the clubs on my nights off, and one night, my girlfriend and I met these men who we thought were very wealthy businessmen. In truth, they were pimps.
My friend started dating one of them, and eventually he took her to live in Hawaii. She asked me to come out and visit her. When I got there, they taught me how to prostitute myself on the beaches of Waikiki. I made a huge amount of money.
When I got back to Minneapolis I had designer clothes. I was completely corrupted by the money. I started working the escort services in Minnesota, and then at a strip club where I could pick my clients, charge more, and know what kind of man I’d be sleeping with. I decided if I was going to disrespect myself, I was going to make a lot of money. I was going to be high-class.
Then I met my pimp.
He was gorgeous. Charismatic personality, the cologne, the suit—he swept me off my feet. He said I was smart with how I got my money. Initially I had no idea he was a pimp.
We’d fight and break up and get back together. I found out he was a drug dealer, and I wanted to save him. My friend from Hawaii had moved to Vegas, and she asked us to visit.
The first night in Vegas, after a call, I came back to my boyfriend and he told me to give him everything I’d made. After a complete beat down, he forced me to give him all the money I’d earned. From then on, I was a prisoner.
Why did you stay with him?
I loved him.
Pimp culture is planned abuse. I call them the pimp mafia. They plan every move they make before they make it. It’s a ritual. He groomed me in Minneapolis, and then he broke me. I had no idea he was a pimp until we got to Las Vegas. I was trapped by his threats and coercion, but I was so in love. For years, I never went to the shelters. I lied to the doctors and the police about my bruises. Dermablend was my best friend.
Eventually, I got out, but I was such a broken character that I ended up with a man who was just as abusive. He was a paranoid meth addict who lived off my earnings. He locked me up in our home. He had bars on our windows—bars he used my money to buy.
But the Lord was with me in all of this.
I’d been in the sex industry for 11 years. My life was a hurricane, and I finally got to the eye of that storm.
A client rescued me. He got me out and taught me the automotive business. That was the first time I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
But I kept using my looks to get what I wanted. Sometimes I’d give sexual favors to make a deal with a client. My business partner never knew. But I got off cocaine and painkillers, so that was good.
I went back and forth to Japan a lot for work, and I started going to Buddhist temples. I liked the peace and the prayer there. Once, I was trying to pray to Buddha, and I swear, I heard God’s voice saying: Buddha’s not here. I’m here.
Eventually, I started doing drugs again. I went to the strip to feed my drug habit. And then I started prostituting again, so I’d have money for the drugs. This time, it got so bad, I couldn’t function without cocaine. I’d come to the very bottom of the well I’d been digging for years.
One night, I overdosed on cocaine and had a heart attack. I remember crying out to God to save me. And then I felt the presence of the Lord. There was nothing at first, and all of the sudden, there was everything. The doctor told me I had so many drugs in me that I should have been dead. I felt Jesus. I prayed, “Oh my living God, you’re real and you heard me. You saved me.” I surrendered my life to Christ.
What kind of transformational healing took place in your life?
When we give our life to Christ, God’s Spirit completely restores us. But that soul, physical, and mental healing has to line up with God’s Word—that’s slow. Our salvation is fought in fear and trembling. We fight for it every day. God gives us the strength. I became a voracious reader of God’s Word. But the healing was a slow process.
After 18 months, I went back to church. There, I learned that Christians weren’t perfect like they seemed. We’re all broken. God is ironing the wrinkles in the church’s bridal gown.
It was a romantic period of time with Christ. I learned that he loved me.
How did Hookers for Jesus start?
I started bringing prostitutes to church, putting gas in their cars, whatever I could do. I let them sleep at my house because I wanted them safe from their pimps. But I was living with a family, and they asked me to stop bringing them home. I needed a better option—God had given me a vision and a name: Destiny House.
One day my church called me and said they had a house available for Destiny House. We used the house for a few years. It housed and cared for women for six months at a time. But some pimps found our house and had sex with some of the ladies, so it stopped being a safe location.
God was calling us to a bigger ministry.
Last year, we were given a beautiful estate—we rent it for a dollar a year. It’s quadruple the size of the other property. We have the potential to fill it with 30 women!
There are challenges. We’re low on money. We have bills, staff, and counselors to pay. But God won’t let this property shut down. We’re the only victims’ home in Vegas.
How does the program work?
There’s an application process and an interview. Not every girl can commit herself to the program because it’s a year, and it’s a life change.
The stats say that only 70 percent of sex-trafficked women have PTSD, but I would say it’s probably closer to 95 percent. At Destiny House, the girls get weekly trauma counseling from an amazing Christian counselor.
We also have Ladies of Destiny classes, which are support groups women can attend from outside Destiny House, to walk with Christ and teach them they can truly be who God has called them to be. And we have Saturday Night Love—where we go out to the strip and give out gift bags to the girls working in prostitution.
One girl just got a job. That’s huge. She was trafficked as a teen. Her pimp is now in jail because this girl pressed charges. I’m really proud of her.
The transformation I see in the women at Destiny House is that they now know who they are in Christ. They know they don’t have to sell their bodies anymore. They’re healed. They’re whole. Their lives can be different. They have purpose. They can be women of God and do whatever God puts in their hearts.
How many girls have committed their life to Christ?
We’ve had six girls go through the program so far, and all of them have committed their lives to Christ. I don’t think a single one will go back to prostitution.
God is the God of miracles in my life. I am really blessed. He’s done amazing things. It’s been hard, but it’s great.
Keep an eye out for Annie’s first book, Fallen: Out of the Sex Trade and Into the Arms of the Savior, coming out in February 2015. Annie’s ministry is accepting applications for the Destiny House. For more information about this ministry, click here.
Ashley Moore Emmert is the assistant editor for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com. She contributes to Today’s Christian Woman and Her.meneutics, blogs at AshleyGraceMoore.blogspot.com, spills on herself at least twice a day, and has developed very strong feelings for her snooze button. Follow her on Twitter at @ashgmoore.