Polly Wright, the founder and executive director of the the ministry “We Are Cherished” is a former stripper with a heart for the men and women caught up in the sex industry. God has redeemed Polly’s past and is using it to bring light and love into dark places. In talking with Polly, one thing was clear: the heart and vision for the ministry is to show the extravagant love of God practically and to proclaim the truth that everyone is cherished—from the club owners on down the line.
We may not personally be walking into strip clubs, but we are all called to love people. My hope is that in hearing a portion of Polly’s story that our hearts would also be ignited with a passion to love those we come into contact with—no matter who they are.
Holly Hrywnak: In August 2010, you told God “yes” to His calling to start “We Are Cherished,” but you had initially hesitated. What did He tell you that brought you the peace to move forward?
Polly Wright: When I said “yes,” it was God’s actions that followed that gave me peace. My obedience to His desires of my heart, as I risked (what I thought was a great risk to share my story) He confirmed with His word, with the people He put around me and through that His promise to sustain me was strengthened.
When I would get scared or worried of what I was about to do, I would sit with Him and either read Scripture or just let Him calm me. He would tell me, “Polly, I’ve had your story all along. I have brought you through. Trust me.” And I did.
HH: A person’s personal story is one of the greatest assets to the ministry that God has called them to. Why is that true, and how has God used your past to bring redemption?
PW: Amen! The enemy tries to kill us within our past, be it a horrific story of abuse or thoughts of “you’ll never be good enough,” he tries to shut us down and isolate. When I brought my FULL story to the light—not just the things that happened to me, but the shame and the guilt of the things I did (which is in direct correlation to the things that happened to me)—the enemy could no longer have a grasp on me.
Our vulnerability is a fragrance to the Lord. When others see us being vulnerable in places that seem horrifically scary for some of us, it brings hope! When people, like the women we get to journey with, see us open up our hearts in the scary places and share our stories, they then see healing before their eyes! Our past is not for us to sit in fear, but to step into so we can let God heal the wounded places and redeem us so we can then be powerful lights and obey Him!
HH: You base your vision on the verse Ephesians 5:2, “(Christ’s) love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Why is that verse so important for all of us?
PW: Sometimes as Christ-followers we get timid and hide behind the walls of Christianity. Jesus never did that! We tiptoe cautiously around the “secular,” and in that might end up judging them and isolating the very people we are supposed to love. We equate being “not cautious” to maybe not being intentional or stupid in our decisions. But just think, if for a moment we walked down the street not being “cautious” or “fearful,” knowing the Holy Spirit that lives in us, and we could express our love extravagantly, the exact way we are called to love—can you imagine what would happen? If we loved without caution and saw God’s beautiful messed-up people how He sees them, one act of extravagant love could change the course of one life forever! This is one of my favorite topics.
HH: You mentioned to me that your faith journey was a process of seeing people who were “real” in their relationship with Jesus and loved you without judgement. As a Christian, why do you believe this is the best way to interact with the lost, hurting and broken?
PW: No one likes to be judged, right? No one! Daily we interact or live life with the lost, hurt and broken, and we have to remember that as we watch their actions, we don’t know their story. Who am I to judge and assume that I’m better than they are? If you risk your heart for just a moment and take the time to see them, I mean really see them, they will feel that. Every lost person wants to be found. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants and desires to be known. And who are we, as Christians, to judge them in the name of Jesus? That makes us no better.
I watched Christians closely. I had several try to “save” me. But it wasn’t until I saw people love outside of themselves to love me at any risk, you know: “Christ’s love was not cautious but extravagant. Love like that.” When I saw that in motion from Christ-followers, I had to have what they had! Our expression of Him, Who lives inside of us, and the love that comes from that changes everything!
HH: It’s important to you that the people you interact with, from the club managers, to those working the doors, to the strippers all be treated with honor. How has this type of thinking given you open doors and opportunities that you might not have been given otherwise?
PW: Everyone is God’s kid. Everyone has a story and why they’re where they are working too. If we start any kind of outreach with judgment against an individual, who are we to be doing outreach? Wasn’t it the religious that Jesus chastised, not the sinners? This is the perfect example of not being cautious.
We are called to honor everyone we come in contact with. To step outside of ourselves and extravagantly love everyone. Everyone has the opportunity and the invitation to Him, and when the managers and everyone that works there (in the clubs) gets to see Christ’s love in action, their hearts have the opportunity to be opened to Him!
Honor opens doors, not only to the clubs, but to everyone’s hearts.
HH: Your ministry, “We Are Cherished,” practically shows love to the men and women in the sex industry by providing gift bags as well as weekly support groups. You provide a family-style meal for those who attend. How does sharing a meal together cultivate community and openness?
PW: God has set a banquet table for each of us and invites us to sit with Him. Have communion with Him. Connect with Him. And at our weekly dinner and groups, there is something so beautiful and fun to be able to all sit down with each other over a yummy meal. It relaxes each woman and brings a “family” atmosphere, which invites them to share their heart openly and safely. During our meals, we have each woman share a celebration. This time of gratefulness brings each of us closer together and is also an example to newer women that you can make it out if you choose.
At group recently, I had a butterfly (what we call our women) come up to me and say, “This is the first time I’ve ever really understood what having sisters really means. I have a family here.
If you’d like to learn more about “We Are Cherished” or how you can volunteer, you can visit their website: www.wearecherished.com.
Also, we encourage you to check out Polly’s story published in her first book, Cherished: Shattered Innocence. Restored Hope.
Cherished is the story of a young girl, raped in a bathtub at the tender age of seven. It’s the story of a teenager, walking into an abortion clinic. It’s the story of a young wife and mother, masking her pain in a bottle. But more than that, it’s the story of how a very real enemy waged a very real war against this incredible woman from the time she was very small. It’s the story of how the lies he spoke to her became her truths, leading her into the darkest of places and the most difficult of times. And it’s the story of a woman and her Savior. It’s the story of how He rescues and saves, pulling us out of the pit in which we all find ourselves. It’s a story of healing and wholeness, truth and discovery. it’s a story of God’s voice. It’s the story of a woman becoming all that she was created to be.