By Jennifer Johnson
Building wheelchair ramps for the disabled . . . leading VBS sessions in South America . . .
digging wells in Third World countries . . . all of these are popular short-term mission trips. But volunteering at a trade show for the sex industry?
“For the last four years we have partnered strategically with XXX Church, an organization that offers resources and support to fight porn addiction,” says Jerry Ittel, lead missions pastor. “When Craig Gross, the founder, spoke at SouthBrook on the issue of sex trafficking, he challenged the women of our church to consider volunteering at the ‘Everything to Do with Sex’ show in Toronto.”
The XXX ministry has had a presence at several of these shows in recent years, reserving space in the exhibit hall, passing out Bibles that say “Jesus loves porn stars,” and talking to other exhibitors and attendees.
“You’ve got merchandise sales going on, actors and production companies marketing their movies, and people shopping,” Ittel says. “And in the midst of it you have the XXX team and volunteers engaging them in noncondemning conversations, sharing food, and handing out the New Testament.”
Although the women were a bit nervous before the trip, the reaction from the people working the show surprised them.
“Many people said they expected our team to be outside with picket signs, not inside talking to them,” Ittel says.
This is the second time SouthBrook women have helped XXX at one of these shows; one of the volunteers from the first trip is still in touch with a woman who works in the industry.
“The goal of our ladies on the trip was just to serve however they could,” Ittel says. “The important thing was to let the people at this show know they are loved despite what they’re doing.”