NEW INTERVIEW with Annie Lobert of Hookers for Jesus. She was sex trafficked in Vegas, now she's helping other victims. Hear what she says about facing fear, anxiety, negative self-worth, and feeling like you are stuck and can’t get out.
Doug Bender: I’m so excited to talk with you today, Annie Lobert. Now some people will have seen your film on our site and know your story, but to a lot of folks you’re a brand new face. I want to catch them up. Can you tell me a little bit of your story?
Annie Lobert: I am a girl from Minnesota from a very abusive family. My daddy was an alcoholic, and I never felt love. My girlfriend and I went out to the club one night and we met these two men. They were traffickers. We did not know it. My girlfriend ended up going with one of them. She called me up from Hawaii. And that first night I went to Hawaii from Minnesota I sold myself.
I came back to Minnesota and started dancing at a nightclub. I met this guy who I was totally head-over-heels in love with within the first couple weeks. I did not know at the time, but this guy was an undercover sex trafficker/pimp.
I brought him with me to Vegas. My girlfriend had moved here back from Hawaii. The first night that I had worked in Las Vegas, I went home and brought the money. All of a sudden, he told me to break myself. He beat me down. The next five years of my life, and then five years after that actually, I was being sex-trafficked on the strip in Las Vegas as a high class call girl.
DB: At the beginning you had some choices that you made, but there came a point where it wasn’t really your choice anymore. You were stuck and you couldn’t get out.
AL: Absolutely. The fear of losing your life preceded the fear of choosing the right thing.
DB: Even though not everyone has your specific story, all of us can look back on life and say, “I made these decisions. It brought me to this place in life. And then I just felt like I couldn’t get out. I was stuck.” The details are different, but all of us get in that place where you just get stuck.
AL: I try to tell people, just because I sold myself doesn’t mean we are so different. Because if you think about it, getting stuck in a hard place, we eventually sell out to anything or anyone, our careers, our family, our friends, ourselves. We don’t even realize that we sold ourselves to the enemy. And he has basically put us in this pit, and we can’t get out of it.
DB: One of the things we’ve heard from folks is, “Am I too far gone? Could God really love someone like me? Could he really give me peace?” I have shared your story, in particular, to folks that ask that question.
AL: I went to the edge of the earth to find happiness in myself, and I almost destroyed myself. I think a lot of people can relate to that. When you get into that place and its really dark and there’s no peace, you really don’t know if God can get you out of that. You feel like you’ve really done so much against the goodness of God or the way you know he wanted you to live that you feel like you’re in such a dark place that nothing can rescue you out of that area.
And the other thing is that when you go so far into that pit of loneliness, depression, fear, and anxiety, you’re also addicted. You’re addicted to your own self-worth, what you think of yourself, and if that’s not good, you can’t get out of that. You convince yourself that you’re unlovable. You convince yourself that you’re too traumatized, that you’re too used. I think that chain is a huge robber of peace.
And my main thing that robbed me of peace more than anything else in my life was fear. I grew up as a child in fear with my daddy abusing my mom and us kids, physically and mentally and emotionally, in front of us. When I got trafficked, it was just a comfortable place to be because I already remembered what it felt like to live in fear. So I was stuck in that place.
DB: So how do you face fear, beyond your particular circumstance? Let’s even take it to Jesus - how has you following Jesus helped you address fear in your life?
AL: There’s so many ways I could describe how Jesus has helped me. But I do know this, I felt the peace that I have never felt in my life hit me that day I overdosed. I made a promise to God that I would follow him but, can I be honest with everyone listening out there? It didn’t happen right away. When you have faith and you dedicate your life, you have to stick with it. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” See Jesus knew that the reason our peace was not there is because we were afraid.
So that’s one of the things in the beginning that I continually had to give up those first couple years I started following Jesus. Every time I went into the parking lot, I walked outside, I drove my car, or I went to the store, I had to trust him that angels were guarding me from those traffickers spotting me in the crowd and coming after me and finding me. I mean, I had traffickers chasing me with guns down the strip, shooting at me through the roof. So let me tell you, Doug, that kind of fear and anxiety was real for me.
To really place your trust in him is just a first admission of, “Ok, God. Even though I don’t feel it, I’m going to put my trust in you because I’m full of fear right now.” That fear brings torment. If you allow yourself to give that fear more value than your faith, then you will be robbed of peace. So that’s the first thing that I did, I had to continually surrender that fear to him. I want to encourage everyone, you need to surrender your fear.
DB: I want to pivot here. I love the more recent part of your story, too. You are going out to those very same streets you once worked, and you are doing a very different kind of work. You are sharing with people who were you, 15 or 20 years ago, people who have that very fear you just talked about.
AL: That was my motivation. That love that I felt from Jesus was so real, so tangible. God says, “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I tell the girls when I go out and I minister to them, “Listen, I know you are afraid. But I am a leader now. I am a person that is set free from that and I know that you can do this just like I did because God has been with me and he’s going to be with you. If you’ll just believe that he can then he will.”
We have a home called Destiny House. We have ladies living with us right now. It’s a nice property that we bring the girls to to restore their lives. They get a job before they leave here. They get counseling, art work, equine therapy. I’m telling you they get the whole gambit of good food and a work out person. They are treated like royalty here because that’s how God’s daughters should be treated.
I want to encourage everyone out there. You can do this thing. You are not alone. Also, don’t hang out with people that don’t believe what you do. At the very beginning with my healing, getting around the right people really solidified what my journey was going to look like in the future. Get that solid foundation if you are stuck in that place.
If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, or negative self-worth like Annie describes here, check out the new book from I Am Second called, I Choose Peace, and find freedom. You can also talk with a Live Coach about how you can have the peace Annie is talking about. Click HERE to learn more.
You can watch Annie Lobert’s White Chair Film or learn more about how Hookers for Jesus gives hope, healing, and help to those who have been negatively affected by sex trafficking and the adult entertainment industry. She also tells her full story in her book Fallen.
Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at iamsecond.com and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.