God Turned My Anger Into Love – Annie Lobert
Conversation between Pastor Priji & Annie Lobert, discussing the story behind the origin of Annie Lobert’s ministry, the vision of her ministry, the hardships and trials of those involved in sex trafficking, the various challenges and obstacles they face in their line of ministry work, the rehabilitation processes of post-trafficking, instructions for how the church as a group can do to help victims, and practical things leaders and pastors can do to serve better.
Pastor Priji: Annie, your story is an inspiration and the epitome of God’s grace and love for us, I know we can pick up the book you’ve written to get to know your story in detail. Would you share your story in a nutshell?
Annie Lobert: I was born in Minnesota, I was raised in a Lutheran family, my dad was an alcoholic and was very abusive towards my family, so us children and my mom grew up with complex trauma and he would hurt my mother in front of us kids and he would be emotionally abusive towards my mom. I grew up not knowing who I was as a woman, I was always searching for love that I never received from my father. Even though I knew deep inside, he loved me but didn’t know how to show it, but that didn’t matter to my heart. I ended up becoming very promiscuous, I was sexually abused between ages 8-9 by a next door neighbor. That catapulted me into a lifestyle of looking for intimacy with a different man, whatever I could get any attention, gather to feel alive.
What a lot of the people don’t understand is that a lot of the girls and boys have a huge hole in their hearts and looking to fill that anxiety, loneliness, depression, and rejection they feel with a sense of belonging.
So I got 3 jobs when I turned 18. I went to a nightclub one night and 3 men came in, we didn’t know they were pimps and sex trafficking. My female friend soon starts dating one of them, and he flies her out to Hawaii, and soon I find myself flying out to Hawaii figuring out how to sell myself. So I quit my 3 jobs and started working the escort services in Minnesota. I brought my pimp out to Las Vegas, and the first night that I worked, he broke me and took all my money and beat me almost to death, and that’s how I was introduced to trafficking.
Pastor Priji: How long was that phase, from when you got into prostitution to the last point when you stopped ?
Annie Lobert: I didn’t realize I was being trafficked, so probably 6 months-9 months. It was a very short period. But I never got the healing that I needed, I was very broken and never realized at the time was I had severe complex trauma, which was manifesting in my work ethic, my relationships. When I got out of trafficking, I was hooked on cocaine really bad, because we lost our business, our group, and I was devastated, so I was back in the Las Vegas strip selling myself again. On 2003 August 2nd, I was completely changed and gave my life to God.
Pastor Priji: So how did that happen, did somebody tell you about Jesus, did you visit a church, how did the change occur ?
Annie Lobert: I didn’t go to church, but however I had a seed planted in me as a little girl going to church. Bible school that they have, I was confirmed as a Lutheran, the education of the word that I basically got from there, although a lot of what I learned was really fuzzy later because what I don’t remember from my church experience was the feeling of acceptance and grace, I felt objected and judged. The object of God and religion was at the back of my mind.
What happened was someone gave me the Gideon’s Bible and I read the whole New Testament, when I was 18. I read the New Testament before overdosing, but what changed me was Jesus became real to me and realized that if I cried out to Him in the midst of my overdose, that He would be there. I was praying to God to get me out of trafficking, to open a doorway because my life felt like a dead end, it didn’t feel like anything I had imagined life to be like when I was a little girl.
As I was surrendering my life to Him, I realized one thing, that I was never ever going back to my old self.
Statistics show that women who quit prostitution, go back a few more times before they actually quit. This happened with me as well, I went back twice before I finally quit. When you really give Jesus everything, He does a miracle in our life. When God said to Ezekiel, He looked at the valley of dry bones. God told Ezekiel to prophecy to these bones. Basically I knew that it was up to me to speak life and to live life and tell myself ‘ you’re done, you’re prophesying to your bones and going to wake up now ‘.
Pastor Priji: I have heard of stories of people who have gone through abusive lifestyles, where sometimes that guilt gets into your heart and then you feel there is no way out and expecting for somebody else to come help. So I like what you said that sometimes we just have to rise up and prophecy into our dead situations and broken areas.
Annie Lobert: Most of the times when you’re getting out of these hard situations, you don’t have a great support group around you. But God partners with that surrender and it is up to Him but at the same time He needs our YES, our vessel, our body, our coordination to participate. You could pray all you want but your obedience is going to do the miracle. It takes obedience.
Pastor Priji: Now you’re married and God’s blessed your life. What is your current fuel in your walk with God, relationship with your husband, social relationships. What is the one thing that keeps your passion for God and everything that you are doing that keeps alive ?
Annie Lobert: It’s crazy you’re asking that because one of my passions is obviously helping women like me, but inside of that is my own healing coming through fruition everyday and I’m learning new things about myself to work my faith, it’s such an exciting time for me. I want to encourage everyone out there to keep learning about God, keep reading your bible, look in the scriptures, the commentaries, look at the history of the Hebrew people, learn about what it really means to be saved and what the Messiah came for and why we’re here. I am here right now to share this message with so many hurting people and what I find in the passion part of it is that, my passion just isn’t for the women coming out of prostitution. My passion is letting people know that God loves them and that He has incredible stupendous plan for their lives and the possibilities that they could flip this world upside down. We need to help people, that is our soul purpose, because helping people brings us the joy of God, the joy of the Lord.
He wants to tell people that ‘ You can be out of the trauma, the anxiety, you don’t have to be in the fears and PTSD’.
Pastor Priji: I understand that the ministry ‘ hookers for Jesus ‘ was not immediately but, as soon as you got saved, it took a while for it to be, but what is the vision and whole thing that the ministry is doing right now ? You also have a ‘ Destiny house ’ where you rehabilitate people who have been out of trafficking. Could you share on what is God using you for in this ?
Annie Lobert: When I said that prayer on August 2nd 2003, I promised God I wouldn’t go back but I also said I would help women and people like me and in general. But what I found is that, doing this work has been a very large challenge in my life but at the same time the best thing that has ever happened to me, it showed me where I needed areas of healing.
I was driving one time, passing by the strip, reaching out to women who were prostituting. The Holy Spirit told me to name it ‘ Hookers for Jesus ‘, because Matthew 4:19 – I will teach you how to fish for people. The first 4 disciples were fishermen, 2 of them were cleaning their nets and He said ‘ come follow me ‘, what I find amazing about the name is the fact that God can take that name Hooker and change that into a Fish Hook and turn it into a holy purpose. So a lot of people misconstrued the name and got offended. If you’re offended by the name, get over yourself. That means you don’t love women who are being trafficked. We should love all people. The actual ministry turned into a big outreach and I was doing case management, helping every girl with the resources they need in our community in Las Vegas. We opened our first Destiny house in 2008 and been doing this for many years now. We’re the first survivor led safe house in the country.
Pastor Priji: What is it that gives you the boldness to do this ? I understand that this can be a very dangerous place to do ministry and where you are dealing with pimps who can be angry with the people you are rescuing. What keeps you courageous and bold to keep doing this work?
Annie Lobert: Part of my boldness besides prayer is that God has taken my anger and has flipped it into love. To remember that pimps are people to and that God loves them, a lot of people don’t want me to say that but I’m still going to say it because God loves them. I personally have been in some hairy scary situations, that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but the boldness I truly believe that God put it in me. It’s now just the willingness to go out there to risk my life and our volunteer and staff’s lives for the women that are hurting. It fuels me to rescue more people. It’s not for the faint of heart, if anyone wants to get involved, they need to be trained, if you say or do the wrong thing, you will get hurt yourself. So there’s training to go through to be educated on trafficking.
Pastor Priji: You’re also leading a movement, leading the destiny house, how do you deal with disappointment because as leaders sometimes that is also a part and parcel of life ? How do you not give us inspite of all the things that come in a leaders life that try to slow them down ? What do you do to build yourself and keep going ?
Annie Lobert: Also what about finances and you need to pay your staff. So for me, I honestly know what I have been called to do and that calling is sealed in my heart. It’s like how Jesus talks about in John 15 to be attached to the vine. So when I need a resurge or fueled, I go to the source and get quiet and play music, read a lot too about people of faith, and my favorite is king David, who had so much come against him. I know he wasn’t perfect but that’s what beautiful about him, the broken Hallelujah. I studied that, if you read the psalms, he never gave up on what God told him about going to be a king. I never thought I could say I’ve been in ministry for 15-16-17 years.
We know what it’s like to be attacked, the thing is that, stats say that people who attempt ministry, majority quit, they don’t stay. How are we going to be an example if we quit. We are supposed to be inspiring and being an example to people.
Pastor Priji: This podcast goes to a lot of leaders in India, Africa etc. What can pastors and leaders specifically do to educate people and make them aware of what is happening in the world out there to protect from sexual abuse, trafficking, pornography ? What are some practical things you would encourage leaders to do, to serve people being victimized by the world out there ?
Annie Lobert: To bring awareness to the people of the world out there, partner with ministry, partner with a ministry that doesn’t have a church. Get educated, give your congregation the teachings about sex trafficking, allow your congregation to serve the population, get involved with people that are sexually abused. Help them come to the cross, be their family, be their support center, the church has to be a hospital, so let’s act like one. When Jesus said to chop the tree down because there was no fruit on it, same way, we need to produce. We need to be in the trenches with the victim. Support the small percentage of people serving the victims.
Pastor Priji: In India, every church builds their own world around themselves and as long as the church is not directly benefited by doing a particular ministry, their church numbers are not increasing or they don’t get anymore revenue, or don’t want to get involved in some of these things.
Annie Lobert: That’s terrible, and just like America in a lot of ways. Everybody’s just like that in growing their own congregation and staff, making sure everyone’s paid. That’s really sad, we need to all work together. I think it’s said ‘ Only 10% of a congregation, serve in the church ‘.
Pastor Priji: Jesus said ‘ I was stripped, beaten, and none of you came to serve me ‘. They would ask Jesus, ‘ when did we do that ? ‘, and Jesus would reply saying whatever you did not do to one of my least children, you were not doing to me as well. I think this is a huge calling on the church.
Would you want to say any concluding words to our listeners today ?
Annie Lobert: I just want to add to everyone listening, do you remember, there was a woman, in the Old Testament named Rahab, she’s a direct descendant of Jesus. Joshua and Caleb were directed by God to go into the promise land and the first city they ran into was Jericho, they were given the authority and power to bring the walls down on the 7th day. Rahab before they went into the city, she was running a brothel, she and her family were part of the sex trafficking victim. She saw and heard that God was all powerful, she had heard about the miracle working God and told those spies that she wants to go with them, and to please remember her and come get her. They were faithful to come rescue her with the scarlet chord before the city got crumbled. That in the promise land is the first family they rescued.
What message is God giving you guys ? If the first family God is choosing to rescue is a trafficked family, what is our duty as a country and citizens of the kingdom to do for these people that are stuck in servitude ? Support survivor led initiatives, we need to come together!
Partner with us in our dream for revival. Your generosity goes towards supporting our initiatives to reach out, serve & transform lives.
If you’d like to be a monthly partner & would like to contribute towards missions trips in India and Africa, please write to us here.
Subscribe to Another Day with Jesus!
If you would like to receive this podcasts right into your phones, you could subscribe to it on a regular feed reader like feedly, or on a podcasting app like iTunes or easier still you could receive it by WhatsApp. Click on the links below to subscribe!