Annie Lobert said she was molested by a neighbor and, as a teen, balked at her father’s authoritative parenting.
After meeting some men she didn’t realize were pimps one night on a rebellious trip to a bar, she found herself immersed in the sex trade.
Lobert, 46, said she experienced a faith transformation in 2003 and formed Hookers for Jesus as a ministry to help other girls and women escape a similar fate. Among other things, the Las Vegas-based Hookers for Jesus operates Destiny House, a home for women who need a safe place to rebuild their lives after they break away from the world of sex trafficking.
Lobert will be one of the featured speakers at Night of Hope OKC, set for Friday at Quail Springs Baptist Church. Sponsored by Hope Is Alive Ministries, the event also will feature a presentation by former New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry. The event is designed to raise awareness about addiction and recovery.
In a telephone interview, Lobert discussed her faith journey and ministry.
Q: Why do you think sex trafficking is gaining more public awareness?
A: I think that’s ... because of our world getting very, very small because of the smartphones and the computers and social media sites. I also think that once you raise a flag and say people need help over here, people become very active.
Q: In your biography on the Hookers for Jesus website, you mention that you were a “goody two-shoes.” How did your life evolve so that you found yourself in the sex-trafficking industry?
A: I was pretty much forced into a “goody two-shoes” life because that’s what was expected of me. My father was a strict disciplinarian. ... I basically rebelled against him because I saw him not treating us kids fairly. I compared it to my friends, and I really struggled with watching him, the way he treated us. Also, I had several incidents of sexual abuse by a neighbor that my parents never really knew about. So by the time I became a teenager, what was a trickle of rebellion out of me became a complete waterfall. By the time I hit 15, I was in full-blown rebellion against my parents, and I ended up having sex before marriage and trusting a guy that I thought would care for me. I ended up going out to the nightclubs with my girlfriends, and I met these men and they were pimps, and I didn’t know it.
Q: You said you had an epiphany that led to your escape from life as an escort. What happened?
A: I had been escorting but I had gotten out of it. I had started working in the business corporate world and was very successful, but then we lost our business almost overnight, and I went right back to what I knew would comfort me the most, because I didn’t have God. I started doing drugs and I needed money, so I started going down to “The Strip” (in Las Vegas) and prostituting myself for drugs so I could stay high. I overdosed on Aug. 2, 2003, which I consider my “birthday” because I surrendered to God that day. I literally had a heart attack. I was doing too much cocaine, and my heart hurt so bad. It was awful. I just prayed and said, “Lord, I need you to take over my life. I don’t know what else I’m going to do with myself. I’ve wrecked my life.” God showed up ... in a mighty way. I got completely turned around. My friend called an ambulance, and they took me to the hospital. The doctor told me I had a lot of drugs in my system and that I shouldn’t have made it. There were several weeks of recovery, and one night, I was watching television, and there was a loud-mouthed preacher on TV. It was (televangelist) Joyce Meyer — she’s my spiritual Mama. She is a huge part of my new and improved belief in God. Through her teaching, I dove in head first into deep, deep water and said I want to be healed from all this junk. I want to stop this crazy train that’s going nowhere.
Q: Why did you start Hookers for Jesus?
A: I felt very compelled and very passionate about reaching women that were stuck in the same situation I was in. ... Out of my own love for God and my own gratitude for God and what He’s done for me, I wanted to help others. I really want others to get set free.
Q: Why do you speak at events like Night of Hope OKC?
A: You know, it’s not something that I planned. People had been asking me to do it. I see there is a real legitimate impact that happens everywhere I speak. People get set free from shame, from guilt, from fear, from any addiction they’ve been hiding in the closet. I find that when I speak, people come up to me afterwards and let me know that my story helped them realize that God does love them, that there is a plan for their life and they can get away from whatever they’re doing. ... This issue touches every single person in the community.
Night of Hope OKC