Thursday, February 19, 2015

Featured Story: Strip Club Owner Leaves Business for Higher Calling

Aaron Bekkela will never forget the day his eyes were opened to the reality of his career choice. “My daughter came home,” he recalls. “They had a career day at their school, and she comes bouncing through the door, ‘Oh guess what we get to do,’ you know and all excited about it.”

Aaron wasn’t as excited as his daughter about career day. As the co-owner of a strip club in Colorado, it meant talking about exotic dancers and heavy drinking. He confesses, “Your daughter can’t go to work with you because what you do is disgusting.  I obviously was embarrassed about what I did. It was shameful.”

His club has since been gutted and under-construction … but returning to the space, he remembers the scene well. “A typical night in here, lights, very loud,” he remembers.  Pointing to a small staircase, he says, “This was where you would walk down. The stages were here. There were three; one here, one in the middle and one off to the side.” 

His father owned a chain of strip clubs so to Aaron, it was a normal part of life. But his dad’s frequent disappearances and affairs weighed heavily on his heart. Aaron explains, “What do you do when you see your mom crying off and on your entire—I don’t know, as long as I can remember growing up, she was sad. But I’ve always been very introverted so whatever was going on, I absolutely kept it to myself.”

Aaron’s parents later divorced, and as much as he didn’t want to be like his dad, he wanted his approval. So shortly after college, he joined his brothers and father in the family business as operations manager. Justifying his participation, he shares, “As far as the business goes, well, ‘it’s legal. I’m not hurting anyone. They choose to come and go of their own free will.’”

It wasn’t long before Aaron opened his own club. He married a dancer, and they had two children. Having a family –especially a daughter- got him thinking about the adult entertainment industry. “I came to the realization that women were just being objectified-- to view at your leisure or whatever and use to whatever degree you thought was okay, and then move on.” Aaron candidly says. “I could go on and on with the reasons why I knew it was bad. I knew it was wrong. It was just ugly.”

But he liked making six figures a year for the sake of his family. Aaron admits, “I just buried my head in the sand. I minimized, I looked the other way.”

Heavy drinking helped Aaron cope temporarily, but the shame finally caught up with him when his father got terminal cancer, and Aaron began questioning his own choices.

“’Is this what I’m really about? Is this what I want my kids to think? Is this the legacy I want to leave?  Absolutely not!’”  he says. “Okay, now ‘How do I change that?’”

By this time his brother had become a Christian and gave him a Bible. Aaron was skeptical about Christianity. He remembers his train of thought, “’Why would God want to take the chance with me? Why? You know, I’m not worthy. Oh, and by the way it’s all a bunch of garbage anyway.’”

Still, he read the Bible cover to cover, and was surprised by what he learned about Jesus. “He came for the sinners, not the righteous. That realization that I was exactly why He came here, that me and the life I led was- that was totally it.”

Later, he and his wife received a flyer, inviting them to church. They went and Aaron met some men who gave him hope. He says, “It’s just very liberating to realize that I guess maybe I could have a second chance,” he quietly shares. “It gave me that first time thought process of ‘I’ve spent roughly half of my life doing this; I guess I could spend the other half doing something better.’” 

So he started going to the church and doing things he thought a good Christian should—like praying for a way to get out of the business. But nothing happened.

“I went back to drinking pretty seriously,” He says. “And just broke down in the shower.  I genuinely said, ‘You do it. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m not getting this right. If You’re real and if You’re who I read about and if You’re you know, if I think if You’re really who I want You to be, I can’t do this.’ In reality, I was turning it over and I think that that’s what the key was. I had me, myself and I in everything my entire life up until that point. And while my intentions were good, I hadn’t turned it over.”   

A week after Aaron surrendered to Jesus, he was able to walk away from his club. He shares, “It was unbelievable. I mean, I can’t really explain or describe the weight that was lifted off.”

Aaron also stopped drinking. He began attending a Bible study and started a Master’s program in Christian counseling. He learned about the forgiveness of God and ultimately forgave his father. “I came to terms with that guilt and shame,” Aaron declares. “I realized what the roots of it were, understanding I can be forgiven for that.  Now all I want to do is be me and be who I really am. Now, I enjoy life again. You know- my kids, doing things with them, my wife, being able to take my daughter to career day.”

Eventually, a church bought Aaron’s old strip club and transformed it into a Christian community center. It even set up a fund to help dancers get an education or learn a trade—proof to Aaron that anything given to God can be made brand new. 

“Ultimately at the end of the day, Christ is there to help you. You have to be diligently searching for Him and not beating yourself up if you fall down. If you trip up, you can get back up and go again,” Aaron shares. He concludes, “Sooner or later, one foot in front of the other becomes a steady jog and the next thing you know, it’s downhill!”

Culled from cbn.com

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