At a chapel service during her first semester at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas, Valarie L. Goff sensed a calling to the mission field.
In a conversation, the school’s missions director shared that missionaries go overseas and tell people about Jesus. The thought of leaving her family behind to venture to unfamiliar places frightened Goff, and she began to ignore the calling of God on her life.
“I eventually surrendered,” says Goff, 31. “It just took God some time to deal with my heart.”
Goff realized God needed missionaries not just abroad, but in her home state of Texas as well.
Now an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries, Goff started Reckon Ministries in Houston in December 2019. The ministry uses one-on-one discipleship and various outreach projects as a way to minister to women who work in the strip clubs and illegal brothels. Goff and volunteer team members take the women gifts and offer prayers . But Goff’s call to minister to the victims of the sex industry began years prior to Reckon’s launch.
After graduating from SAGU, Goff spent almost two years searching for ministry opportunities while working two secular jobs. During that time, she connected with F.R.E.E. International, an AG partner organization that works to combat human trafficking. In 2014, she moved to Las Vegas to begin ministering with F.R.E.E. International.
During Goff’s first week with F.R.E.E. International, she toured a legal brothel operating in Nevada. The sexual services offered by the establishment astounded her.
“It was like going to McDonald’s,” Goff says. “Do you want a salad? Do you want a Big Mac? Do you want chicken nuggets?”
The woman leading the tour acted as though she enjoyed her job as a prostitute. However, six months later, at a prayer group with F.R.E.E. International missionaries, including Goff, the woman who led the brothel tour shared that she wanted out of the industry.
She later committed her life to Christ, but Goff notes that the process of transformation for her, as with many women attempting to escape the sex industry, isn’t easy. Leaving the old life behind can be fraught with fears.
“Sometimes, going into a ministry like this, people expect to go in and pull these women out of the brothels right then and there,” says Maria Herrera, a former intern at Reckon. “But the fact is, what these women really need is relationships and to see a person caring for them long term.”
Herrera recalled one brothel that volunteers visited multiple times during her internship. Though they had previously been unable to gain access to anyone at the facility, on one particular visit, Goff and Herrera entered the building at 1 a.m. during a rainstorm. Eventually, a woman they believed to be the brothel madam appeared at the counter.
“Her heart was very open, because when we said that our God is the God who answers prayers, her eyes just lit up,” says Herrera, 23. “And she said, ‘Oh, you’re right. I know Buddha doesn’t answer prayers. Only God does. Only Jesus.’”
Herrera says the woman accepted the Lord on the spot.
Reckon Ministries provides everything from toiletry bags to Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving meals to employees of different Houston strip clubs and illegal brothels.
The ministry also hosts an annual Christmas gala to minister to women affected by the sex industry, as well as to their children. The event is catered, provides gifts for the children, and hosts a guest speaker.
Goff, who is currently discipling six women, prays that God will send longer-term missionaries, as well as more general volunteers, to assist Reckon Ministries.
“I like to encourage people that God has a place for them, even if it’s not on the field,” Goff says. “There are opportunities always available for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We just have to have our eyes open to them.”