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GOD & TEXAS: The Madam's Sermon

In the 1880s, Hell’s Half Acre tarnished the reputation of Fort Worth. Rusk Street served as the heart of the famous Red Light District offering many houses of prostitution and dealers in illicit drugs.

City leaders were duplicitous in their management of these illegal activities. Publicly, they strongly condemned the cathouses. But privately, they wallowed in the revenue generated by taxes, and covertly partook of the iniquity themselves.

The three major whorehouses were owned by Mary Porter, Jessie Reeves, and Josie Belmont. They contended for the title of “Queen of the Madams,” resulting in fistfights and shootouts among the opposing prostitutes as they struggled to keep their faithful sugar-daddies while enlarging their businesses.

Of the three “Queens,” Jessie Reeves was the most sophisticated. Her house attracted an elite clientele which included governmental officials. It was rumored that Jesse’s “boyfriend” was a wealthy area rancher who held several political offices.

Jessie was born in Spain and immigrated to the United States in 1880 with her sister. Before moving to Fort Worth, Jessie was employed as a circus performer, and then a gambler. Jessie turned to prostitution after almost dying from a gunshot wound during a contentious card game.

Within a short time, Jessie became the owner of her own bordello. While this kept her busy fussing with the law, Jessie was also loved in the community for her generosity toward various charities and the homeless. Though she seemed to have achieved materialistic success, something unexpected changed everything.

On July 12, 1900, Jessie was standing on the platform of a Salvation Army tent revival in downtown New York City. The facility was packed with a cross-section of the city residents who had come to hear the testimony of the former Texas Madam.

Jessie began her intriguing testimony by telling many sordid details of her former aberrant life. People were mortified, but wanted to hear more. Then she said, “I was out for my mid-day constitutional when I happened by the open doorway of a small house. I heard someone inside singing hymns and I was drawn to the sweet message in the music.”

Jessie went into the house, heard the Gospel message, and asked Jesus to forgive her of her many sins. She concluded her testimony by saying, “I took the Savior into my soul that day. And I turned over a new leaf!”

In the Bible, the prostitute was the worst thing a woman could be. Society made them outcasts, but God welcomed them into His family through repentance and abandonment of that licentious lifestyle. Rahab became the great-great-grandmother to King David (Matthew 15-6). Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene and she became a devoted follower (Mark 16:9).

The love and forgiveness of Christ can turn any lost soul into the child of God. More than turning over a new leaf, Salvation is a radical conversion experience that brings purity and hope to a lost soul (2 Corinthians 5:17). Please accept Christ today – be changed!

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