With God's help, Change is Possible
On a Sunday morning, this past winter, Joaquin First United Methodist Church invited and welcomed as their guest speaker for Human Trafficking Awareness, Teresa Richenberger, the author of “SOLD to the Highest Bidder: The Transformation of and Exotic Dancer.”
At a young age, Richenberger experienced the lifestyles that a 14- year old never should, sex-trafficking, drugs and alochol, dance clubs, prostitution and so much more.
The captivation of her real life story of transformation can be found among the pages of her book.
“I grew up in Deadwood, in East Texas,” said Richenberger. “Just hunting and fishing on the Sabine River, a little country girl at heart,” she said.
Teresa lived a normal childhood; a mother, father and three siblings. It wasn’t until her parents’ divorce when Richenberger’s life took a sharp turn.
“After the divorce - mama took a job in Houston as a school bus driver, and worked the bar at night. She would let me go to the bar with her at night. I was 14 at this time. My mom would entrust all her men to take me home,” said Richenberger. “And one did more than just take me home.”
Richenberger learned at a very young age, what sex was and what it was not. By the time Richenberger was 16, she was a runaway on the streets of Houston.
Poor, hungry, homeless and not a penny to her name - Richenberger picked up a newspaper and saw an ad that read, “Make $1,000 in a week in a Topless Club.”
“So I took a cab ride and never looked back,” said Richenberger. “I was trapped in that industry for 12 years. For 12 years I let Satan steal time that I could not get back. 12 years of letting people use me.
“And then myself. Becoming a user and abuser and learning how to do these same things that were taught to me - and the drugs and the alcohol come with it,” she said.
“I’ve had several abortions. I let the enemy come in and tell me that it was okay to abort the child, that it was the easiest thing to do,” she said. Teresa says it is “horrific” - the lies and the things people believe from Satan.
But one morning, Teresa went to work as usual - her usual shot of tequila and her first “dance” of the day starting at 11 a.m.
“A man tipped me and said, ‘Will you come and sit with me?’ So I went and sat with this man. He started telling me about Jesus and that he wanted to help me. And all I could think was, ‘Sure. Who’d want to help me? Really? I’m standing here with hardly a thing on - and this man wants to help me?’' said Richenberger.
The man that walked into the club Teresa danced at happened to be a professor at Texas A&M. When he walked into the club, for some odd reason, he saw Teresa and God told him, “You’re here for her,” she said.
“I left the club that day with that man. And he put me in Christian counseling.”
It was a newspaper that got Teresa into the life she did, and it was another newspaper that got her out.
After months of Christian counseling and still feeling lost, Teresa was sitting in her friend’s dog grooming business, when she read in a newspaper, “Come. You’re invited” in an ad.
“It was a church ad,” said Richenberger. “I felt the holy spirit pulling me. That college professor who’s been praying for me. Other people who have been praying for me, and then this ad in the newspaper,” she said.
Teresa went to that church the same night she read the ad in the paper.
“I’m going to hell,” said Richenberger. “I've been really out there. I’ve been sinning. I don’t even know Jesus. But I do know where I'm going right now. My spirit did. So I got up, I made myself get ready and I went to that church,” she said.
Richenberger was saved that night. And she continued to live a life for Jesus ever since.
“I got saved. But the enemy kept telling me, ‘You really think you’re saved? You really think God wants to save you after all you’ve done?’” Richenberger said.
“I had to learn what Spiritual Warfare was. I had to learn what picking up your shield and your sword, and saying the word of God out loud was. I had to learn that I was worthy,” she said.
I took Richenberger two years after being saved, to finally up and leave her old lifestyle. It took two years for her to finally tell the enemy she’d had enough.
After those two years, she came home to East Texas and started rescuing young girls that were in the same trapped life that she was.
“I came home to Kilgore, where my mom lives. I started rescuing other girls out of strip clubs and prostitution,” she said. “I would go there and minister the girls. And they would ask me, ‘Miss Teresa. Do you have a place I can go? Where I can take my children too.’”
After trying her hardest for all the girls she would minister and bring towards Christ, she could never find a rehab or home to take both the mother and the children.
“We can take the mama, but not the kids,” quoted Richenberger.
“There are good foster homes. And there’s bad ones. What do you do with the babies? I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said.
Today, Richenberger owns a successful and thriving rehabilitation home in Kilgore, that has been up and running for three years now.
There, she houses women who have suffered the same past as Richenberger. The name of this rehab home is Rahab’s Retreat & Ranch; A voluntary, faith-based program serving victims of sex trafficking and women in the sex industry free of charge. Where their children are welcomed as well.
“I drove by this building one day, and God said, ‘This is your home for women and children.’ It was an old nursing home. 32,000 square feet,” said Richenberger.
“The down payment was $25,000. I don’t have $25,000,” said Richenberger. “I don’t have that God! What am I supposed to do?” she said.
After a couple weeks of praying, crying and thinking about how she would get the down payment, let alone the $200,000 for the actual property, Richenberger heard God speak to her once more. “I heard God say, ‘Get up. Go get your land.’”
Richenberger wrote a hot check, called the man who owned the building, and told him she had the money and was ready to sign the paperwork. And that’s exactly what happened.
“I went. I signed the papers. They signed the papers. And then they asked for the check. His secretary said, ‘Is this a hot check?’ I said, ‘Yeah. You cash it today or tomorrow, it’s going to bounce. Just hold it for a couple days.’ And the man said, ‘Okay,’” she said.
Richenberger was on her way home, and about a mile away from reaching her house, she received a phone call from a couple.
“They said, ‘Teresa - You’re on our hearts today, and we want to sow a seed into your ministry of $25,000.’” said Richenberger. “That’s God. How much faith do you really have for the things God has given you? How bad do you want to see God move?” she said.
Ever since Richenberger has acquired that property, she says the checks never stopped. Richenberger has used her past traumas and experiences and manifested them into a life-saving testimony for other girls.
Today, Richenberger continues to take women into her home, Rehab’s Retreat & Ranch, and continues to bring ministry, support and faith into the lives of young women who need it the most. Richenberger even helps those who want to attend Kilgore College with financial aid and registrations. Many women who have graduated clean and saved, also graduated with a degree from Kilgore College.
“Sometimes - people chase people that have money. If you would just chase God - he will supply all that you need,” said Richenberger.