The Christian Broadcasting Network

The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Teresa Richenberger: Sold to the Highest Bidder

By Cheryl Wilcox
The 700 Club - “You’re capturing everybody’s attention… You’re in the spotlight… A thousand dollars a week... I thought I was on top of the world…Your body comes alive… It was the money.  How could I refuse it?”

Easy money… That’s what seduced 17-year-old Teresa Richenberger into topless dancing. “I needed a job. I had already run away from home and I looked in the paper and it said, ‘Make $1,000 a week.’ A thousand dollars a week?! So I thought, ‘You know what? I can do that.’”

“I was a little nervous, but at the same time you could feel this sense of power that as a woman to capture a man’s attention that way…”

“I did make great money but I never had anything to show for it. I spent it like crazy. As fast as I could make it in one hand, it was gone in the other.”

Teresa quickly found that the sense of power was fleeting, too. “You start actually hating men because you feel like they’re using you. You want to use them and hurt them before they can do that to you. So inside I was just – I was hard.”

She took the edge off with drugs and alcohol. “I couldn’t take life any more. I couldn’t deal with looking in the mirror and seeing myself. I would have to do shots of tequila and stuff in order just to go into the clubs, just to start working after awhile.” 

The promise of more money drew Teresa into prostitution. “I had learned the game. I had mastered it. I mean, I could name my own price on how much I wanted to charge for my body, not anyone else. How much I wanted to charge.”

“I started drinking more because even though I thought I had all this money, and control and power, there was always something missing. I had a hole inside that was aching.”

“I hit rock bottom in my late 20s. I had thrown a party at my house and I’d been drinking for a couple days straight. I was doing drugs on top of that, plus taking prescription drugs. I couldn’t keep up with everything. I couldn’t keep up with the game that my life was playing.”

Teresa overdosed in a near lethal combination of drugs, alcohol, and medication. “I can remember the doctor looking to me and saying, ‘What made you do that? What is so bad in your life?’ He’s saying, ‘I see a pretty girl here.’”

But on the inside, she felt broken. “The spirit that lives in me had already died. There was nothing left of Teresa in there. It was just a shell.”

After she got out of the hospital another ad caught her attention. “A little ad in this newspaper that said ‘Community Chapel.’  And the pastor’s name was Pastor Kenneth Four and he said, ‘You’re invited to come.’” 

“I remember sitting there and had on probably my shortest dress, and my spiked heels and thinking that was what you were supposed to wear. They didn’t turn their backs on me with what I was wearing or how low my dress was or how short. They didn’t tell me to get out.”

“They stayed with me and they prayed with me. And at the end when they had altar call, I went down and I invited Jesus into my heart that night. He didn’t have to choose me. And He did.”

Immediately, her cravings for drugs and alcohol stopped, and she got out of prostitution. “I made that church my home church. I would go every Sunday morning and I would go Wednesday nights. But at the same time, I had not totally sold out to God.” 

“I’d go back in the club for a week and work at night and not tell anyone, just so I could save some money. That’s what I kept telling myself, ‘Oh, it’s just for a little bit longer.’” 

For two years she struggled to get out of the strip clubs. When she got a job on a ranch, Teresa was finally free. “After I started really surrendering everything to God, I could feel He wanted me to do more for Him. Then it wasn’t just about me. It was about helping others as I had been helped. And so He wanted me to start doing ministry for Him. He wanted me to start telling others about Him.”

Today, Teresa teaches a woman’s Bible study at her church, and enjoys spending time with her husband, Wayne. She tells everyone she can about how Jesus set her free.
“I am filled beyond belief. I have joy. I have peace. I have a family. I have a husband, a home, a ministry. It’s just more than I could have ever dreamt up myself, or even wished for.” 

“If He can take me and change me - and He did - He can do it for anybody.”

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