LONGVIEW—Teresa’s Club was a staple along Highway 80 in Longview for 25 years until the owner, Teresa Fears, met Jesus Christ through friendships with members of Mobberly Baptist Church. Afterward, closing down the adult club was Teresa’s idea.
The Mobberly “church ladies,” as Teresa calls them, have changed her life. And she has changed theirs.
Mobberly’s involvement with Teresa began more than three years ago when worship team member Laney Wootten began praying about the club.
“The Lord made it clear that I was not just to pray but to do something,” Wootten said. She searched the club’s Facebook page, surprised the owner was a woman with a passion for helping special needs children.
Teresa accepted Wootten’s friend request, and the two began messaging on Facebook. The parent of an autistic son, Wootten found common ground with Fears, who regularly volunteered at Gladewater’s Truman W. Smith Children’s Care Center for medically fragile children and youth.
“We talked online for two weeks,” Wootten said. “I knew we needed to come into the club to really reach her.”
Teresa was initially reluctant after visits from groups from other churches. Since she also regularly fed homeless people from the club, she asked for help with that instead.
“We said yes,” Wootten explained. “We wanted Teresa to know we were validating what she was doing to help others and wanted to support her.” Wootten talked to Mobberly pastors and invited children’s minister Sharon Brooks to accompany her to Teresa’s.
“They got to be my friends. They did not automatically try to shove anything in my face,” said Fears, who explained she had “been on her own” since age 14.
Brooks and Wootten began visiting Teresa’s and continued messaging her. On Mother’s Day weekend, Fears proved unreachable on Facebook.
“We knew she was depressed and in chronic pain,” Brooks said. Armed with beans, cornbread, flowers, and a book, Brooks and Wootten went to Teresa’s home for what Brooks called “our first truly meaningful spiritual conversation.”
“Teresa said later the tangible things we brought to meet her physical needs spoke to her and the fact that we went to the trouble to track her down because we were concerned,” Wootten said.
That day Fears asked why God allowed bad things to happen to children, giving Wootten an “open door” to share both the gospel and her son’s struggles with autism.
Mobberly associate pastor Gregg Zackary and his wife, Tina, were also instrumental in reaching Teresa. Gregg had formerly struggled with depression, so Brooks and Wootten thought he could minister to Fears.
“They were going to Teresa’s, providing meals for her and the ladies who worked there before the club opened Saturday evenings,” Zackary said. “Before I went, I thought and prayed about it seriously.” He consulted accountability partners and other Mobberly pastors, asking for prayer.
“We didn’t want anything to happen that would not glorify the Lord,” Zackary said. “My wife and I went to the club. I shared my testimony. We listened to Teresa and were heartbroken over the pain she had endured. We prayed for her.”
Wootten called Zackary’s visit “a huge turning point,” the first time a pastor had come through Teresa’s doors to offer help. The Zackarys also began messaging Fears with Scripture and biblically based questions.
The Zackarys went twice to the club before Teresa started attending church at Mobberly’s Marshall satellite and later at the Longview campus. She brought friends to church, including homeless people and club workers, and was welcomed by members who had ministered to her at the club.
On Aug. 2, Teresa trusted Christ after meeting with Mobberly staff, including Zackary, pastor Glynn Stone, and two women’s ministry leaders.
“We listened to Teresa and invited her to share the things on her heart,” Zackary recalled. “Pastor Glynn and I had a chance to explain the gospel to her.”
When Teresa said her religion was “kindness,” Zackary explained that kindness is a character trait of God, exhibited through people controlled by his Spirit. They discussed repentance. Zackary shared Romans 2:4, that God’s “kindness leads us to repentance.”
“Pastor Glynn asked if Teresa was willing to be ‘all in,’” Zackary said. “That was the day she surrendered to Jesus.”
When Teresa left the meeting, she posted on Facebook that she was closing the club, Zackary said.
“Her perspective changed totally, and she saw it as evil, not honoring to the Lord. She was not pressured. It was the Holy Spirit who convicted her.”
Teresa has since donated the club’s furniture to a non-profit. The “church ladies” remain her friends. Wootten’s mother teaches a Bible study in Teresa’s home attended by dozens, many veterans of the sex industry.
Fears was baptized Dec. 4, and three women who accompanied her to the service placed their trust in Christ that day, Zackary said.
Wootten, Brooks and Zackary agree that Fears has taught them much about reaching the lost with the gospel.
“God used Laney and Sharon and many other women to get outside of the walls of the church, care for people and share Christ’s love,” Zackary said.
“Our [church] mission for the next 10 years is Engage 10K, to engage 10,000 households with the gospel of Jesus Christ, mobilizing the entire body of Christ to have relationships with people outside the walls of the church and to get to know their households. For Teresa, her household was really her club, the people she did life with.”
Friendship with Teresa has been transformative for Brooks, Wootten and others in what has become a network of supporters of more than 30 women.
“We realized we had to go into the club expecting absolutely nothing,” Wootten said. “Not keeping any sort of tab on the good we were doing. We learned to come in with literally zero strings attached, out of our love for Christ. We never pressured them to make changes. We allowed the Holy Spirit to do that. We came in with truth. We looked for opportunities to speak the truth as God opened doors for us. We had to allow the Lord to work. He did more than we could have asked.”
“God led Laney to Teresa at the start of our church’s gospel challenge,” Brooks added. “It has changed the way our church perceives evangelism.”