"For me, this is what pastoring is about," Perez says. "When I read the Gospels I see Christ reaching out, loving these people. Loving them where they are and loving them enough to point them in another direction."
He says that while his congregation was surprised to hear the word "hookers" said out loud in church when he announced that he wanted to partner with "Hookers for Jesus" and support Lobert's work, the majority of his flock supported his decision. "We are in Las Vegas. This is Sin City. And these are the people God has asked us to reach."
It all sounds so easy. The beautiful former prostitute as a messenger for God and her spirited young pastor. But the truth of how it all happens to bring women out of prostitution isn't so pretty. Leaving "The Game," as they call it, usually means taking a beating from a pimp and giving up all the money, clothes and worldly possessions they have. Not an easy leap to make even when they have faith.
Take Tammy's story, for example. A prostitute for 24 years, her name has been changed because she fears the pimp she walked away from three months ago.
"My pimp had broke my jaw and I was on my way back to him." Her concerned mother got her in touch with Lobert. "She would call me on the pay phone every 30 minutes all night. And then the next morning, she came and got me and we prayed and we talked and we got something to eat. And I was just really shocked that here was someone who had been through what I'd been through, did what I did, and she was so happy and talking about God and showed me that she really cared about me."
With two young children to raise since leaving prostitution, she's also been diagnosed with cancer. Yet, she is hopeful. "I've never in my whole years of living, my whole life that I have lived, never been more happy or more at peace than I am now," she says, wiping tears away. "I'm not getting beat up. I'm not selling my body. I'm not feeling dirty."
For Lauren, whose name has also been changed, there are very practical concerns of rebuilding a life after a decade of being a high-end call girl and a few more years of being supported by a former "John." "For the first time ever, I put on a suit and applied to a food service position. I went with a Christian friend of mine. I told him I was shaking so hard that morning. This is just our worst fear. What do I put on the resume? Strap down the boobs. Pull the hair back."
To help women and girls transition out of prostitution, Perez and his church have donated a house, tucked away in a quiet Las Vegas suburb, to be a first stop for prostitutes trying to escape their old lives.
"We are starting this house for girls to come out of the industry," says Perez. It's a transitional house. It's not a permanent house for them. But it's a place for them to actually run to, get them here, and from here we can figure out what their next move is."
The church and Lobert also help to support Stephanie, who left prostitution 17 months ago, after 6 years. In addition to helping with diapers, clothes and formula for her 3-month-old son, Stephanie says they also help her by holding her accountable for her actions.
"If I didn't have Annie and the church behind me keeping me accountable, telling me it's going to be OK, you don't need to go back, I would have gone back a long time ago."