The Best Way to Stop Drug Trafficking in America

by | Feb 22, 2022 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

By the time LaToya Merrill was 15, she had her first baby. She started selling drugs and dating drug dealers so she could get money for diapers for her son.

Scared and desperate, LaToya sought help from a school counselor. But the counselor made things worse when she told LaToya, “You and your son will be statistics. Your son will go to jail. You will probably go to jail too.” Those hopeless words discouraged LaToya so much that she dropped out of school just weeks before graduation.

But fortunately LaToya didn’t end up on a casualty list. Instead, she found Jesus at the altar of a church in North Carolina several years later. And today she has started a non-profit ministry to help women who are trapped in the cycle of poverty and drugs.

Raised by a single mother in Huntington, West Virginia—sometimes described as the opioid capital of the United States—LaToya was falling through the cracks of a broken culture. She was just 10 years old when she first saw her mother overdose on drugs. The pain drew LaToya to alcohol and she started showing up at school drunk. She eventually began snorting cocaine.

“I hung with some pretty rough people. I didn’t have anybody telling me there was hope,” LaToya told me last week when I met her at The Refuge, a church she now attends in Conway, South Carolina.

The father of LaToya’s first child ended up in prison on drug charges. She then hooked up with another guy, who was an abuser. They had three more children together, but his alcoholism got so bad that he began neglecting the children. Once he passed out in front of them in a drunken stupor.

“One day he threw a belt buckle through the window and smashed the glass,” LaToya says. “My kids hid in closets from him. He hit me and verbally abused me.” He also stalked LaToya and often threatened violence.

“I was drinking a lot too so I just settled for the abuse,” she admits. “He would always tell me, ‘We are never going to do any better.'”

LaToya MerrillLaToya also witnessed a lot of street violence while she was living in the projects during her drug-dealing days. Someone was shot outside her kitchen window while she was looking outside. “And I’ve been in cars where people were being shot up,” she says.

(Pictured:LaToya Merrill, far right, at a family wedding with her husband, Shane, far left).

The downward spiral continued and LaToya’s drinking problem got so bad that her children made comments about her drunken sprees. In 2016, she met a backslidden minister who was also selling drugs and they married. They partied in clubs and continued drinking, but on July 21, 2019, during a trip to a bar, she looked at the bottom of her glass after downing half a bottle of whiskey and decided to change her life.

“I heard a voice say, ‘What are you looking for?'” she says. LaToya admits she knew Jesus “in name only” at that point—mainly because of her grandfather’s Christian influence. She and her husband, Shane, decided to visit a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they both made a 180-degree turnaround.

“We walked in the door of that church and sat on the first or second pew,” she says. “And I gave my heart to God that day. I’m still sober and my husband is still sober.”

When I met LaToya last week at her church, I saw no evidence of her troubled past. She was lifting her hands during worship and she was wiping away tears during the altar ministry time. She beamed as she talked with me about her children, who were with her in church that day.

LaToya is certainly not a “statistic” of America’s drug problems now. She has decided to be the answer to the crisis by starting Lighthouse of Destiny, a Christian outreach that supports and rehabilitates underprivileged single mothers. She and her husband hope to buy a property to use as a residential recovery facility.

“LaToya’s heart is unmatched in leadership, loyalty and compassion,” says her pastor, Jason Cook of The Refuge Church. “She is caring for young mothers by blessing them with diapers, wipes, diaper bags, formula and all the essentials she can secure. Her experience as a young mother makes her heart extend to all those who find themselves young, alone and pregnant.”

Only Jesus could write a happy ending to a story that started out so sad as LaToya’s. “I didn’t have anybody telling me there was hope when I was out there in the world,” she says. “Now, I want to help women find that Jesus is the ultimate hope.”

If you’d like to support LaToya’s outreach to unwed mothers, you can donate at lighthouseofdestiny.org. {eoa}

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Troy Black Shares A Message to Help You Fight For Faith Again

Troy Black Shares A Message to Help You Fight For Faith Again

Young, old, rich or poor—nobody is immune to the feeling of brokenness. Jesus' life, death and resurrection on earth is a constant reminder that death no longer has a sting. Fear and hopelessness lurk throughout the earth trying to find an opportune moment to consume...

Kevin Sorbo’s Transformative Encounter as a Teen with Billy Graham

Kevin Sorbo’s Transformative Encounter as a Teen with Billy Graham

Actor Kevin Sorbo is known today for his roles in faith-based movies, like "God's Not Dead" and "Left Behind," but the iconic "Hercules" star's Christian roots took form at an early age. Sorbo recently told CBN's "Faith vs. Culture" he first read the prophetic book of...

7 Forms of Functional Cessationism

7 Forms of Functional Cessationism

In this article, cessationism refers to the doctrine, practice or belief that the ascension ministry gifts and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit ceased with the early church and do not function in the present church age (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 12: 4-11). The...

Practical Tips to Maximize Your Time

Practical Tips to Maximize Your Time

We all have the same amount of time—four hours a day, seven days a week. And the longer I live, the more I discover that time is too valuable for us to waste any of it. That’s why it is so important that we learn to live on purpose, for a purpose. The truth is if you...

Enter the Courts of Heaven with Rabbi Curt Landry

Enter the Courts of Heaven with Rabbi Curt Landry

This article was first released by Curt Landry Ministries. Note: This is the first of a two-part series of articles. When you enter heaven's courtroom to do spiritual warfare, you are asking that the will of God, what is written in His books, be released from heaven...

RECENT ARTICLES

The Spiritual Awakening of Buffalo, New York

Monday night, Jan. 2, 2023, God drew our nation to prayer as Bills player Damar Hamlin experienced cardiac arrest on live tv. Could this have been the largest spontaneous prayer meeting in the...
Dr. Don Colbert: How This Every Day Ingredient is Killing Your Brain

Dr. Don Colbert: How This Every Day Ingredient is Killing Your Brain

Read Time: 4 Minutes 43 Seconds Of the many artificial sweeteners out there, such as aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sugar Twin and Sweet’N Low) and neotame (NutraSweet), aspartame is one of the most common. How common? Aspartame is an ingredient in more...

Pin It on Pinterest