Warning: this post may contain triggers for sexual abuse survivors.
You don’t expect a casual conversation to result in a call to the FBI. But there’s a first time for everything.
When I volunteer at Watered Gardens, I never know who is going to walk through the door. If I know them, they are typically moving forward in their life, have established better habits and are off of the street, like Linda. She’s a very kind black lady who spent years on hardcore drugs but has been clean for a long time.
But sometimes a new person comes in. He or she might be a transient, in Joplin for a bit before they move on. Other days, I get to visit with someone who barely has one foot out of hell. Something, or rather Someone is trying to drag him into a new life, and that’s why he’s here. Today was one of those “other days”.
When Latasha walked in, I could instantly tell she was sassy. She exuded personality. She was friendly, had a big smile on her face, and loved to talk. For the next hour I was going to be privileged to get a glimpse into a life very similar to Mary Magdalene’s, I just didn’t know it yet.
After a few minutes of small talk, Latasha started telling me her story. She held nothing back.
One thing I’ve learned is that everybody has a “rock bottom”; a place in life that makes someone so uncomfortable that they finally make major changes. But it’s not the same for any two people. Latasha’s rock bottom was the lowest I had ever witnessed; and she had hit it….hard. The amazing thing is that she lived to tell about it.
She was dropped off at Watered Gardens after detoxing at a facility a couple of hours away. She had checked in on her own. “You come here (to Watered Gardens) if you want to live,” she said. I could sense her determination to maintain a grasp on this different kind of life.
“What made you decide to leave?” I asked her.
“I could sense God pulling on me, and I was sick of living with my dope man. He made me watch nothing but porn and since I was always high, I was paranoid and wouldn’t go outside at all. I could barely bring myself to look out the window.”
A lot of people don’t realize that drugs like crystal meth literally open a door to the spiritual realm. Behind that door are the things that nightmares are made of.
She went on to describe the physical fights she would have with demonic forces when she was high. But when she wasn’t in that state, her “dope man” as she called him, wasn’t much better. In addition to pornography constantly streaming on the television, they fought all of the time. He was an active Satanist, a drug dealer and displayed all sorts of odd behaviors.
“He has computers all over the house! They’re wired up all strange and I can’t make sense out of it. He’s always switching out hard drives, too. He has like 75 of them!”
To Latasha, his actions weren’t something to make sense out of; they were just bizarre. But I was looking at the situation from a different perspective. I knew that there were only a few things sensitive enough to merit that type of behavior, and since his day job was laying tile, I knew he wasn’t dealing in top secret government documents. That left me with only one option that made sense.
“He produces child porn!” I said, as I tried to grasp just how evil this man was.
Latasha was shocked at what I said. But then I could see her start to think. She began remembering details that never made sense before.
“You’re right! That’s why he started telling me after I put my kids up for adoption that he was losing money on me.”
“He would get me stoned out of my mind, then he would disappear to this shed behind the house and lock himself in there for hours. He never would tell me what he was doing.”
“And then there were the screams…..”
She described times where she had heard the screams of children coming through the walls, but her intoxicated state and his dismissive comments made her push them to the back of her mind. But now, sober, out of his reach, and the recipient of a new life, she knew exactly what she had heard.
She shared more disturbing specifics, so I was pretty confident in my conclusion. Even if she wasn’t willing to do anything about her dope man, I was going to. I asked her some detailed questions about him and took notes, making sure I didn’t forget anything of importance.
She then started talking about her more distant past.
“My dad has always hated me. When I was two, he put me in the deep freeze. Later, when it became known that he had pointed a pistol at me and wanted to kill me, the state took me away. I spent the next 15 years in and out of foster care.”
Ministering to the broken is a constant reminder of just how blessed I have been. It also turns the phrase “There but for the grace of God, go I” into something far more than a cliche. Latasha’s father wanted to kill her. Mine helped coach my baseball team and took me fishing. Never for a second have I doubted my dad’s love for me. My daughter and she is three, and her name is Chandler. I call her my princess and tell her she is beautiful almost every day. Hearing about how her dad treated her made me sick to my stomach and furious at the same time.
Having no idea what being loved was like, in desperation, she reached out for a gross perversion of it and became a prostitute. My heart broke as I got a glimpse of what Jesus might have felt when the prostitute came and poured costly oil over his feet while others looked on in disgust. All they saw was her deplorable lifestyle. Jesus saw the pain….every bit of it; and loved her.
Latasha had recently experienced that same love, both from God Himself and the people at Watered Gardens That love saved her life. But more importantly, He saved her soul, and she could not stop thanking Jesus for it. Her desire to tell me her story was not to bring attention to herself. She was desperate to tell me what He had done in her life.
The last night with her dope man, things came to a brutal climax. Screams and curses filled the air. She grabbed a large butcher knife from the kitchen and held the tip firmly against her stomach.
As his hands grabbed on to the handle, she screamed at him, “If your devil is stronger than my God, then KILL ME!”
Hands tightened and fury filled the room. Her life could literally end any second, and she knew it. But she would rather die than continue this kind of life. And even though Latasha knew that he wanted to kill her, there was the feeling in the back of her mind that this battle between God and Satan had already been won long ago. And whether her dope man recognized the true Victor or not, he was powerless against the One who now claimed her as His own.
She left that night and checked into a drug rehab facility. After some time there, they asked her where she wanted to go. With no family to take good care of her, she chose Watered Gardens. The love the staff had showed her there was unlike anything she had ever experienced. They had been encouraging her in this odd new life, and she could not stop saying how thankful she was, both for them and to God. He had given her an opportunity to truly live for the first time.
Later that day, while at my office, I spent a half hour on the phone with an FBI investigator. I shared all of the details I had about her dope man: where he lived, his full name, his drug dealing, and my own conclusions. I had told Latasha that she needed to talk to the police, but since I wasn’t sure if she would follow through, I did all I could on my end. There was no way I was going to let that scum bag continue what he was doing if I had any chance of stopping it.
When I got off of the phone, it took me a few hours to calm down. Simply witnessing a life so intensely hellish had taken a toll on me; and Latasha had lived it for most of her life.
I came away from this experience knowing something first-hand that Christians who live more average lives often give lip-service to. No matter how far gone a life may appear to be, there is no such thing as a life that is out of God’s reach. He can rescue the most destitute. He can restore the most broken. He can redeem the most guilty.
Latasha’s life is proof of that, and that is why I am telling you about her. It is indeed something to be thankful for this Christmas season.
And thank you, Latasha, for entrusting me, a complete stranger, with your amazing story.
May God bless you in your new life.
*All of the details of this story are true. I have only changed the names of the individuals involved.