Drug Addict Turned Hope Dealer
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“I wanted to die. I wanted to commit suicide. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed. It was so band that I wanted to die but I was afraid to kill myself. I was afraid to do it, so I would do things to other people expecting them to kill me. But they wouldn’t. I even went as far to the point that I had sex with a guy that had HIV thinking I was going to die,” Yolanda says.
Yolanda Walters grew up in a prominent family in South Carolina. Her father was a pastor, businessman, and city councilman. she was raised in the church but as a young girl, began to rebel. “My view of God was very distorted. Growing up as a preacher's kid hearing about God—you know, as a child you're thinking anyone that serves God, they're perfect, you know, they don't make mistakes, they don't make errors. I think I was bitter toward my parents. I believe I was bitter toward Christians as well."
Her rebellion took her on a spiritual journey that led her further and further away from Christ. “I tried different religions,” she says. “I became a Seventh Day Adventist, then I became a Jehovah Witness, and then I started studying the Holy Quran.”
When she was a teen, she got pregnant by an older man. Her parents put pressure on her to marry him, which formed more resentment in Yolanda. “Of course, my parents were devastated, I was devastated too, you know, the first time getting –having sex and getting pregnant. But my mom wanted me to get married because it was an embarrassment, it was a shame. You know, I'm a preacher's daughter, but first of all I'm having a child and I'm not married.”
Her husband physically abused Yolanda and introduced her to drugs. “I didn't want to use drugs, but after being in an abusive relationship and getting beat and getting beat, guess what? I don't want to get beat anymore, I'm just going to join you. When I joined him, I didn't get abused as much.”
As time went on, Yolanda’s drug use increased. “Then after introducing me to marijuana. He began to introduce me to what they called at that time, called laced joints, or laced blunts,” she says. “And then we went from there to sniffing cocaine and then to smoking crack cocaine.”
Yolanda eventually left her husband, but her drug use continued. “I began to live and breathe for crack cocaine. I didn't care about my kids. I didn't care about my family. The only thing that I cared about was drugs.”
Her reputation for violence soon spread among the local police. “I'd gotten to a place that I was so hurt and, I got into the mindset of ‘to kill or be killed.’ I began to prostitute. I began to sell my body. I began to rob,” Yolanda says. “And the more I did that, the more dope I smoked.”
But even during her darkest times, Yolanda would still call on God. “I would take the crack pipe and I would put it in my hand and I can remember, and I would say, ‘Father God, you say ‘trust in the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and lean not to thy own understanding but in all thy ways acknowledge Him.' And I would say, ‘God I’m acknowledging you in what I’m doing. God, you know I don't want to smoke this dope.’”
Yolanda racked up 35 felony drug convictions and was facing 111 years, but the judge only gave her two years. “I can remember being in the prison walls where I began to find Christ again.” She says, “Being in prison, it’s just you and God.”
Yolanda continued seeking the Lord from her prison cell. At one point, she had to be tested for AIDS. “When you come into prison you have what is called a receiving and evaluation,” she says. “And what you have to do is you have to become medically clear. And I began to think about when I was having sex with that guy with HIV and I just knew I had AIDS. I remember going in the room and crying out and saying, ‘Father, Daddy, help me. Daddy, I don't want to die.' I remember waking up that morning and opening up my Bible to. And the Scripture says, ‘Thy blood that once wasn't clean, has now been made clean.' And it says, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’ And I remember maybe like three days later they tested me and it was negative.'"
Yolanda was released from prison and in 2011, someone invited her to church. “When I walked into the church it was like something just dropped down on me, like the weight began to release itself off of me and I remember falling down on the floor, bowing down like, you know. It was like, I was at the foot of Jesus and I began to worship him and I began to cry out, and I would say ‘God, I need you. God, I can't do this.’ I was helpless. I got to the end of myself so that God could come in. And I remember just crying out and saying, "God, have your way. God, whatever it is that you want to do in my life, just do it, I surrender. I surrender."
That experience was the turning point for Yolanda. “Our tests become our testimony,” she adds. “Our mess becomes his message. You know, our story because ‘His story’ of who He is.”
Yolanda now has a ministry and is also using her singing talents for God. “I’m known as the ‘hope dealer,’" she says. “When trials and tribulations come, and you’re trying to find a way to alleviate that pain--we get high, we drink, we smoke, we gossip, we gamble, we party, we find gangs to get into--and what I do now, is I teach individuals that there is a way of escape. And that way of escape doesn’t have to be drugs or alcohol. You can find a way of escape in God. From 2008, up until now in 2020, I’m still HIV free. Don't take no medication. I have no sicknesses. I'm in good health. I'm delivered from crack cocaine. I'm delivered from prison. I'm delivered from sickness. Wow! That's the type of God I serve.”
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