Preaching from the pulpit on Sunday mornings often makes Richard Merritt stop to take a minute, reflecting on his life. According to The McDowell News, Richard said, "I think to myself, 'I can't believe I'm standing here right now,' and then I give praise to God." He is the minister at North Cove Baptist Church in North Carolina these days, where he does good things for the community and helps others in need.
Richard Merritt was not always a man of God. Ten years ago, he was just a man, struggling with a drug addiction. He said, "I was a crack head." Richard began experimenting with drugs when he was just 12-years-old. Before his addiction to crack began in 1997, his drug of choice was heroin.
Richard said, "It just got to a point where life was unbearable in 2003. I decided to check myself into detox." He began with a short stay at Foothills in Morganton, NC. From there, he was referred to McDowell Ministries for three weeks. During his stay there, he began attending a local church, where he began to form a relationship with Jesus Christ. He continued his rehabilitation in Black Mountain, NC at a well-known state-run facility. After he left treatment, he returned to his hometown, and avoided Jackson County where his troubles began.
"I didn't want to go back to my community of users," Richard said. He continued to build a relationship with God. He got a job as a cook, provided a steady income, and managed to rekindle his relationship with his wife.
Then, he relapsed. Richard said, "I struggled with drug use again, for about 5 months, and then checked back into detox. After, I went to a seven-month program at Crossroads Rescue Mission in Shelby." Once again determined in recovery, he moved to Marion, NC and lived at the Mission for another two years. He kept a job cooking, as well as maintaing a good relationship with his wife. They have been married 19 years.
Richard remembers, "It was then I started feeling the calling to preach. And a call to preach is a call to prepare. So I enrolled in Fruitland Baptist College." He graduated with an associates in pastoral ministries. Today, he dedicates his life to helping others find the "right" path. He is an assistant director at Christ Center Recovery Program. He volunteers at the Mission, as well as preaches to John Thompson Center for Men.
Richard said, "I don't hide my past when I'm ministering. My past is an advantage because it makes me accessible to those who suffer from addiction like I did. It's amazing. Who would've thought when I was living on the street and my only focus was on my next hit, that I would be here now."
Richard concludes by saying, "Miracles do happen. And God is good."
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please contact us.
Image courtesy of Holly Ramsey.