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Ministers say it is time to ‘step up’ in opioid crisis

Stanly County Commissioners heard a presentation at Monday’s meeting from the Rev. Mitchell Cook, of Full Gospel Mission Church, and Jaime Torres, of Jaime Torres Ministries, on upcoming services targeting the county’s opioid crisis.

Cook spoke about the problem in general, and what led him to take action.

“I’ve been a pastor for 44 years. Stanly County is my home. I was born and raised here,” he said. “When we heard the news that our county leads the state in overdoses, we sat down and talked about it at our church, and I spoke with several of our leaders in the community as well. But there’s no need to talk any more. It’s time for somebody to step up, and the Lord has led me to do this.”

Cook then introduced Torres, whom he met while ministering at the local correctional facility.

“He (Torres) does a prison ministry, and I asked him if he would come and help us. He knows about the situation, he’s aware of it and has been involved with it for most of his life. God has delivered him from addiction.”

Torres, who lives in Morganton, operates Jaime Torres Ministries, which has a stated mission “to honor Jesus Christ by restoring families through community outreach, impactful mentorship and supportive aftercare.” The organization has been featured on CBN’s “The 700 Club,” and ministers at 15 prisons in western North Carolina.

“I’m in Albemarle about once a month,” he told commissioners, “and I believe God has led me here.”

Torres spoke of his difficult childhood in New York City, where his mother had relocated from Puerto Rico after being abandoned by his father.

“I never had a father figure, and no one in my life demonstrated any faith. As a result, I got involved with a gang, because I felt accepted by them,” he said.

Concerned for her son’s safety, Jaime’s mother sent him back to Puerto Rico to live with his father. But the move meant to rescue Jaime from gang life actually hastened his downfall, because his father was one of the larger drug leaders on the island.

“I became a courier for him, running drugs out of Puerto Rico,” said Torres, “and I became addicted as well.”

Arrested in 1990 for possession of cocaine with intent to sell, he was sentenced to a 25-year term in federal prison where a fellow inmate invited him to a Bible study, eventually leading him to surrender his life to Christ.

Torres proceeded to set up Bible studies and in-house churches among his fellow inmates and, in the process, caught the attention of a group of attorneys from Miami.

Seeing the positive difference Torres was making in the prison, the attorneys took on his case pro bono, and worked for nine years before eventually securing his release in 2000.

Since his release, Torres has dedicated his life to assisting those suffering from addiction as well as those who are imprisoned, both spiritually and physically.

“I was put in prison for punishment … and I thought I had lost my freedom,” said Torres, “but I actually found my freedom in prison.”

“I’ve gone from slinging dope to slinging hope,” he told commissioners.
According to Cook, services are planned for April 12, 13 and 14 at Full Gospel Mission on N.C. Highway 73 in Albemarle.