This Mom Found a Way Out of Poverty - Why Don't More People Try This?
CBN.com -Antonina Griffin remembers growing up in a housing project in Greensboro, North Carolina. Most of her memories are of the chaos in the community and at home. “I’d look outside on any given day and see the fighting. I could see the guns. Within the home it was times where my aunts and uncles would fight each other.”
She and her mother lived with a house full of people. The two were never close because her mom partied constantly. It was her grandmother that wanted Antonina to break the family cycle of poverty and violence. “My grandmother instilled a sense of me dreaming and wanting more to life than this,” Antonina remembers. “She used to have us draw a picture of the houses that we wanted to live in. I used to always draw this big pretty house with sunshine in the corner and me and my grandmother and my brother standing there.”
Despite her dream of a better life, she was drawn in by the other influences. “Growing up, going to school I got into fights. As a young adult I got into fights. That was a way of showing who I really was.”
After Antonina’s mom died, her grandmother started taking her to church, but Antonina always fell back on the life she knew. She had her first child at 17. “Everybody I hung out with already had a child, so it was like, ‘okay, now I'm part of the clique. I'm having my baby now. I can get on the system, I'll have a little bit of money coming in. I'm not working.’"
Then her grandmother died – Antonina was devastated. “I got mad at God. I was really upset. "’Okay, I understand my mom, I didn't have a connection with my mom, but my grandmother? Like really God?’”
Antonina stopped going to church and started hitting the nightclubs and fighting constantly. “I loved clubbing. I loved being in there. I loved the fighting,” she said. “I loved bumping up into girls, and trying to start stuff. That was hype for me. That was my high.”
She tried to work, but her habit of partying all night got her fired; and over the next few years, she had three more children. “My mother had three kids by three different men. I didn't want that, although I ended up following her footsteps in that area - but I always knew I wanted more.”
Getting out of the projects would cost money, and Antonina was willing to use any means necessary. “I got my first-of-the-month check, and I took that money and I bought some drugs. And my younger cousin taught me how to cut it up, bag it up, and sell it. It was just a habit, like ‘this is my hustle. My job is to sell drugs to take care of my kids.’
The cocaine business was lucrative. But her hustle was not without consequences. “We're standing on the sidewalk talking, and here comes a car around the curve, and they just started shooting,” she said. “My car got shot up. I'm dragging my daughter while I'm eight months pregnant, running behind a building to try to get into the apartment.”
Antonina knew she was playing a dangerous game selling drugs, but to her, the risk was worth the hope of a better life for her family. “I'm not sure if the drug money is going to get me a bigger house, but I saw the bigger house. I saw me and my kids living better.”
During this time, her hairdresser started inviting Antonina to church. I'm like, ‘girl, I don't feel like going to church. Not right now.’ So, every time I would go get my hair done, she was like, ‘Tonina, you need to come with me to church.’"
Antonina started hosting gambling parties to make more money. Then one night things got out of hand. “They were so loud and cursing and being so disrespectful and my kids were back there asleep. So I just shut the whole card game down. “I said, ‘get out of my house.’ I went in my room and dumped my money out on the bed.”
Then she noticed the TV was on, and a preacher was speaking. “It was almost like what my grandmother had instilled in me was awakened by his voice. He's just drawing me in and drawing me in and before I knew it, I was literally crying. I was bawling in tears,” she said. “I just started thinking more about my children - ‘What if they would have started shooting and something happened to my kids? How am I going to live with that?’ That's when I said, ‘I can't do this anymore. I’ve got to do something different.’
That message was not just a wake-up call – it changed her life. “I just started praying and I said, ‘God, I promise I'm going to church tomorrow.’ Maybe two Sundays later is when I went up and really got saved, really dedicated my life to Christ and promised that I would serve Him.”
She realized that God had been protecting her and her four children all the time. “I just started thinking about times that I could have been killed or times that I could have gone to prison, or times that my kids could have been taken away from me. And none of that happened. I would have to say it was nobody but God.”
Later Antonina married Darin, whom she met at church. He was also a single parent and together they have built the dream Antonina always wanted. “I'm thankful for my husband. He's amazing. He wakes up and he prays over us. He covers us. With me growing up clueless, I didn't know how to be a mother. I started young. I thank God and I thank my husband because he actually taught me,” she said.
“If it wasn't for Jesus loving me, dying on the cross for me, I understand that everything that Jesus went through was for me. He is everything in my life, I mean like everything. I will go all-out for Him, because He's been just that good to me - just that good.”