Pastor Carlos Montoya
If I had to choose one word to describe my life thus far, I would choose the word "interesting".
My life began in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1973. Legalized abortion and the Vietnam War were the headlines at the time. Richard Nixon was President of the United States. He would resign as the 37th President the following year. Things didn't seem quite so complicated back then.
I was born to a family and a community steeped in tradition and religion. Religious traditions are the fabric that permeates the culture of the city I was born in.
To forsake your religion and its traditions is to forsake family, community and possibly your ethnicity in Santa Fe, a city known for its celebrated religious traditions.
Imagine the shock wave when my grandparents made the decision to forsake "religious traditions" and confess Jesus as Lord. Instead of rituals and sacraments my grandparents begin to speak of sin and repentance and the need to confess Jesus as Lord. Some in the family felt a line had been crossed when my grandparents went so far as to say that God desired a personal relationship with everyone. They believed their transformation from religion to "their so called relationship with Jesus" was a symptom of my grandfather's illness. He had been diagnosed with cancer.
After my grandfather's death my grandmother's relationship with the Lord continued to grow, a real testament of her new found faith. I never knew my grandfather, he died before I was born but he left foot prints for my life.
After my grandfather's death my mother began her personal relationship with Jesus. As I grew older I witnessed her relationship with Jesus grow stronger.
At every chance she attended Bible studies, church services and prayer meetings. I couldn't understand, she was doing it all because she wanted to not because she had to. In my religion I was obligated to attend church only one day a week and certain "Holy Days". Looking back, "obligated" is exactly how I felt about going to church. It was never something I wanted to do.
One day the unthinkable happened. My mother opened our home to a "Christian Bible Study". Needless to say my father was not thrilled with the idea. However, being the loving husband that he was, he allowed it. Not long after that first Bible study my father began his personal relationship with Jesus.
As I entered my teen years I felt something missing in my life. I sincerely believed I was missing what the world had to offer. Yes, over the years I had learned of God's love and His wonderful works but I was a teenager after all, that sort of stuff was for when a person was older...way older. It wasn't for me... Not yet.
It was also in my early teen years that I began to exhibit the signs of "know-it-all-disease". I experimented with ways to satisfy the emptiness within me. Some of the ways and some of the things I experimented with were immoral and some illegal. I learned the more I tried to f ill my emptiness with worldly pleasures the emptier I felt.
Then in my senior year of high school something amazing happened. I met "that" special someone who would change my life forever. I literally met the girl of my dreams. Things couldn't be better I thought. But I would soon learn that things could and would go wrong... horribly wrong.
The house of cards I had built during my early teen years would come crashing down. My life began to unravel. Through a series of events I quickly learned that I didn't "know-it-all". The fact was the only thing I knew for sure was that I was a fool and a failure. I had failed myself, I had failed my family and most importantly I had failed God. I came to the realization that if I continued on the path I was traveling I would soon fail in my relationship with the girl I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with, Yvette.
It was at that point that I called on God for help.
I remember vividly that night in my bedroom, as the gravity of my choices weighed heavily on my heart and mind. I cried out to the Lord in prayer. My prayer was simple. "God, I know all about you. I know you created the heavens and the earth. I know you saved Daniel out of the mouths of lions and I know you sent your Son to die for my sins. But God I don't know you the way my grandmother and mother know you. I want to know you in that way and I want you to know me."
I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and be the Lord of my life....and you know what? He forgave me of my sins and he became the Lord of my life. In that moment my life changed. At every chance, I attended Bible studies, church services and prayer meetings. I was doing it all because I wanted to, not because I had to... just like my mother.
I began to read God's Word and it actually made sense to me. Through the discipleship and encouragement of mature Christians God's love consumed me. I could see that Christ was doing a work in my life that was nothing short of miraculous. I began to experience a passion for His word and His people.
It was during this time that the girl of my dreams and I were married. Together we began our wonderful journey through life ready and eager to serve God. We became involved in our church. We volunteered in Children's Ministry. Ministering to little ones was a special time for us. However, it was our time in Youth Group Ministry that really blessed our hearts. We'd just left our teen years behind and were able to relate with a heart of compassion to the youth. It was while we were involved in this ministry that God began to cultivate in me a gift for teaching His word.
After serving in several ministries I decided I needed some time off to further my education and pursue a career outside the ministry. But God had other plans for my life.
In the summer of 2001, my pastor asked me to consider the youth pastor position in our church. My immediate thought was "NO WAY!" I knew the immense responsibility of the position and besides I now had an awesome career which paid well. I had worked way too hard to achieve my goals.... how could I throw it all away? I didn't have an answer for him so I said what every good Christian would say, "I'll pray about it."
I went home and told my wife about the offer. Immediately her words were, "Let's do it". Her words f loored me! What was she thinking! What was she saying! She reminded me of the times she told me that God had a calling for my life. In her loving way she was saying "See...I told you so...I knew this day would come."
In my struggle to make a decision I sought the advice of my father. His response was just what I had expected, and truthfully, was hoping for. "Are you crazy!...you have a great career!...with awesome opportunities! ...don't throw it all away!". YES! I thought, God's answer is NO....and my father's words just confirmed it. But I told him I had promised my pastor that I would pray about it.
I asked him to pray about it too.
In the next few weeks that still small voice reminded me, "you promised to pray about it." I prayed and God began to do a work in my heart. Slowly my heart became opened to the idea of being a youth pastor. Then I began to get excited about the idea. Soon I discovered that my passion for God's word and His people had not faded. I had only shelved the idea of a professional ministry thinking it was not God's will for my life... Not Yet.
The question then became, had God spoken to my father? To my amazement his reply was "When I first heard of the idea I thought it was stupid, but as I prayed the Lord revealed it is better to be where He wants you than were you want to be. So if this is what God has for you...you'd better listen." Could I be hearing correctly? Had he just confirmed what God had been speaking to my heart?
And so in July of 2002, I became the full time youth pastor of Calvary Chapel De Santa Fe. It was an awesome time in my life. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined that I would get paid for working at something so gratifying.
I thought this was all God had for me. But I was wrong. He had other plans for my life.
In February of 2002, my life was changed forever...again. I was riding motocross with my brother-in-law when I experienced a horrible accident. The road to recovery required eight surgeries and nearly two years of rehabilitation. During this time my thoughts were, how could this be happening to me now when things are going so well? I felt like a ball player sidelined during an important game. I felt my life as I knew it was over. Not knowing that one day I would look back on this time and not want to change a thing. For God, in all His wisdom, would use the ordeal of the accident as a time to make some serious changes in my life.
It would be at this time that God would sow the seeds of Blaze Christian Fellowship in my heart. It would also be at this time God would call on me and an awesome group of God fearing men to navigate the fellowship in which we were serving, through some stormy waters. Through the storm I felt His hand leading and guiding us as we trusted Him, believing He had "raised us up" for a time such as this. But never imagining that He was preparing us to reap the seeds He had sown in my heart months earlier.
In December of 2003, my pastor sent me out to begin a new work in Santa Fe. It was then that Blaze Christian Fellowship was born. Only God could have imagined and only God could have prepared me to pastor a new fellowship. Just as my wife had said, "God has a calling for your life."
As God continues to work in and through me at Blaze Christian Fellowship I am thankful that He is not done with me yet. There will be more to write about. Pages upon pages. I feel I must be the most blessed man in the world.
Interesting....the perfect word to describe my life.