“I was chained, my hands to my feet. My value was minus 300. When you get to that point you don’t feel like you are worth anything.” Monty’s arrest was a painful wakeup call. “There was no Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Maybe this was Plan K?! I realised I let everybody down, but God can change my life.”
Born in Colombia, Monty grew up with a religious background, but he didn’t have a relationship with God. “I got involved with a drug cartel. I was kind of broken, I had a big depression, and sometimes had thoughts of suicide.”
It was his involvement in the cartel that led to Monty’s arrest.
“In Proverbs 28:13 it says, ‘If you confess your sins, you will find mercy.’ We don’t deserve mercy but the just work of God is that he must punish sin. I gave my life to God and asked for strength to go through it. I pled guilty and was given a good outcome but didn’t give anybody up.” Monty says that according to justice he could have received 25 years imprisonment. In that moment he received a fair but merciful, reduced sentence.
In prison, he took the chance to rebuild his faith. “My walk with Jesus has been the most important thing for me.” Monty applied to be part of a program where he could mentor young offenders. “It was a miracle that I made it to that jail,” he says. In his role, he realised there was no chapel service in the prison. He discussed the dilemma with the prison chaplain, who connected him with Prison Fellowship. Monty was offered the chance to run The Prisoner’s Journey course.
“There’s a lot of people you meet in jail who are praying a lot, but it’s like a bargaining system.” It might be surprising to know that prayer is common in prison. Prayer without hope, however, is a dark place to live.
“You know ‘normal religion’ is complicated with big words. But The Prisoner’s Journey is like story-telling. It makes the gospel simple. Who is Jesus, why did he come, what does it mean for me. We have a heart problem, so grace is a gift you can receive or not.” Monty has loved watching as fellow prisoners begin to understand.
“The week I love is the lesson about grace. I love it when you give the guys a list of who you think can get into heaven [based on their life]. When you come to the answer that none of them are going, they all drop their jaw to the floor! There is nothing you can do to save yourself.” Only grace.
“Some people can’t believe someone loves them enough to die for them. Many of these people have been betrayed or let down, so to hear someone loves them changes their life. In the last two months, three people here have committed suicide, so when you talk about life and death, we are talking real business. This is the pinnacle, to tell somebody we love them enough to meet with them and talk to them about Jesus. If you are donating you have faith, but you can’t even imagine how life-changing it is for people to receive what you are supporting. God is good, I’m telling you!”