Two sisters changed their family’s legacy.
In 2000, after the death of her father and a trying divorce from her husband of 24 years, Beatrice Montes began drinking. Her life was in shambles. “One night, I came home scared. I had been drinking, and when I looked in the mirror, I said, ‘This is not me,’” she says.
She felt hopeless and battled with deep depression and thoughts of suicide, but she thought of her kids and then remembered a friend who was constantly inviting her to a Bible study. She thought, Why not? Everything else I’ve tried hasn’t worked. “I went and I didn’t think that the women there were real. They were so peaceful, and I just didn’t understand it at first,” Beatrice says. She called her sister Estella, who was having her own set of difficult times, and invited her to come check out the Bible study too. “We were fed up with our lives,” Estella says. And it was at this low point they both found Jesus. Two years later, after checking out several churches, they walked into Gateway for the first time and knew they were home.
Beatrice and Estella, two sisters in a family of ten siblings, began to go to classes and events together, attending everything and anything Gateway offered. And they started telling their unsaved family about Jesus.
But their tight-knit, predominantly Catholic family did not understand the fire Jesus had ignited in Estella and Beatrice. “They were suddenly different, and some of the family didn’t want to hear what they had to say,” says Patricia Garcia, Beatrice and Estella’s niece. “We wouldn’t want them to participate in family events because we didn’t want to hear about God. But they kept on.” The family mocked Beatrice and Estella, calling them fake and bringing up their past mistakes as reasons why this new life wouldn’t stick. Several family members angrily told Beatrice and Estella to quit talking about Jesus. Estella remembers one night in particular when she walked to another sister’s house to spend time with her family. They were about to watch a movie, and they knew Estella wouldn’t agree with it, so they told her to go home. Estella left discouraged. “There were many times we thought, we’re not doing this right,” Estella says. Beatrice agrees, “We were just learning and growing.”
Several years of tension between the sisters and the rest of their family followed. Beatrice spent much time and energy trying to bring her teenage children to church, which often ended in grueling arguments like the one that spilled out onto the front porch and ended with her son shouting, “You can’t make me!” Then she had a breakthrough. “I remember crying to the Lord and telling Him I missed my family,” Beatrice says. “And He told me He wanted to teach me things they weren’t ready to hear yet.” She realized she couldn’t drag them or force them into a relationship with God. So she finally released her family, entrusting their hearts to the Lord’s hands.
Then something interesting happened.
After years of ostracizing the sisters, some of the family held an informal meeting about Beatrice and Estella. They all decided to let Beatrice and Estella come back to family events and accept them. Even with the whole Jesus thing, they were still family. And it had an unexpected result. One by one, family members started accepting Beatrice and Estella’s offers to visit Gateway. A few cousins or aunts and uncles would trickle in on a weekend just to hang out with the rest of the family. For Patricia, it was her kids (who loved going to children’s ministry) and her aunts who kept her coming back each week, even when she wasn’t sure about Gateway or this new way of life.
“I know now that God was using my family to get to me,” Patricia says. “And when I look back on that time, I think, God, why did I wait so long?”
Now, 74 members of Beatrice and Estella’s family attend Gateway. And they travel in packs.
Name something happening at Gateway, and they’re probably there. They’ve had 10 to 12 family members get baptized all in one service, and they even have 20 ladies within the family already signed up to attend Pink Impact this year! This family, who dismissed Beatrice and Estella at first, can’t get enough of each other and what the Lord is doing in their lives.
“God is not only getting rid of certain things in our lives but is completely erasing family curses and strongholds—drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, divorce, abuse, molestation, rape, abortion, unwed mothers and fathers, religiosity, unforgiveness, pride, bitterness, stubbornness, shame, secrets, rudeness, bad attitudes,” Patricia says. “I’m not ashamed of it. God can turn all that bad into good.” And several family members are now Gateway Group leaders, co-leaders, mentors, and volunteers within Gateway, using their experiences to tell others about God’s goodness. The family is changed for good, and others are still trickling in.
As Patricia was thanking the Lord for it all one day, God showed her a vision: It was a picture, as if through a camera lens, with Beatrice and Estella in the center. And as the camera zoomed out, it created a huge panoramic portrait of her smiling family who had been saved through the seed planted within these two sisters many years ago. By God’s grace, the two have become seventy-four.
Estella’s son John Paul sums it up like this, “If God can change our family, God can do anything.”