THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Coming from an alcoholic home, with an agnostic father, and believing Christians to be hypocritical and superficial, young Marcia Montenegro sought refuge and cerebral satisfaction in the world of the occult. By the grace of God, after nearly 20 years of being associated with spirit guides, astrology and witches, Montenegro finally found what she had spent so many years seeking.
Before she found real peace and spiritual contentment, however, Montenegro had taken a dark and rebellious path to spirituality. While in high school, she became disillusioned with Christianity, which to her seemed “defined by sermons, going to Sunday school and doing good works.”
“I was missing out on something,” she recounted. “Also, I never fit in during my high school years. Being someone who wrote poetry, being in an alcoholic home, and having no real roots all combined to make me feel different and unlike other people.”
Throughout her college years, Montenegro studied Eastern philosophies and delved into paranormal experiences. “One bright, sunny Florida afternoon, as I rested on my bed fully awake with eyes partly closed, I felt myself floating. I opened my eyes and was stunned to see my body on the bed below me as I hovered near the ceiling. This was my first out-of-body experience.”
Her odyssey into this psychic world continued through the ’70s and ’80s, entailing astrology, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and the paranormal. Passing a seven-hour exam on astrology to qualify for a business license, she became a professional astrologer and eventually began teaching astrology. “I wrote for New Age journals, gave lectures, and sat on the board of astrology examiners that gave and graded exams,” Montenegro recounted. “In June of 1989, I became president of the Metropolitan Atlanta Astrological Society.”
Yet, with all the knowledge and success she achieved in her chosen field, she struggled with doubt and apprehension. “I would try to chase away these fears by meditating or chanting…. I sought peace in Zen Buddhism…. But I noticed that the peace I had felt with my initial meditations had decreased, causing me to meditate more in an attempt to recapture that elusive peace.
“I also learned that the nature of occult and New Age thinking is that there is no one answer. There is no one single truth, and there is no one reality. But these teachings gave answers that only raised more questions.”
Then, in 1990, Montenegro was gripped by a compulsion to go to church. “Since I hated Christianity, churches and Christians by now, this made me angry. After struggling against it for a while, I decided to give in, hoping it would go away. It was probably from one of my former lives as a priest or monk, I reasoned.
“In the opening minutes of a service in a large church in downtown Atlanta, I felt a love I had never known wash down over and through me so powerfully that I started crying. I knew this love was from God … that love was the real thing.”
Thus began Montenegro’s walk with Jesus. By the end of 1990, she had given up astrology altogether and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
“Reading the Bible put me in touch with something pure. I felt as though I was being cleansed from the inside out as I read it,” she recounted.
“I realized that the only way to be forgiven, the only way to be reconciled with God was through Jesus. I knew that the truth and the answer to all my questions were one and the same: Jesus Christ.
“Jesus was different from the masters I had studied,” Montenegro said. “He was more real than the spirit guides, the ascended masters, the higher self — all those airy, elusive things that gave no evidence of their existence — because he came to earth in the flesh. No sorcerer, no spiritual master, no Buddha, no shaman, no witch, no psychic has conquered death, but all still lie cold in their graves. But Jesus has power over death and is living today. And so I gave myself to Christ, the Savior, and knew I belonged to him from that moment on.”
But after her life-altering decision for Christ, Montenegro found that her association with the occult was far from over. Slowly the Holy Spirit began convicting her to reach out to others caught in its seductive world.
“The Lord just started opening doors for me. I never set out to have a ministry. I resisted going fulltime, but after encouragement from others and prayer on my part about it, the Lord convicted me in 1996 [throughout the year, not at one point] to go fulltime. So in 1997, I was interviewed by a mission board, Fellowship International Mission in Allentown, Pa., and was appointed. I am still working on my support, which is not at 100 percent yet.”
With the release of this year’s most anticipated film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Marcia said she believes Ouija boards, psychic readers and other forms of misleading supernatural entertainment will become popular fads — and it is a mistake to take such activities lightly.
“The occult incorporates beliefs that are often subjective and experiential rather than based on any moral ground,” she said. “In fact, there is no absolute good and evil in the occult, and there is no standard for morality.
“I think [American] culture does not recognize or believe this, and may not even care,” Montenegro added.
“The thing is, occult practices have become widely accepted as forms of entertainment. For example, cable channels are loaded with TV psychics, tarot card readers, etc. I do not know if they are real psychics. There are some who are con artists, but there are also serious people who are in the occult as part of a belief system. But I think most of the people who answer the phones are simply trained in how to talk to people who call in.
“Deuteronomy 18:10-12 forbids contacting mediums and spiritists. I believe that if a Christian consults a psychic or astrologer, he will be affected. I can’t predict how — I think it’s different for different people. But one thing I’ve noticed is that they lose interest in going to church, reading the Bible, praying. Their walk with God is weakened.”
When speaking with someone who is toying with psychic revelations, Montenegro said, “I try to lead to a discussion of Christ and if they had ever trusted him. To someone who is not proclaiming Christianity [such as a New Ager or an agnostic or atheist], I ask them how they think the psychic is getting answers. I attempt to use this as a discussion of their beliefs and try to introduce the gospel.”
Asked if she feels God will punish America for its involvement with the occult as entertainment, Montenegro responded, “No. I don’t think God is punishing anyone until Judgment Day. He sent Christ for salvation and is giving the world a chance to know Christ, then judgment comes. I think God will just let us suffer the consequences of whatever actions we take, whether as individuals or as countries.”
As ardently as Montenegro urges against getting involved with the occult, she is just as concerned about loving those who are involved in such practices, reminding that Christians are called to share the good news, to be salt and light in a dark world. The focus of her ministry is to educate Christians about the occult so they can be discerning.
“The occult is here and it’s growing,” Montenegro said. “Let us respond to it with truth, love and the light of Christ. Let us shine the light of Christ on the darkness of the occult, so that those who need Christ see the darkness they are in and their need for Christ.”
Today, Montenegro is at peace. “The difference is that I am spiritually satisfied. There is more to learn and much room to grow, but the learning and growth spring from Christ as the foundation, not from a search outside him. The search has ended; the thirst has been quenched; the hunger within has been filled.”
To learn more about Montenegro’s ministry, visit her website at http://cana.userworld.com/cana_spiritualjourney.html. She can be contacted by mail at CANA, P.O. Box 7191, Arlington, VA 22207; e-mail, [email protected]