By Mark Ellis —
She was deeply embedded in the New Age movement, taught astrology, and was the head of the Atlanta Astrological Society. But a co-worker’s prayers and an unexpected compulsion led to a dramatic shift in her spiritual journey.
“I decided I wanted to explore other religions when I got to college,” says Marcia Montenegro, who grew up overseas. Her father was in the Foreign Service, so she traveled frequently in her childhood, often spending summers in Madrid.
Her father was an agnostic and her mother a nominal Christian. Several experiences as a young person convinced Montenegro she might have ESP abilities. After college in Florida, she moved to Atlanta and took a class on “inner light consciousness,” in response to her burgeoning curiosity about the supernatural.
“They took us through various techniques like chanting, psychic healing, and meditation,”Montenegrorecalls. On the last evening of the class, instructors told her she would meet her spiritual master. “Your spiritual master will be with you the rest of your life,” they informed her.
During her meditation, she saw a wise, kind-looking man. “From that point on I thought he would be always with me, protecting me,” she says.
After the class, she attended a Tibetan Buddhist center in Atlanta where she learned to do meditation, then began to immerse herself in New Age reading material. Books by Carlos Casteneda, Ram Dass, and Jane Roberts were heavy influences, along with “The Tao of Physics.”
“It was all jelling for me,” she recalls. “I thought I had been given gifts and I wanted to put them into practice, so I studied astrology seriously.”
The city of Atlanta has a somewhat unusual program in place to license astrologers, so Montenegro studied for their exam, passed, and received a license. Slowly, she built up an astrology clientele and worked other jobs on the side.
“You don’t make a lot of money doing astrology, but I loved it,” she recalls. She eventually became the chairperson of the astrology examiners board and joined the astrological society. She also continued her Buddhist meditation.
The nominal Christianity of her upbringing had completely vanished at this point. “I was very hostile to Christianity,”Montenegro says. “I had the New Age Jesus, who was the avatar of the age of Pisces and was a spiritual leader, like Buddha.”
One of her astrology clients invited her to work part-time at his company. “He wanted advice on his employees based on their birth data,” she notes. Nobody else in the office knew about Montenegro’s astrological duties. Her boss assigned her a vague-sounding title to divert attention from her actual role.
At the company, she met a young man named Jeff McCord. “He befriended me and we would have conversations from time-to-time,” she notes. “I knew he was a Christian, but he wasn’t very dramatic about it. He let me know he’d been on a mission trip to Guatemala and that he went to church.”
“He never invited me to church or told me I needed to give up astrology,” Montenegro says. “He was extremely nice and friendly and would come to me and ask questions.”
She had no way of knowing that behind-the-scenes, McCord’s young adult fellowship group began to pray fervently for Montenegro’s salvation.
One day something happened that completely surprised her. “I had this compulsion to go to church,” she recalls, “but I resisted it.”
As hard as she tried to ignore it, the impulse would not go away. She decided she would find a church. “I didn’t know where to go but there was an Episcopal Church downtown with a soup kitchen,” she says.
Very tentatively, she found her way to the back row of the church, with plans to leave as early as possible. “I felt very out of place,” she notes.
Then something strange happened. A formal procession began to walk down the center aisle close to Montenegro. “As a boy walked by carrying the cross, I felt this overwhelming love falling on me from above,” she says.
“I could feel it coming externally,”Montenegro recounts. “I knew it was from this personal God telling me he loved me.” She was so overwhelmed she began to weep softly in the pew.
“I felt this love but I didn’t understand what it meant.”
Montenegro stayed for the whole service and went back the following Sunday. “I really didn’t understand what was going on, but I felt I needed to be there,” she says.
She made one friend in the church who told her it was okay to be a Christian and a Buddhist. Then she joined a confirmation class going through the Book of Mark, while she held on to her New Age beliefs.
“I started getting an impression that God doesn’t like astrology,” she recalls. “I ignored it, but then it became very strong.”
Seeking answers, she went to the minister of the church. “He read passages in the Old Testament about how God condemned divination, but I didn’t understand what it had to do with me,” she says. “Somehow it confirmed I shouldn’t do it.”
Montenegro made a huge decision to give up astrology. “I didn’t know what would become of me,” she recalls. As a single mom, she supported a child.
At Thanksgiving, her chiropractor invited her to a gathering in her home. “I had a lot of clients who were witches, wiccans and neo-pagans,” she says. “Everybody there were neo-pagans except me.”
As Montenegro scanned the room, an unusual impression hit her. “I looked at the people there and it seemed like they were all dead,” she observed. She felt confused and uncomfortable. She left the party early, before anyone else.
“I started reading the Bible but I didn’t know why,” she says. She began with the Book of Matthew. Each night she read a small portion.
One night she read the dramatic account in Matthew 8 of Jesus on the boat with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. “There was a storm at sea and Jesus rebuked the storm. For some reason, this had an effect on me.”
Montenegro read and re-read the story several times and then a light came on. “Suddenly as I was reading it, I saw who Jesus really is,” she says. “God opened my eyes.”
“Jesus really is the Son of God! He really is the Savior!” she exclaimed.
She realized she had been on a spiritual path that took her away from the one, true, living God. “I knew I needed to be saved,” she realized. “I turned my life over to Jesus Christ at that moment.”
A few months later, Jeff McCord, the young Christian man, came intoMontenegro’s office. She told McCord she had become a Christian.
“Jeff, it’s really strange to me that a few months ago I was an astrologer and now I’m a Christian,” she told him. “I never even wanted to be a Christian.”
This was an understatement. At the time she thought Christians were “un-evolved.” She was hardened in her beliefs, didn’t believe in sin, and was very resistant to the Gospel. She didn’t believe anyone needed to be redeemed or saved.
Jeff smiled broadly. “Maybe someone was praying for you,” he replied.
“No, I can’t think of anybody who would be praying for me,” she said. At that time in her faith, she didn’t understand the power of prayer. “Wait a minute,” Montenegro said. “Were you praying for me?” she asked.
“My fellowship group at church was praying for you,” he confirmed. McCord and his young adult group felt burdened to pray for her during the year Montenegro came to Christ. Now she realizes the value of prayer in God’s kingdom.
Montenegro left the astrological society and got rid of all her astrology and New Age books. “I lost all my friends,” she recalls. “They didn’t seem interested in me and we didn’t have anything in common anymore.”
But she felt firmly rooted in God’s care and provision for her. “I had an assurance of God’s love and an anchor inside me,” she says. “I was not drifting along with different philosophies.”
“In the New Age you are always on a search because you never really find any answers,” she notes. “It was clearly the Lord who intervened and drew me away from the false path.”
Montenegro moved to Arlington, Virginia and began to attend Cherrydale Baptist Church, where she grew rapidly in her faith. After a few years, she started to receive invitations to speak and write about her spiritual journey and to alert others about the dangers in astrology and the New Age movement. Last year, she graduated from Southern Evangelical Seminary with a master’s degree in religion.
Marcia’s ministry is CANA/Christian Answers for the New Age, and she is a missionary with Fellowship International Mission, an independent mission board based in Allentown, PA. CANA is an informational and outreach ministry. She has been featured on various Christian media, and leads workshops and speaks at conferences, churches and retreats, and writes for Christian publications. Marcia is the author of “SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids” (Cook, 2006).
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