By Mark Ellis –
Monty Rieck portrays himself as a plumber, hunter (gun and bow & arrow), rodeo guy, and a cowboy. In a new autobiography Rieck describes a “wild ride to redemption,” when the one trained in calf-roping got roped by God himself.
Rieck’s father, William, became the 1968 Super Stock Car Drag Racing World Champion, and left a long shadow over his son’s life. “My dad was a third generation plumbing contractor and professional drag racer,” he told God Reports. “He was a John Wayne-type; he idolized John Wayne. He was like a big six-foot-two, 230-pound man. a man of very few words, like John Wayne.”
“My mom was a wonderful, sweet woman. She grew up in the church, and but she never really knew Christ,” he says.
When his oldest brother was born, forceps damaged his spinal cord so badly that he never matured beyond that of a two-year-old. “I think my mom sort of got mad at God, so she went away from the church. I didn’t grow up with anything of God in my life.”
Rieck’s father bought a 45-acre ranch in a countrified area of California between Buellton and Lompoc, where Monty learned to rope steers and ride bulls, as recounted in his autobiography, I Am Eli, the first of three planned for his Cowboy Preacher series.
“I grew up there from the time I was 10 until I left home, so I got into the cowboy life and ranch work and just I grew up working hard. When I turned 16, I went to work for my dad as a plumber.”
“Following my dad’s lead, I became a man’s man. He was a good provider, but emotionally he was never there for us. He was pretty nonexistent as far as a personal basis. He didn’t put us to bed, read to us, he didn’t do any of that kind of stuff.”
In high school, his father gave him his first beer, and his brothers provided marijuana and cocaine, which he and his brothers also began to sell. “I was working hard, playing hard, doing a lot of partying, and a lot of womanizing, “In my early years, when a girl really hurt me bad, I just put up a wall to protect myself. I started using women. As soon as I began to get close to them, or they started getting close to me, I would just get rid of them, or go to another one out of fear of getting hurt.”
When Rieck graduated from high school, his father said, “You got two weeks (vacation) and then you’re mine.” Rieck worked with his father as a plumber for the next 13 years.
After father and son had a falling out over the younger man’s desire to join the union, Rieck moved to Colorado with his wife, Pam, and their son, Cody. He went to work with another plumber, who happened to be a strong Christian. “It was my first real experience with someone that I believe was a born-again Christian. He said he talked to God and God talked to him. When I heard him saying, ‘God talked to me,’ it really sort of scared me. And I was thinking, This guy’s crazy… this guy’s looney.
“I had nothing of God in my life, except seeing the Pope on TV, or as a family watching Billy Graham. They’re so different, I had a real question in my mind — what is religion really?
Not long after their move, Rieck got a surprising phone call. “My dad called me on Thanksgiving morning for the first time ever, just to talk to me, and I was blown away. I thought he was making amends, you know, in his own way, following that argument. I took it as my dad, saying, ‘Hey, let’s get past our differences, and the bad things, and build a relationship again.’
Rieck was stunned when he learned his father died later that day, after they ended their phone conversation. “That was a huge shock to me. I just bought a brand-new house, and I was doing so good. I just felt so lost, my whole identity and my comfort and everything was just gone.”
After his father’s passing, Rieck and his wife and son returned to Lompoc, and he got back into the plumbing business there. “The business started struggling really bad. It got to a point where I couldn’t even hardly buy a water heater, and I didn’t know what to do.”
He met a man who introduced him to Quixtar, the multi-level marketing organization that was a sister to Amway. His upline leader in the organization was a gospel singer named Johnny Hall. Hall began to mentor Rieck, and when he learned Rieck’s marriage was struggling, he sent him the book, If He Only Knew, by Gary Smalley, along with a little pamphlet, What do you think about Jesus?
God had prepared Rieck’s heart for the moment. “I was so broken because of my business and marriage failing. My relationship with my brother, because we went into business together, was failing. I was so tired of fighting, trying to save my business and fighting with my wife; we had a lot of really serious problems.”
Quixtar had a surprising openness to Christian influences as a company. “Through Quixtar, I ended up going to church for the first time ever, because on Sundays, they would have a nondenominational church service, and so I started going to those. That’s where I started hearing the gospel and hearing Christian music and seeing Christian bands.”
In response to a sermon preached by Johnny Hall at a Quixtar convention in Las Vegas, Rieck gave his life to the Lord. “I heard his message of peace, that even through your sufferings, you can have joy. I was seeing all these Christian people, how their demeanor was so different, you know, they’re going through trials and tribulations, but they’re still had a joy to them. I ended up surrendering my life to Jesus Christ at that time.
“Oh man, I was all in! I was just bawling and crying, and I just lifted up my hands and I said, ‘Lord Jesus, I don’t want my (old) life. You know, I give my life to you. I surrender to you fully and totally, and I don’t want to be Monty. I want to be like you. I just totally gave it all up.’
“I know at that moment I was born again!”
Because of Rieck’s rodeo background, he faced multiple surgeries, and used the downtime to begin writing his book. “I lived the hard life and paid for it,” he said. “With 12 surgeries to repair my body, I decided to use the time in recovery to recount many of the incredible turning points in my life. In I Am Eli, the reader will get a glimpse of my early years and hard living along with how I found the ultimate love of God. It’s quite a journey with lots of bumps, bruises and brokenness that I think people will relate to.”
To learn more about Monty’s book and ministry, go here