Alex Montealegre, senior pastor of La Vida (Angleton Hispanic Foursquare Church) in Angleton, Texas, knows what it means for someone to have it all—and yet really have nothing.
Raised as a pastor’s kid, he quickly rebelled after his father died, leaving God and church behind to pursue his passion for music. His career, under the name “Alex Montez,” led him to amazing success including a multiple-record contract with Sony Records, many awards, great fame, more money than he knew what to do with—and a lot of drugs and alcohol. Before long, the road he was traveling led nowhere but to desperation and pain, and he attempted to end his life by shooting himself twice. The song was over—or so he thought.
“God was not done with me yet,” says the 45-year-old pastor and father of five, who serves alongside his wife, Lisa. “He raised me up from the dead, healed me completely, restored me, and then called me to His service.”
Lisa, 33, also used to be in the music industry, under the name “Lizza Lamb.” After God got a hold of her life, she shook off a heavy cocaine addiction and walked away from a fast-rising career that included a Grammy nomination and a $2.5 million multi-record contract with BMG Records.
“My wife was also redeemed from the snare of the enemy over her life,” says Alex. “We both now serve the One who called us by name before we were created.”
La Vida was launched just over four years ago, in June 2006, in partnership with Life Church (Angleton Foursquare Church). Life Church, pastored by Cere Muscarella, is La Vida’s “mother and sister” church, Alex explains. Their motto is “One Church, Two Expressions.”
In four short years, La Vida—which specifically reaches Spanish-speaking people groups—has grown to an average weekly attendance of 150-plus. The church comprises many ethnicities, such as Guatemalan, Honduran, El Salvadorian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and more. The congregation conducts regular outreach ministries affecting thousands in the surrounding community.
Having known what it means to be desperate and without hope, Alex has a strong passion for reaching out to those who need a helping hand.
“The need of the Hispanic people in the U.S. grows more each day, and they are so bound by religion, idolatry and the desperation for a better life, that it has to break your heart,” Alex told Foursquare.org. “I think of when Jesus saw the same thing in His people, and wept over them. I got involved because Jesus called me to do so, and because He left me a clear pattern to follow after. So all I need to do is see what He sees, give like He gives, and serve as He served, and people will come to His feet.
And because of this humble, straightforward philosophy that the congregation carries out in practical ways, people are coming to His feet in droves.
When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, the church trucked in over 500 tons of food, supplies, baby products, clothes, water and ice. They served for almost a year, going community to community, delivering the goods for free. More than 150 people accepted Christ.
Regular outreaches include Dia del Mercado, or Free Market Day, an annual event where the church opens a market on their property, flea market style, and gives away food and supplies. More than 2,000 people came to the last event, and more than 50 received Christ.
Kids Fest is another yearly event, a back-to-school occasion where the church teams up with the county to give away school supplies, provide haircuts and put on a concert. And of course, there’s lots of food. More than 3,000 people typically show up, and last time there were more than 70 decisions for Christ.
Other outreaches include a Christmas play each year during which gifts are given to guests, and the Los 3 Reyes Magosoutreach, or Three Kings outreach, where three kings visit the church and bring toys to the children—an old Hispanic tradition La Vida adopted, Alex says, to draw people to the Lord. More than 1,000 people came last year, and over 3,000 toys were given away. There were 271 salvations.
In all of these outreaches, La Vida and Life Church work together, fulfilling their “One Church, Two Expressions” slogan.
La Vida also has a Cable TV ministry, which broadcasts to the seven major cities in the area. Many people have received Christ and come to the church through the broadcasts.
One such man is Rafael Gonzalez, who Alex says first saw their show a year ago. For an entire month, he secretly watched it in his room. Finally his wife, Raymunda, asked him what he was doing. After he told her, they both visited the church and received Christ.
“He began an amazing journey and transformation,” Alex recalls. But the transformation wouldn’t stop there.
Last December, Rafael’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and he was able to lead him to the Lord before his passing. When Alex visited with him and his family at the hospital, 27 people gave their hearts to Christ. Rafael then invited Alex to go with him to Mexico to perform the funeral—a bold move considering the traditional customs of a Catholic family. Alex conducted the service, and 50 people received Christ.
“We are seeing people that were so closed to the gospel because of misuse and religion begin to open their hearts, trust, and allow us to speak into their lives,” affirms Alex. “We are earning the right to speak to them by the love of Jesus they see in us, and they are beginning to listen.”
And that’s something we all can do, he asserts.
“Do what you’re supposed to do. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t wait for a better time, better conditions or more resources. Just go,” he encourages. “Your Father will supply all of your needs. And if you have resources stored away, use them—the time is now, the need is much, and the harvest is ready.”
He also has a message to the desperate people out there, waiting for an answer.
“Forgive us for taking such a long time to come,” he implores. “But rejoice, for the Lord is near, and we’re coming with great news of hope, deliverance and freedom for you.”
That’s Alex’s new song. A song of redemption. A song so grand, the old song of desperation is but a memory.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles.