In life, it's not how you start that matters. It's how you finish. When Pastor Juan Martinez's father left his family at a young age, Martinez gravitated toward life on the street where he wanted to prove to everybody that he was somebody - to dance better than everybody else, get more high than everybody else, and sell more drugs than everybody else. Under difficult circumstances at home, Martinez turned to drug dealing at age 14 and ended up in prison in my 20's. Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Unlocking the Promises of God (Five Stones Press, Dec. 1, 2020) is his story of what came next.
When Martinez fled Hurricane Harvey in 2017 with his wife and the clothes on their backs, he discovered that the storms in life connect people to the truth of God. Beyond the Yellow Brick Road follows Martinez through a radical transformation from New York's street life and hard time in the Texas prison system that launched him into a passionate ministry that is shepherding people into meaningful relationships with God. In his new life free of bondage, he is seeking to expose the drug problem that affects every person in America and lead people down the path of redemption and fullness of life.
Q: Juan, thank you for doing this interview with us. Can you tell us about your past: how and why were you involved in drugs?
The void of not having a father in my life left me with an emptiness that yearned to be filled. To fill that void, myself and all my father-less friends gravitated towards the father figures we saw in movies, music and on the streets. The lack of a positive male role model led me to be involved with using and selling drugs at the young age of 13.
Q: What was the defining moment that made you decide to turn your life around?
When I was facing the possibility of 25 years in prison. Three moments led up to that, I got robbed at gunpoint and cried out the Lord's prayer. The second moment, I was in a car and for the 1st time I heard the Father's voice impressed in my soul asking me "Why was I destroying lives?" The final time when I was facing 25 years I dropped to my knees and the first time ever I spoke to the Lord and every step after that was towards change.
Q: How has being in prison shaped your faith?
It took me away from everything I've ever known and gave me a choice for a fresh start, as I continued daily to get into the word, with no distractions.
Q: How and why did you later choose to become a pastor?
This might sound funny but I didn't choose it, it chose me. When I got out of jail I was evangelizing everywhere and a pastor asked me to help him with his Spanish services. I didn't really want to do it, and while doing the thing I didn't want to do I found what I was supposed to do which is pastoring.
Q: Why do you think kids today turn into criminals?
First and foremost because of the lack of Fathers, I believe that is a big reason. What we call in Christianity "discipleship" I call parenting, so the lack of parenting and parenting skills.
Q: How can the church and us as individuals cause real change in the lives of some of these kids?
By being more intentional in building relationships and living a life that is Word based by also showing them that they can also have fun. By teaching classes where parents and children are involved to talk about parenting, relationships between the family dynamic father-son, mother-daughter etc.
Q: How can your new book help us in terms of helping a friend or people in our lives who are involved in drugs and crime?
This book helps every person incarcerated by the walls they have created within themselves, that are longing to be free, but don't know how, now they will read and come to the crossroads, and learn how to make the choices that will lead them out of crime and drugs. It will give them the courage to face the storms of life with a new heart and mind as they journey through the pages.