Squeals of delight from the children could be heard from down the
street. Father Francisco Montoya was laughing with them, grinning from ear to ear. The local priest was performing illusions for the kids, reveling in the smiles that radiated from their faces. This was Montoya’s favorite time of day.
Montoya called the kids closer and had them sit down as he pulled
out his clarinet. The children sat mesmerized as the beautiful music
pierced the air and touched their souls. The adults also gathered around
and allowed the sounds to wash over them.
Putting down the clarinet, Montoya began telling the story of Jesus
Christ. The people of Quibdó, Colombia, needed to hear the Gospel
message more than the music. God used the music to draw people closer
and to open their hearts, and Montoya was now prepared to share the
good news with them.
The next day, Montoya rose early to attend services and began his
trek from Quibdó (the capital city of Chocó Department) to the village
of Nóvita. He traveled on foot all around the region, carrying necessary
belongings in a typical indigenous basket. The time passed quickly as
Montoya walked steadily down the road.
Suddenly, a man raced toward him and grabbed his right arm. Montoya pulled away, but soon another man arrived, grabbing his other arm.
Others appeared and there was no hope for Montoya to escape.
The area he was visiting was under the control of the FARC guerrillas, and he had entered the area with their authorization. The guerrillas
knew he was a religious worker, but they also suspected him of being an
army informant. Through the diverse terrain, they force-marched Montoya from town to town and eventually to a mountain base in another
region of the country. Forcing him to his knees, the men stared at him
and pointed a gun, shouting false accusations and insults at him. Without any proof or even investigation of his alleged spying, Montoya was killed
with a single bullet to the head.
When they had not heard anything from him days later, his congregation grew worried. A group from the church was sent to look for him
and encountered the FARC guerrillas, who blatantly confessed to shooting him. The guerrillas had buried his body in the mountains. No one
would be permitted to see his grave.
Under the control of the FARC guerrillas, organized church services
were not permitted. Many church leaders had tried to negotiate with
the guerrillas, telling them they had no intention of stirring up problems. They simply wanted to minister to the people. Their pleas fell on
Knowing the possible fate that awaited him, Montoya still asked
the church to send him to minister in this dangerous region. The risk
was great, but the need for people to hear the Gospel was greater.
Armed only with God’s love and a conviction to serve, he left the safety
of the city to minister in rural, guerrilla-controlled communities. Faith
had overcome fear as Francisco Montoya demonstrated the greatest
love of all.
This story is an excerpt from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs. You can get your own copy free with any donation to The Voice of the Martyrs.