In 2011, Marta Castillo was awakened in the middle of the night by her then 8-year-old son Joshua. He was suffering from nightmares that his mom was burning in fire. She wondered what it meant. “I didn’t know what to do,” says Marta. She prayed. After talking with his school counselor, Marta asked Joshua about his dreams. He replied, “What if you die? Who do I go with?”
Joshua’s dad died when he was only 4 years old. Marta reassured him, “If you need to talk more about daddy, just ask me, and we’ll talk about daddy.” It relieved his anxieties. “He didn’t have any more nightmares, by the grace of God.”
Growing Up in Guatemala
Marta spent her childhood in Guatemala, raised by her grandmother and aunt who were strong women of faith. “I had a beautiful childhood. That’s the only way I can describe it,” she says. “But I always knew that my parents lived in the United States.” She had seen her parents only a handful of times.
When Marta was 11, her dad unexpectedly came to take her to the U.S. “It was like moving in with strangers,” she says, as she adjusted to living with her parents and brother and learning English.
When she was 14, she went to a Christian camp in Colorado. The mountains reminded her of her Guatemalan home. “It was peaceful. It was great to get away,” says Marta. “I was being told truth about Christ and about who He really is.” She accepted Jesus as her Savior. However, when she returned home, she didn’t get connected with a local church to see faith in action, so she drifted.
Becoming a Mother
Marta fell in love at 18. “We dated a little while, then we moved in together,” says Marta. Soon after, her boyfriend Ray was arrested. When he was released from prison, she had an apartment waiting. As an engaged couple, they were excited to become a family, and things seemed to be improving until his drug use became evident. She began using with him until she found out she was pregnant at the age of 20 and stopped participating in the drug use.
She soon was on her own and worked two jobs to make ends meet. She heard that the name Joshua meant “God of my salvation.” So when she had an emergency C-section at eight months and found out she was having a baby boy, she named him Joshua. “I really truly feel that’s what God did by allowing me to get pregnant,” says Marta. “I was definitely going down the road that was not good for me.”
She loved being a mother. “He was my ray of sunshine,” she says. During Joshua’s early childhood, his dad was in jail. In 2007, about 9 months after his release, he unexpectedly passed away. At the funeral, Marta was lost. “I was forced to let him go; it was just hard.” She became reliant on going out with friends and drinking.
A New Beginning
Marta and her son went to visit Ray’s family. While there, she attended church. “It’s funny to me when people say they go to church because I understand now that it doesn’t mean anything,” she says. Marta started crying during the worship service and couldn’t stop. She was ready for a relationship over the religion she’d known. “I just knew that something shifted in my heart and in my mind,” says Marta.
She returned home and her coworker invited her to Grand Parkway. “It wasn’t until I was in a relationship with the Lord that peace came.” That led to a year of healing for her as she joined a Community Group and shared her testimony with women during an outreach event. “I knew I didn’t want to just come to church and warm up the bench,” says Marta. “I just needed more.” Today, you will find Marta serving as a greeter, welcoming people as they come to Grand Parkway and also leading a Community Group for single women. “The church has played a big part in all of the blessings I’ve received. I’ve been overwhelmed; my cup truly runneth over.”
Knowing her identity in Christ has changed the way she sees herself. “Before, I was busy partying and doing all this nonsense, and I haven’t found more peace or more joy than being in the relationship that I am in now.”