Madalena Monteiro’s husband, Antonio Monteiro, is an Adventist pastor who was recently acquitted and released from a prison in Togo. In March 2012, Pastor Monteiro was detained with others and held without trial based on the accusations of one man who was described as a “pathological liar.” After his release, Pastor Monteiro shared his story during the 2014 Spring Council at the General Conference. Madalena accompanied him, and we asked Raquel Arrais, GC Women’s Ministries associate director, to interview her in Portuguese. This is her incredible story of God’s care while her husband was in prison. May you be blessed!
Raquel: What was your reaction when your husband went to prison? How did you feel? What was the first thing that came to your mind?
Madalena: I was in shock. I had no words. I just saw my husband with the police at our door, telling me he’s going to prison. When I saw him in chains, I asked, “What is going on, Antonio?”
“Sweetie, I have no idea!” he said.
I just ran away and started screaming, trying to get answers. I was so scared. The police said, “Don’t go anywhere.” I kept screaming and saying, “What’s going on? What’s going on?”
A policeman told me, “Listen, we are the police, don’t do anything!” But I was so scared I couldn’t stop screaming. Then he took his gun and pointed it at me. I froze in terror, and stayed quiet then, still very confused.
R: Then your husband went to prison?
R: After that, how did you manage your daily life routine?
M: In the early days, I prayed. For the first three days I felt my prayers were going nowhere. But one day a young man knocked on the door and visited me. After a three-minute conversation, he prayed with me and left. I closed the door, went to my room, and prayed again, “Lord, I need to talk to You. But before I talk to You, before I speak, I need to open Your Word because I need something to calm down.” So I opened the Bible and read Psalm 17: “God is our justice.” After that day I felt the Holy Spirit and the angels close to me.
Every day as I cooked, I would ask the Lord, “Why?” God told me, “Not your will be done.” It was not easy to go every day to the prison to bring food to my husband behind bars. But before I left the house every day I’d say, “Lord, I consecrate my life to You. Keep me safe and help me to deliver the food he needs. Help me face this trial.” Then I felt God’s presence. Sometimes I felt discouraged but then the comfort of the Holy Spirit always came to me. Can you imagine leaving home every morning for prison? Can you imagine seeing your husband, the person you love most, behind bars? This was not easy. But God gave me the strength to face this.
R: This is beautiful! It was not just one or two months. It was 22 months! How did you feel God’s presence?
M: As a human being it would have been impossible to face this alone. I had to be in communion with God 24 hours a day. Without Him, I could do nothing. It was by God’s grace alone.
R: You’ve mentioned before that God helped you in a special moment. Can you tell us about that?
M: One day I dreamed they had released him from prison, but when I woke up he wasn’t there. Then just a few days later, it happened!
R: What message would you share with pastors’ spouses around the world as they face trials?
M: My advice would be to never doubt our great God. If you are facing problems—health, persecution, oppression—find a friend to have someone to talk to. But your first friend is always God. I had many people visit me every day, and they brought so much comfort. But my first comfort was at the feet of Jesus. If you’re facing trials or difficulties, go to the cross. Go to the feet of Jesus. Be in communion with Him. Believe that at the right moment, God will act in your favor.
R: How old are your children?
M: My older son is 28, my daughters are 25 and 23, and my younger son is 13.
R: How did your children cope?
M: My older son did what he could for his daddy. He would have knocked on every door in the country to ask for help. The government did what they could to support him from the beginning to the end.
My two daughters were in Ghana. When my younger daughter saw me cry, she would say, “Please, Mom, let’s stop crying and trust in God.” I said, “Sweetie, I know God is going to bring justice to us, but now I’m just human.” Because there are moments when it’s just good to cry.
My youngest would watch me, when I was sitting down. “Mom, rest, rest! This is your time to rest. Very soon Daddy will come home.” He was the best friend and companion for me. He kept going to school, and one day he came home upset because he shares his father’s name, Antonio. A classmate said, “I heard about Antonio Monteiro on TV. Your daddy killed people!”
I went to his school the next day to explain what was going on in our family. The principal said, “Rest assured, I have talked with all the teachers so they can protect your son. Nothing will happen to him.” After this it was peaceful and God took care of him. God took care of us.
For more information on Pastor Monteiro’s story, go to adventistreview.org and search for “Monteiro.”