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Father’s Day: ‘It’s a celebration’

Raising two girls as a single father while studying to be a Salvation Army officer were difficult tasks for Joel Monasterio, yet he will celebrate those blessings this Father’s Day.

The humble and mild-mannered new lieutenant has many reasons to rejoice. He was ordained as a Salvation Army officer on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Commissioner William A. Bamford III, territorial commander, presented Monasterio with the coveted Commissioners Award for his academics, leadership, attitude, field work, and spiritual influence. Monasterio’s daughters, Enovy, 10, and Joelie, 8, clapped and jumped for joy when Bamford announced that their dad’s first appointment would be in Paterson, N.J.

The family’s emotional Commissioning Weekend was the culmination of a two-year odyssey. In addition to his academic and field assignments at the College for Officer Training (CFOT), Monasterio watched YouTube videos to learn how to braid his girls’ hair. He also taught them to be polite, keep a clean house, and arrive on time.

“Father’s Day is just a great day to recognize that parenting is important and being a dad is not easy,” Monasterio says. “It’s a day to celebrate my effort. During all those moments when I feel like I can’t, I just keep moving forward because I love my daughters. Father’s Day is a celebration of those moments. Even though it’s hard for me sometimes, I’m trying to move forward with the strength I have from our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important to be the father who they need.

“My daughters are my first ministry, and I need to disciple them. I must set an example for them in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”


Starting a family

In 2010, Joel came to the United States from his home in Guatemala. He lived in Hamilton, Ohio, with his aunt and uncle, Majors Dora and Wilder Garcia, who led the local Salvation Army church.

Joel soon met someone of interest, but she was pregnant and abandoned by another man. Nonetheless, Joel helped her through the pregnancy. She gave birth to Enovy in 2011. Although he wasn’t Enovy’s biological father, Joel legally adopted her as his own. The couple’s relationship blossomed and they were married in 2014.

Joelie was born two years later. That same year, Joel and his wife attended the Candidates Seminar Weekend for prospective Salvation Army officers at the College for Officer Training (CFOT).


Following God’s call

“I knew God was calling me to be an officer,” Joel recalls. “But she decided she didn’t have the calling.”

Joel’s decision put a strain on the marriage and his wife eventually left him and the girls in 2015.

Joel admits he was angry with God during the divorce process. Why was my life in turmoil if I had agreed to serve God?, he wondered.

In 2017, he had an epiphany about Enovy when he attended the National Seminar on Evangelism in Colorado.

“I was complaining and arguing with God,” he said. “Then I realized I was thinking about me, but not about my daughter. Where is her father? I realized I was the one there for her. I was her father. I realized that God choose me to be the dad and mom who she didn’t have.

“I realized that God also had a plan for my daughter. His love for her was more than I could have imagined. He was working in her life and she also has a testimony.”


Leaning on God

Joel and his wife finalized their divorce in 2018. That same year, she married someone else.

In 2019, Joel was accepted as an officer candidate to the CFOT and took the girls from Ohio to Suffern, N.Y., to begin training. Cadet Yelin Jimenez, a session-mate of Joel’s, said his girls were “always on time for class and well presentable,” at the CFOT. Jimenez noted that it was Joel who fixed their hair and clothes.

Monasterio said balancing his officer training and being a single parent was sometimes a challenge. There were many nights he had to help the girls with their homework before he could do his own.

“They are girls, and I am a man,” Joel said. “Sometimes they ask me things that I don’t know so I have to go to God and say, ‘This is my situation. Please help me.’ I put my situation in God’s hands. I come to Him and … a week later or a year later, I have an answer or I just realize He has been helping me by using other people like the officers and cadets at the training school.

“I think balance is important. I know I cannot do things by myself and on my own. I go to Jesus Christ because He is my strength and I keep moving forward because I have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the power to keep moving forward and to fulfill an obedient life of seeking holiness as a single dad.”

Jimenez said Joel and the two girls also kept their quarters clean at the CFOT.

“I’m trying to teach them how to take care of things that God is providing us,” Joel said. “For me, this house is a blessing. It’s a blessing to be able to proclaim His Kingdom and work in God’s Kingdom. It’s His provision. It’s His house. We must learn how to take care of all the things that God is providing. I’m just trying to do my best and teach them that. I’m not perfect.”

While cadets sometimes find their future spouse at the CFOT, that wasn’t the case for Joel. He continues to pray for another wife and is faithfully waiting on God.

“I’m still asking God for the right one,” he said. “I know He will provide. I really believe that I have to seek God’s Kingdom first and He will provide everything that I need. I just need to be patient and I know that He will give me the wife I need, one who will love my daughters as her own and love me and work together proclaiming God’s Kingdom.”


The art of forgiveness

Monasterio said he is careful to take a constructive approach when speaking to the girls about their mother.

“The more they grow, the more questions they will have,” he said. “That’s why I’m trying to keep their hearts and minds healthy. I think one day they will have some questions and they will need to forgive her. It’s important to me to get them ready for that time.

“I want them to be able to start an intimate relationship with their mom. She is trying to have a relationship with our daughters. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but that’s my goal. I’m just trying to raise them to love their mom.”

In fact, Monasterio said he prays often for his ex–wife and her new husband to find forgiveness, sanctification, justification, and salvation from God.

“She doesn’t have Christ in her heart,” Joel said. “She’s not my wife, but she’s a person who needs Jesus. I really want to see her surrender everything to the Lord. We have forgiven each other and now have a relationship as friends.”


A message to all fathers

As Lieutenant Monasterio and his girls pack their belongings and head to Paterson, they will take time to celebrate Father’s Day and share a message to all fathers.

“Being a parent is not easy,” Joel said. “I really believe that the key is to always be in God’s presence when the questions come from our children. It’s also important to be a good example because they imitate everything we do. If we are close to God, they will learn a lot of things through our example.”

by Robert Mitchell