On September 10, 2023, Pastor Johnny James Gonzales passed away after a long battle with cancer.
When Johnny was 17 years old, a prophetic word was spoken over his life. Nineteen years after this dream was divinely planted in his heart, this dream came to pass. In 2017, he and his wife Kristi moved their young children to Questa and planted a “life-giving church.”
Johnny James Gonzalez was a great friend, brother, and pastor to many people. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed fishing and camping. According to his mom, Johnny always excelled in academics. Johnny participated in the spelling bee for five years, from third grade until he was in the eighth grade. In 1994, he won first place in the state spelling bee contest; former New Mexico Governor Bruce King wrote to congratulate him for this feat. He went on to compete at the national level. Johnny was very smart and had a way with words. In 1998, he graduated from Questa High School, the same school that his son Izziah is now attending.
Johnny completed his associates degree in general studies at the University of New Mexico, and later became a licensed journeyman electrician. In 2004, he married Kristi Vialpando and together they formed a family and made a life in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even early in their life, as they started their family when they only had two children, Izziah and Micah, they strongly maintained that they were done having kids. It was “TWO AND NO MORE”… and then there were FIVE; Izziah, Micah, Mariah, Zachariah, and Hezekiah.
Johnny was very generous with anyone he met. He gave lavishly and sacrificially, time and time again. Those who knew Johnny well knew that he had many victories, trials, and dreams — lots of dreams. Most of them involved our small community of Questa.
Johnny’s business, Double Eagle Electric of New Mexico, was very successful and both Johnny and Kristi were fruitful in ministry in Albuquerque; but in their hearts, they pined for Questa. Questa was their promised land. Johnny shared many of his dreams with those closest to him over the years, but there are two that could be distinctly remembered by some.
Johnny and Kristi always felt a calling to go back to Questa. He and Kristi wanted to pastor a church there; he had dreamed and prayed about it for 19 years. Johnny gave up a lot for his promised land. He gave up income. Clientele. Convenience. Comfort. He gave up not one, but two beautiful homes, to live in Questa. He downsized every time. First to a smaller home in Albuquerque and then to a tiny parsonage next to Freedom Center. They lived there for a few years before moving into their current home. Johnny was diagnosed with cancer and even when he got sick and he could have received better treatment in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, he chose to continue his life here because he loved Questa. He loved his family. He loved his church.
A few years after moving back to Questa, Johnny and Kristi would become lead pastors of their church and changed the name to Freedom Center. His dream of protecting and providing for Questa came to pass and continues with Kristi at the helm of the church.
The second dream to be remembered is the dream of starting a community center that would serve the youth of Questa and give them a place to play sports, have fun, and be loved. That one has not come to pass yet, but be assured, it will come to pass, because as Johnny knew, God’s promises never fail. Some in our lifetime and others through our lifeline.
The number nineteen (19) has been a significant number for Johnny:
He waited 19 years to pastor a church in Questa.
Johnny was diagnosed with cancer in 2019.
When he died, he was in room 219.
He took his last breath at 4:19 a.m.
He was married to Kristi for 19 years.
Johnny was laid to rest on September 19, and just like that the number 19 went from being significant in Johnny’s earthly life to being significant to many in this community today.
Johnny died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar. Johnny, even though he died, still speaks loudly through his faith. His faith still speaks and it will continue speaking through his children, his church, and his Questa community. Johnny lived a life of service. Serving his community, his friends, his family. Whether it meant giving out clothes and food to people or praying with a grieving father at El Pueblito Cemetery; he was here to serve. He also prioritized serving and honoring veterans and fathers with special breakfasts and prayers.
I know today many young people in particular are being moved to make a decision to follow Jesus. I echo Johnny and Kristi’s prayers and plead with you to honor Johnny’s memory by saying yes to Jesus.