The year 2020 has unquestionably brought community to the forefront with its extraordinary challenges and tests of faith and good citizenship. In such trying times there are many who rise to the top, like cream, and enrich the lives of those around them.

Peter and Gayle Martínez are among those who have made community and compassion their avocation. As pastors and spiritual leaders of the nondenominational Living Word Ministries in Questa, the couple has devoted years to the wellness of its congregation and Northern New Mexico at large.

“We both believe in the Christian approach to life’s difficulties, whether that’s addiction or family assistance or myriad other issues,” Gayle said. “We both also share a desire for building fellowship and for letting people learn how to be strong. It’s a means of developing healthy families throughout our community.”

Living Word’s summer activities – online vacation Bible camp, family drive-in movies and annual back-to-school supplies drive – are on the wane, but the energy of the Martínezes is not. The expansive space of Living Word is home to a multitude of services including the joyful noise of creative worship; bible studies; men’s and women’s ministries; Kingdom Kids and Fearless Kids; and a special program for preschoolers.

“Gatherings are always an important part of our church,” Peter said, including those conducted through Zoom and their Facebook page. Socially distant Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. have recently resumed at the church and, as scheduling allows, other in-person events are held in strict accordance with state guidelines and best practices.

The couple also noted that future plans for the development of their training center is moving forward, which, for now, will primarily be an online shared resource for the congregation and the local community of pastors with whom they collaborate.

Divine intervention

How does one even begin to establish a ministry? The Martínezes have an answer: divine intervention.

“In 2006 we were approached by the Assembly of God church and asked if we would consider being their pastors,” Peter recalled. “They had the church and no pastor; we had the calling and years of spiritual community experience, but no church. It was a good fit for all of us.” 

After receiving the property deed, the Martínezes lost no time in implementing a building expansion that, today, can accommodate 250 congregants, prayer and healing rooms and a community garden.

“It’s the blessings of the Lord that made this happen,” said Peter. “With His favor we have accomplished much for our congregation,” which includes members from Taos, Questa and surrounding environs, but also Costilla, and the Colorado towns of San Luís and Jaroso.

It is not only the fellowship of Living Word for which the Martínezes are recognized, however. The couple has spent decades serving Taos and the surrounding region on many different fronts.

Peter, whose familial ties in Taos are generations deep, officiates full time in his role as pastor of Living Word. But locals still remember the other hats he has worn, including as the former owner of both Taos Pro Speed Oil & Lube and Viva Sports. He was a physical education teacher at the Taos Christian Academy and coached varsity basketball in the public schools.

Of her early years Gayle said, “I grew up on [New York’s] Long Island and after college moved here [to Taos], where my father’s family was. Then I met Peter and never left.” She noted that her paternal grandmother, Celina Salazar, was named one of this newspaper’s first Unsung Heroes for her church involvement and community service. “She’s 101 years old now, and still as active as ever.”

Once settled here, Gayle established a well-regarded professional reputation with her work for the Town of Taos, the Taos Chamber of Commerce and, now, Holy Cross Medical Center.

In addition to being a Living Word Ministries pastor, Gayle believes her unique skills add another dimension to seeing Living Word move forward. 

“My experience with community and economic development, communications and marketing, and coordinating between government and business has been valuable to the growth of our church,” she said. “As we had to accommodate the quarantine and social distancing, we found ourselves ahead of the game in using online tools because we already had them in place. We taught our congregation how to use those tools to stay in touch with us and each other.”

“Our blessings, which are many, have come to us in different ways, but always with the favor of God,” Peter reflected. “It’s this sharing in this community that makes us want to do more. It’s the people we get to walk with that make us strong.”

The Martínezes recently celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary and are proud parents of a son, Joshua, who is married to Thanya and with whom he has two children: Elanya, age 7, and JJ, age 5. Their daughter, Amanda, is married to Jason Motzer. “Though they don’t live in Taos, they are always near to us.”

Faith, they believe, is demonstrated by showing up for the ones you love and for the ones you don’t yet know. 

“Gayle and I believe every community has a destiny,” Peter concluded, “and, in being a part of that here, we can help Taos achieve its best.” 

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