Here is the testimony of Pastor Anthony Manzanares, as written down by Charles Barnes:
Anthony Manzanares is the senior pastor of New Destiny Ministries Church of God in Christ in Idaho Falls. The church has its office and meets for worship in the historic Rogers Building downtown, and Anthony has a burden to reach people who live (or are homeless) in the downtown area. There was a period of his life when he was homeless.
Anthony’s earliest years were spent on and near the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming; his mother is Native American. Some of his earliest memories are of the Saint Stephens Mission, which is near Riverton on the Reservation. When he was four or five years old his parents divorced and he went to live with his father in Lander. There he did well in school, so well that twice he was moved up in grades, one time by two years. However, at age 14, while in high school, he got in trouble. Caught smoking with a friend by the school principal, he and his friend were expelled from school. Given an ultimatum by his father of two options that both seemed impossible, Anthony found himself on his own. So he left Lander to come to Idaho Falls where his mother lived. But he didn’t fit in with her life of alcohol, drugs and partying. So Anthony was on the streets in Idaho Falls. Complicating his life was the fact that he left Lander carrying no identity papers, which made getting a job in Idaho Falls nearly impossible.
Anthony will tell you that he was born again when he responded to an altar call at a Jehovah’s Witness church. Growing up he had had some exposure to the Catholic Church and Assemblies of God churches. Though his father quit going to church after his divorce, he insisted his kids still go, so they often went wherever someone would give them a ride. A Jehovah’s Witness lady was doing that. When Anthony went forward one Sunday to receive Christ, and was kneeling at the altar, he sensed a shadow come over him that became a huge bright light.
In Idaho Falls, Anthony was influenced by the people he hung out with, and unable to make money any other way, he turned to illegal activities. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but justified it to himself by thinking, “No one is taking care of me.” In fact he got so sick once from the guilt he felt that his aunt called an ambulance. Yet he needed money to live, and without identification papers, could not hold a job permanently.
By age 18 there were warrants out for his arrest in Idaho and Utah. But when he got word of it, he turned himself in, first in Idaho Falls and then again in Utah. Facing two 5-10 year sentences, and having an incompetent lawyer, things did not look good for him. But He had the Lord, and the Lord provided an opportunity in the courtroom for Anthony to explain to the judge the circumstances of his case. The judge, who had been ready to sentence him to prison, upon hearing his testimony dropped one charge, reduced the other from a felony to a misdemeanor, and pronounced a withheld judgement. Anthony is thankful for God’s hand in this because if he had been convicted he would not be able to minister in the Youth Center in St. Anthony as he has been doing.
It wasn’t long after Anthony’s legal problems were cleared up that he met his wife, Laura. Laura grew up in an LDS family, but found Christ through the Awanas program at Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls. After getting married, they moved to Las Vegas where they both attended a trade school, Laura in a medical assistant’s program and Anthony in business management. Getting away from Idaho Falls, Anthony was looking to start a new life. While in Las Vegas, Laura went with some girlfriends to midweek revival meetings of RW Shambach, and invited Anthony to go with them to the Friday night meeting. Anthony didn’t really believe that his wife had been going to religious meetings that week, and wasn’t interested in spending his Friday night with several women, but agreed to go just to see if his wife was telling the truth. There he responded to an invitation to rededicate his life to the Lord.
After finishing their studies, Anthony and Laura returned to Idaho Falls. They were starting to look for a church to attend when they saw a flier about a new church, meeting at the Westbank Hotel. They went to the first service and continued to attend Westside Assembly, later named Cornerstone Assembly. Anthony’s first sense of calling into the ministry occurred when a Native American group made a presentation at Cornerstone, and Anthony heard the Lord tell him to bring his family to Christ. Later he understood that to mean his aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Anthony helped with Royal Rangers at the church and was asked to be a deacon, but didn’t sense it was the right time.
In 1994, his brother-in-law was killed in a car accident and the following year his younger brother died of a drug overdose. Anthony struggled with why the Lord allowed these deaths and he turned away from the Lord. He poured his heart into his work, which grew to three businesses: a very successful landscaping business, an interior and exterior remodeling business and selling steel buildings. He was putting in long days working, and to stay awake started taking amphetamines. Then to fall asleep he would use alcohol.
Though Anthony was not seeking the Lord at this time, the Lord was at work drawing him back. Two business deals that fell through left Anthony deep in debt. Compounding his financial problems were three accidents that happened in a period of six months, totaling two vehicles and badly damaging a third. Somewhat miraculously Anthony escaped any serious injuries in all these accidents. Also during this time period his stepmother died and his father asked him to go to the funeral at the Saint Stevens Mission in Wyoming. The night before the funeral, Anthony had a dream about what would happen the next day, and the events of the day unfolded just as Anthony had seen in his dream. After this Anthony started seriously asking the Lord to take away his need for drugs and alcohol. Years earlier when Anthony had prayed this, the Lord immediately took away his desire for drugs and alcohol. But this time the Lord responded that He had done it once, and now he would have to overcome his addictions himself. For a couple months it was rough. With pain throughout his body that made him yearn to stay in bed all day, Anthony would get up and go to work only because of his wife’s insistence.
All of these things got Anthony to seek the Lord deeply in prayer. When he asked the Lord how he could get out of debt, the Lord told him to do what seemed illogical, not to accept every job that came his way, and to bid jobs much higher than he had been doing. The Lord told him to trust that He would bring him the jobs He wanted. Anthony did take on fewer jobs, cut back from running three crews to only one, and it wasn’t long before he had paid off his debts and obtained a good truck, something he didn’t have after the accidents.
At this time Anthony and Laura were still attending Cornerstone Assembly, and Anthony was teaching the Jr. and Sr. High youth as well as continuing to be involved in their Royal Ranger program. But he sensed the Lord had more for him to do.
One way that the Lord has used Anthony and his wife has been as foster parents. Over the years they have opened their hearts and home to 18 kids, 15 of which stayed for considerable periods of time. Three of these they adopted, one from birth.
About 2004 Laura met Bishop Taro Golden when he brought a client to her office, and after a second visit a connection was made. Anthony and Laura visited New Covenant COGIC once, and then again, and they both sensed the Lord leading them to become involved there. Over the next four years Anthony was trained to become a minister and then an elder, which in the Church of God in Christ denomination is essentially equivalent to being a pastor.
As Anthony prayed more about how the Lord could use him, he sensed the Lord was leading him to plant a church in Blackfoot or possibly Pocatello, and made numerous trips to Blackfoot to look for possible locations. He was offered pastoral positions in several places, including Boise, which would have been convenient for his wife to remain employed with the same company she was working for in Idaho Falls. But in the summer of 2013, Bishop Golden invited Anthony to lunch, and asked him to take over as pastor of New Covenant. While Anthony had been focused on Blackfoot, he did remember that three years previous he had told Laura that one day he would be the pastor of New Covenant. Bishop Golden also recommended getting a fresh start by finding a different meeting place and changing the name of the church. By November of that year, New Destiny began meeting in the Rogers Building.
Anthony has seen the Lord bring him through a lot, has learned to seek Him, listen to Him and obey Him. He desires to see God use him to bring healing, deliverance and growth. And just as important, Anthony wants New Destiny to send out capable servants of the Lord to minister wherever God leads them, whether in other churches in town or other places.