Noelle Montero was twelve years old when she had her first major brain hemorrhage. Her family had just returned from missionary work in Malaysia where Noelle had spent the early years of her childhood. “My parents were told that I had a brain tumor and wasn’t expected to live…but God had other plans,” recalls Noelle. “I recovered completely and, although I had issues with occasional epileptic seizures, I went on to live a normal life for the next twenty years, becoming a wife and mother to two foster daughters. I also developed my sewing skills to become a seamstress and freelance fashion designer.”

At the age of 27, she underwent multiple brain surgeries in the hopes of curing her epileptic seizures. The final surgery removed critical scar tissue and she was told she could now pursue her hope of having a baby. However, 7 years later, an adverse reaction to fertility drugs resulted in another brain hemorrhage that took away eyesight in one eye and left her without the ability to speak or walk. “A year of therapy restored my speech and some mobility, but when I experienced another hemorrhage, my doctors told me to go home, get my affairs in order and wait to die. I decided to wait and see what God said,” recalls Noelle. “He blessed me with one final surgery performed by a Los Angeles surgeon we found through an internet search, and I have been free from brain hemorrhages for the past 18 years.”

“Fast forward to the present,” says Noelle. “My marriage ended and I am now a single woman with limited mobility, living on my own in downtown San Diego. I found myself with my whole life turned upside down once again. My dad gave me some valuable advice to remember that although I was discouraged…weakness and discouragement are things God could work with me on. I began attending the Rock Church and began searching for a ministry that I could serve in. When I found the Rock Church Thrift Store, I wondered if God was giving me a second chance to somehow use my sewing and fashion design skills to serve others and glorify the Lord. After my first visit, I knew at once that this thrift store is different from all others…it is a place where the community finds blessing, compassion and prayer.”

“I am constantly thinking of ways to bring people into the store,” says Noelle. “At the Rock Thrift Store, we have beautiful clothing, jewelry and accessories which get a second chance at usefulness when they are discovered by shoppers. I had a vision for a Fall Fashion Show to show women ways to clothe themselves with compassion, strength, humility, and splendor whether they are at home, school, work, or at play. I invited several people from the Acquired Brain Injury Program at Mesa College to be runway models in the fashion show and they gladly volunteered.”

On the day of the fashion show, over 50 people were in attendance to enjoy the show, refreshments and participate in a raffle for prizes. In the future, Noelle hopes to reach out to young women through a fashion show focusing on Prom and Bridal Fashions. “When I was designing clothes years ago,” says Noelle, “my specialty was Prom and Bridal designs. Now I find myself here 20 years later and God is allowing me to put my skills into service again. This is more that a second chance…this is a beautiful mystery…a divine appointment created by my loving God.”

~by Diane Hoskins