Pastor Mike & Ashton Santiago

Mike Santiago doesn’t necessarily advise would-be church planters to follow in his footsteps — marrying at 19 and having three children by the age of 23.

On the other hand, Santiago had the proper pedigree for a new church to be on a firm foundational footing. His grandfather, also named Mike Santiago, last year retired after he and his wife, Judy, spent 51 years — half the existence of the U.S. Assemblies of God — as missionaries to Latin America and Africa with AG World Missions. His parents, David and Dana Santiago, have been AGWM missionaries in Spain for 20 years.

Santiago, whose dad is Puerto Rican and mom is Alabaman, grew up as a missionary kid in Spain. After home schooling, he enrolled at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, at the age of 16. As he studied for a practical theology degree, Santiago became a youth pastor at 17 and married Ashton two years later.

Nearing the end of seven years of youth ministry in Florida, Santiago says the Lord spurred a desire in him to pastor an entire church, specifically in the Raleigh, North Carolina, region.

Mike and Ashton drove to Raleigh, where they didn’t know a soul, sat in a Panera restaurant, and sensed God’s confirmation as they saw numerous families with young children. The couple attended Church Multiplication Network training and a CMN Launch event. After starting in the family home with Ashton leading worship, Focus Church relocated to a Holiday Inn Express, elementary school, and finally a high school. Two trailers full of equipment must be set up and torn down every Sunday.

They are now looking forward to this new season.

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