GUADALAJARA, Mexico—From their native Peru, to Miami, to Guadalajara, Mexico, Alberto and Yoly Muñoz have discovered a passion for missions and a commitment to serve God.
The retired bankers from Miami have been serving as full-time missionaries in Guadalajara with the International Mission Board for the past seven years.
‘We have been able to move forward with the work here at a good pace because we understand the values, the culture and the colloquialisms.’
Originally from Peru, Alberto and Yoly believe that being Hispanic has helped them make inroads in sharing the gospel in Guadalajara. “When the locals see us, they don’t hesitate in communicating with us because we look like them and speak their language,” said Yoly. She added that they have a lot more in common with the Guadalajara residents than not. “We have been able to move forward with the work here at a good pace because we understand the values, the culture and the colloquialisms.”
The two are knowledgeable about the Catholic beliefs the people practice. “When we see that there is a pre-teen in the home, we know that there is a Bible in the home because when kids do their first communion, they get a Bible as a gift, and it is usually displayed like a decorative item. So, we take it from there and ask them if they have a Bible and casually mention that we teach Bible. Then we start teaching them using their own Bible, and later, when we have built trust, we gift them a Bible,” said Yoly.
Another common practice in Mexico is to sit vigil outside the house when there has been a death in the family. Usually, the family prays through a rosary as they sit vigil. Alberto and Yoly join the families in their vigils, but instead of praying through a rosary, they guide those who are grieving to read Bible verses.
One difficulty they have encountered has been in talking about Jesus’ mother, Mary. “This is a most sensitive point for them,” said Yoly. “We have lost some people when we explain that Mary was a human woman with no special powers and that we don’t pray to her.”
The missionary couple planted a church five years ago and is currently working to plant a second church in a neighborhood known for drugs and violence and where people desperately need God.
“Some families have been threatened, and they have moved away in fear,” commented Yoly. “The families we speak to are very fearful. Still, by God’s grace, we have been able to start building relationships with them.”
From losing jobs to finding Christ
The Muñozes moved to the United States in the early 80s to start their new life as husband and wife. They went to school, worked in a pizzeria, and lived within walking distance of their job in Coral Gables. During those first years in this new country, Yoly and Alberto became Christians.
“The pizzeria owner for some reason fired me and Yoly, and while we walked down Coral Way smelling of pizzas, we came across a newly planted Baptist church which we started attending,” recounted Alberto. Soon, Alberto and Yoly made professions of faith and were baptized.
From the moment they became believers, Alberto and Yoly have worked passionately in the ministry. They have taught Sunday school for children and adults; they have led life groups in their home and planted churches to reach Hispanics in Miami and even led 12 life groups at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Coral Park.
‘Passion for missions’ is sparked
The spark for international missions was ignited when the couple was sent on a short-term mission trip to Cuba by pastor David Menendez of Tamiami Baptist Church.
“We visited seven pastors in Cienfuegos (on Cuba’s southern coast), and we just fell in love with the people of Cuba, and it was then that God sparked in us a passion for missions,” said Alberto. “We saw so much need and lack of resources but despite that, the pastors moved forward sharing the gospel in the sweetest, most gentle way, and the people’s hearts were so fertile that they heard the gospel and believed.”
One day several years after their Cuba trip, Yoly had hip surgery and stayed home to heal. To pass the time, she browsed the internet and somehow ended up on the International Mission Board’s website. She filled out an application but soon forgot about it as she jumped back into her day-to-day responsibilities. Then, when the bank where they worked unexpectedly closed, the couple found themselves in a sort of forced retirement.
Again, God used the loss of jobs for His purposes.
“Alberto then remembered the application and asked me if I had closed it. I told him I had not, and so we took up the process again, went through the four-month-long training, and were the first in our group to be sent out to our mission field,” said Yoly.
“We are here because God has called us to work with families who need to hear the gospel,” said Yoly. “We will work as long as the Lord allows us to.”