Faithful from the Start –

By Jenifer Jones –

It’s 84 degrees when church begins at 10:00 A.M. The high for Monterrey, Mexico is forecast at 102 today. Pastor Florencio Guzman puts on his suit jacket and steps behind the pulpit. 

The building has no air conditioning. Speaking over the roar of several blowing fans he says, “The heat is really strong. But we’re thankful for the heat of the Spirit.”  

At 83 years old, Florencio has been a pastor and cross-cultural witness (CCW) for decades.  He and his wife Maria were in the first class of CCWs to be sent out with TMS Global (what was then The Mission Society for United Methodists) after it began in 1984.  

Along with their two sons, Joshua and Johnny, they’ve planted churches; led programs for pastors, women, and children; discipled countless people, and more. They’ve ministered in Florencio’s native Peru, as well as other countries in Latin America. But they’ve spent the majority of their time in Maria’s native Mexico, specifically in Monterrey.   

While Florencio preaches, Maria is in the church kitchen, preparing an after-service meal for the congregation.  

Esther Espejo, who grew up in the church and affectionately calls Maria “Aunt Maria” says Maria has the best flavor in the world. “She has a gift with her hands in making food,” Esther says. “She is the most dedicated woman. When we had the groups of kids together, she made all the food for all of them.” 

Esther testifies that Maria and Florencio have always been there for her family. Esther’s mom participated in a sewing class taught by Maria and learned skills that helped lead to better employment.  

“I was never hungry,” Esther says. “I never went without having shoes, because God always used Pastor Florencio to supply those things. He would always bring food for my mom to cook. Even though we didn’t have anything to eat, we knew that he was coming at 12:00 and we ate so good.” 

She remembers a birthday when her family didn’t have money to celebrate. But Florencio arrived with three cakes.  

“Talking about Pastor Florencio is to talk about the best childhood anyone could have,” Esther says. 

Esther’s home is now becoming a place where kids and their parents gather to learn about God. 

Taco night. Corn tortillas sizzle in a pan as Julian Salinas prepares for a taco night with his sister Lulu, other family, and guests. Florencio has been the Salinas’s pastor for 30 years. “I think probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is about serving,” Lulu says.  

Her brother Julian says Pastor Florencio is an example of humility, passion, and service. “In watching Pastor Florencio, we have seen him not just stand behind a pulpit, but do lots of other things,” Julian says. “He mixes concrete together. He sweeps, he drives, he does all these things that a servant would do, and we see him doing the things that Jesus did.” 

Lulu says Florencio is like her second father. “I can say 100 percent that his love and his actions are a reflection of God like an extension of God’s hand.”  

Sunday school. Entrance to Myriam Alvarez’s house is by way of an enclosed porch. The space is decorated with artwork depicting Bible verses, a shelf holding craft supplies, and other things you might expect to find in a Sunday school classroom.  

“This porch is a ministry,” she says. From Sunday through Friday, children of various ages come to Myriam’s house for preschool, tutoring, and to learn about Jesus.   

“I do this because I love Jesus and because I love kids,” Myriam says. “And because God said to spread His word. And it’s something that I learned from Pastor Florencio.” 

Myriam has known the Guzman family since she was a child herself, and her family started attending their church. “Florencio and Maria changed my life and took me down a path that maybe I wouldn’t have gone down otherwise.” 

The kids that Myriam is discipling are not only learning themselves but sharing the gospel with their family and friends. In this way, the influence of the Guzman family continues to ripple through generations.  

For example, Johnny Guzman was a small child when his parents joined TMS Global. Today, he and his wife, Marichuy, are global partners with TMS Global, working with Johnny’s parents.

Johnny says the idea for him to help his parents began when he was just eight or nine years old, when TMS Global sent his parents a computer.  

“Every time they went out, I played with it,” Johnny says. “Finally they caught me playing with the computer. But they realized that technology was kind of my thing.” Shortly after, he became his father’s secretary, typing his father’s work on the computer.  

Johnny says Mexicans today need to hear that Jesus is with them, and that they are not alone.  

Marichuy says when it comes to the next 40 years of ministry in Monterrey, “If people know Jesus, then our mission will be completed.” 

God loves you. Florencio and Maria Guzman sit together on a couch in Johnny’s apartment, recounting God’s work in their lives (photo right).  

As a young man Florencio was ready to kill himself when a man showed up at his door and said, “God loves you,” changing Florencio’s life forever. Maria gave up a lucrative position at a global company to attend a newly opened Bible school, now seminary, in Monterrey.  “I wouldn’t change anything,” Maria says.  

Florencio is quick to point out that his life’s work has been a team effort. Any fruit has been the result of many people working together, and above all, Jesus Christ. “He is the Commander in Chief,” Florencio says. “The glory is to him.”  

His advice for new CCWs: “The best thing is to learn how people live and be patient and empathetic with their situation. Above all, love is the more significant thing to consider. The best way to communicate the gospel is to develop friendships with people.”  

Maria notes, “I think the first thing that we need to communicate to people is that we really are interested in them as persons, as individuals.”  

When Florencio first gave his life to Jesus, a pastor told him, “You’ve found Christ, but now you have a mission: to go and share what you’ve found.” Florencio and Maria remain confident they still have a mission to accomplish and still take joy in sharing what they’ve found.

The Guzmans are among hundreds of missionaries (cross-cultural witnesses) who have been sent out by TMS Global, formerly The Mission Society for United Methodists, since its founding in 1984. Good News readers have prayerfully journeyed with us through the decades. We invite you to join us in Atlanta as we celebrate 40 years of God’s faithfulness and look forward to all that he will do in the generation to come. See ad on page 41. 

Jenifer Jones is a communicator for TMS Global ( Photo: Maria and Florencio Guzman. 


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