I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1937. I am the third oldest in a family of nine children. I have six brothers and two sisters.
My parents were farmers. My mother was 15 when her parents passed away. After that, she started working on Grandfather’s farm. The farm had over 500 heads of cattle. My father lost a hand to a seed grinder. After his accident, he became very earnest about being close to God. He later became a public accountant.
My parents taught us to pray before each meal. We learned to pray the Apostle’s Creed in Church. My parents prayed almost every day to ask God’s help. My father taught us about right and wrong and moral principles for living. We all went to Church together, learned the Catechism, and we were all confirmed in the Church. Through growing up in the Catholic community, I learned the teachings of the Bible and it led me to have faith for salvation in Jesus Christ.
My mother taught me to be nice to people. She noticed what my interests were and put me to work. She put me in charge of raising the songbirds. I had fun taking care of the canaries. We also had other types of songbirds. I remember one day she said to me, “Why shouldn’t you be a teacher like your Uncle Javier?” My Uncle Javier was a popular school principal. He was very knowledgeable about many subjects and he loved working with kids. He treated them like his own family.
From then, I knew what I wanted to do. My mother sent me to the best schools so that I could be on the path to get my credentials as a teacher in Mexico. I moved to Morelia, about 3 hours away, to go to an elementary school. Like my songbirds, I liked to sing. I was a soloist in the “El Coro de los Niños Cantores de Morelia”, a famous international children’s choir. I still remember the hymn I sang in Latin, based on Psalm 51:10: “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God”.
After graduating, I moved to Queretaro (about 4 hours away from Guadalajara) to attend a secondary school. After completing my first year at preparatory school, I moved to Brownsville, Texas to complete my preparatory studies on a cultural exchange program. I learned how to speak English when I was in Texas. I returned to Mexico to complete my teacher training at a university.
While at university, my Christian faith was transformed through the life and teachings of Brother Basilio Rueda.
Brother Basilio was a simple man, full of grace and life. He was a deeply spiritual man who knew God and the Bible. He showed me how a Christian ought to live: to strive for excellence; to use my God-given talents for others; to serve with a joyful spirit. My faith became a reasoned, authentic faith. With this faith, the world became my classroom and my students.
I took my job as a teacher very seriously. I was young, but being a teacher, I needed to be the example for everyone around me. I taught in school for several years, and also gave private lessons to those who wanted to learn English and Spanish. One of those persons worked at the Mexican consulate at Nogales. At 24, someone gave me the idea to go to the U.S. for work, thinking I would teach, as I was bilingual. With my contact at the Mexican consulate, my paperwork was approved quickly and I entered the U.S. in less than one week.
It was more difficult than I thought to transfer my credential to work as a teacher in the U.S. I found a job working as a lab technician in photography; it paid well. I was a dedicated worker and earned the trust of my employer. Soon, I became a supervisor managing multiple departments. Although I had found success, I knew in my heart that I wanted to teach. I was married by then and had a young family. To take care of my family, I found part time work as a P.E. teacher and as an assistant teacher at schools where my children were attending. I was working long hours, 7 days a week! I spent 2 to 3 hours a night with my kids before they went to bed, because it was important to me to be in their lives. I also found time to be a soccer and a volleyball coach and play music in a mariachi band. During this time, I was not close to God.
When my kids grew up, life slowed down, but my wife and I were still doing many activities in the community. My son and daughter-in-law invited us to come to church with them. In the service, the pastor read from Psalm 51:12-13:
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
I was busy with many things, but in my heart, I wanted to serve God. I prayed, “God, give me a clean heart to be useful for Your work.” The church had announced a mission trip to Haiti. As I continued to pray, my prayers turned into: “God, give me a clean heart to help people in the mission of Haiti.” I went with the church team to serve in Haiti**.
I worked at the photography lab for 46 years during the swing shift. Through my part-time teaching job over the years, I taught many students, even the difficult ones. It was my joy to teach them. I exposed the students to love and I encouraged each of them to follow their strengths. I was surprised to learn that my students still remember the principles which I taught them. More than fifty-five of them became teachers!
Looking back on my life, I am more aware of the grace of God, the limitations of humanity, and that God will often put us in a spot where we need His help; especially when trouble comes, it is helpful for us to get close to God.
**Click here to read about Alfonso – The Violin Story
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