Pastor Romelio Perez Muñoz, 65, is from Mexico City. Fifteen years ago he moved with his family to Tijuana to serve among the poorest communities.
"I never imagined being behind a pulpit," he said. "It was my wife who had always enjoyed serving at the church, especially working with children in Mexico."
Romelio’s wife Marina Navidad was the children's pastor of a struggling church in Mexico City when their senior pastor gave up and left them without leadership. Marina took over. "We could not abandon the congregation; there were new families who had just joined us. So she began officiating services in our home," Pastor Romelio said.
In 1993, one of their friends who was a pastor advised Marina to go to school so that she could further develop her call to church leadership. So she enrolled in seminary and enlisted her husband Romelio to help her study. It was during this time that Pastor Romelio, who was an accountant, discovered his own spiritual vocation.
"All up to this point my only role in the church was setting up chairs and tables. I had been the support system of my wife, but God stirred in me the desire to serve him personally." Pastor Romelio said.
So he joined his wife and together they received diplomas in Biblical Studies three years later. During that time they had been able to find a building for the church and had been able to send their daughter to University.
One of Romelio’s friends from San Diego, who had been helping him learn more about Lutheran doctrine, invited him to work in Tijuana to lead a couple of churches. Even though he had a Pentecostal background, the lack of pastors willing to serve in Mexico made him the only viable option to lead a church in Tijuana. Pastor Romelio felt torn, but he was offered full support. "I felt God was calling me to serve him full time," he said. The cultural shock was immediate.
"When I arrived to Tijuana I was struck by the poverty, all I saw was dirt everywhere. My son, who was already enrolled in High-School, didn't get a spot in the local High-School and my daughter had to returned to Mexico City because the University would not transfer her credits from her other school."
However, despite the difficulty the family could not go back. "We loved the work of God. We saw a lot of need and it had always been our job to help restore what others had let fall off. We arrived in May and as soon as we landed I began knocking door by door. It's been 15 years and four months since."
Pastor Romelio partnered with Amor after an invitation by Pastor Armando in 2006.
"It has blessed our hearts to witness the transformation of lives. In particular we are grateful for the food bank that has allowed us to help families in need." Pastor Romelio said.
"The most shocking thing to witness is when I see the good disposition of the participants when they are building together. It's incredible when you think of all the things they let go when they decide to get on a plane (and come here to build homes). I'm humbled by their sacrifice."
In 2011 Pastor Romelio lost overnight the monetary support he had depended on for the last 15 years. His advocate in the church leadership passed away and was replaced by a new administrator who wants to build a new orphanage in place of the church. For the past two years the constant tension of losing his church in the middle of a political battle with the new administration of the church has taken a toll on his health.
"I don't know where they want me to move the church? I was worried people would not have a place to go and all the work of 15 years would be destroyed." he said. "Fortunately my Doctor convinced me that I needed to let it go and in my recent tests God has restored my health and given me faith he will restore the church."
Pastor Romelio's daughter lives in Puebla with her family and became a dental surgeon. His son studied accounting and is currently the worship pastor at the church. One thing he would like everyone know: '"I'm extremely blessed by my wife of 37 years."