By Robin Tench and Mark Ellis
This Mexican couple – now residing in the U.S. — clean homes with a higher purpose: to support homeless living in the shadows of one of the most affluent areas of California.
Gonzolo and Maria Villamar were teenagers in Mexico City when they found the Lord and began to devote their lives to missions work. They met at Bible College in Hidalgo, Mexico, married, and became young pastors ministering from village to village in central Mexico.
I (Robin) remember the day I met Gonzolo as they were cleaning my home for the second time. Gonzolo took my hand and said, “I can see from your open Bibles and baptism photo that you love Jesus. I want you to know that Maria and I are pastors.”
I was shocked as he told me their remarkable story.
Maria’s mom was a hard core alcoholic and Maria at age 13 had never seen a Bible. “I was at a neighbor’s house and they prayed before dinner. They showed me a Bible and a hymnal and told me to read John 3:16. My heart burned to know more,” Maria recalls.
As a result of their witness, Maria accepted Jesus as her personal Savior and began to serve at a nearby church, cleaning and doing anything she could to help. Then she began to preach in the parks and in a local jail while still a teenager.
Gonzolo also had a dramatic conversion. When he was 12, his brother had a dream about two angels who appeared and told him he must take his brothers to church. His brother was obedient to the angel’s command, they went to the church and Gonzolo received Christ, but soon fell back into the world.
At 17, Jesus appeared in a vision to Gonzolo and told him to leave home and go to Bible school to become a pastor. Gonzolo and Maria met at the school, married, and began full time ministry in remote villages in central Mexico.
Gonzolo had a brother in Southern California and a few years later, Gonzolo and Maria moved to Orange County. After they settled in Mission Viejo, Maria started a house cleaning business. But they never stopped ministering to the poor and homeless. In the midst of what appears to be one of the most affluent areas of the U.S., there is a surprising homeless population. Some are addicted or mentally unstable, others were impacted by the economic crisis that began in 2008.
Ten years ago in a vision, the Lord spoke to Gonzolo and showed him a street map of Mission Viejo with specific borders and told him that he must go serve the poor in that specific area. “The Lord said He would remove the principalities of Satan over the region,” Gonzolo says.
After holding home services and going directly to homeless people living along Los Alisos Creek for a few years, the Lord opened the door for them to have a building and Maria and Gonzolo launched the Centro Familiar Christiano Church.
Maria displays photos taken along Los Alisos Creek, where many homeless live in squalid shacks constructed of primitive materials. Maria and Gonzalo reach out to people they find there, and invite them to their church for a meal, shower, and to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Maria understands the ravages of addiction because of her mother’s alcoholism. They are willing to minister to desperate people that no one else wants to go near. They hold services almost every night; Tuesdays and Thursdays are prayer nights. The homeless often wait by the church doors until Gonzolo and Maria return after finishing their own grueling workdays as housecleaners.
Maria and Gonzalo speak of many miracles of provision and healing. One homeless man whom they led to the Lord now is called the “mailman,” since he spends his days handing out flyers about how to be saved by Jesus.
Their ministry continues to grow and recently one of their own homeless church members created a Facebook page for them, called “Homeless Ministry of South Orange County.”
It is encouraging to see the unique gifting and calling He placed in Maria and Gonzalo to fulfill the Great Commission. Their selfless, giving lives, inspires the people around them.
Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me” and “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, blind, and crippled.”
Soon Maria and Gonzolo celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary as they continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the needy.
Maria and Gonzalo’s church, Centro Familiar Christiano Church, is located at 25522 Jeronimo, in Mission Viejo, California.