Travel to Israel had long been a desire of Juan Munoz, longtime pastor of Arlington’s Iglesia Bautista Cristo es el Camino, and his wife of 44 years, Nina.
Calling the opportunity to go on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention-sponsored Holy Land trip for pastors and wives in July a “privilege,” Munoz said, “It was a dream that my wife and I had. It finally came true.” The couple cried and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, among many moving experiences.
Little did they know that the Lord had also prepared gospel encounters for them in the land of Jesus.
For example, outside a Byzantine church in Bethlehem visited by the SBTC group, a Palestinian man approached Munoz, asking the pastor to pray for him after striking up a conversation.
Munoz also had the chance to share the gospel directly in an unexpected place: the lobby of the Lady Stern hotel, where the group stayed in Jerusalem.
A divine appointment
Relaxing with his laptop in the hotel’s plush sitting area after dinner, the Munozes were joined in the lobby by Jesse Rodriguez, of Murphy Church. Rodriguez planned to help Pastor Munoz with a computer issue.
As he sat, Munoz noticed a younger Latina sitting nearby and offered a friendly, “Hola.”
“Hola,” she replied with a smile. The Munozes learned the woman’s name was Paola, that she was from Colombia, and was visiting Israel with her husband, Fernando, who soon joined the group.
Paola and Fernando said that they had come to know the land of Jesus Christ, Munoz said.
“It’s great that you came to know Jesus’ land,” Munoz said in response, “but can I talk to you a little bit about Jesus?”
The couple listened eagerly as Munoz explained about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus did all of this for us because He loves us. He loves you so much,” he continued.
When he asked the couple if they would like to trust Christ as their Savior, they both said yes and prayed to receive Him.
“Let me tell you the great news,” Pastor Munoz said. “You came to know even more about the land of Jesus Christ. But now you not only know the land of Jesus, you know him as your Savior,” assuring the couple that they now had eternal life.
“They were excited and wanted to know more,” Munoz said. The two couples exchanged contact information.
A last chance
Then Munoz asked the couple how he could pray for their needs.
Paola admitted to loneliness and fear of abandonment.
“God will never abandon you,” Munoz counseled. “He will live with you all the time. You are not going to feel lonely.” Paola started to cry, and Nina hugged her. Soon tears filled everyone’s eyes.
Fernando spoke next. The couple had also come to Israel in a “last chance” effort to save their faltering 14-year marriage.
“We decided to come to Israel to see if God could do something for us,” he admitted.
“Now you have Jesus with you. This world is an infernal world. It is bad. The only way that we are going to be able to survive these attacks of the enemy … Satan … is by getting close to God. This is what you guys did today,” Munoz said, referencing Ephesians 6 as a guide for believers.
“Now you have someone to defend you. You have Jesus on your side. Trust Him and never give up,” the pastor continued, advising, “Don’t even mention divorce. Don’t even mention each other’s faults. Focus on the good things.”
He prayed for the couple and asked God to heal and bless their marriage. He suggested that they ask each other for forgiveness, which they did, amid more tears.
A saved marriage
“Hola, mis amigos,” Paola exclaimed when Juan and Nina came down for breakfast the next morning. Fernando rose from the table and gave them a hug.
“How’s everything? How do you feel?” Munoz asked the smiling couple, who thanked him again for what he had told them the night before.
Soon the two Colombians left with their tour guide for Jordan while the Munozes joined the SBTC group for the day’s activities. An apparently “chance” encounter had reaped eternal benefits.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Pastor Munoz has been in contact with the couple, who have assured him that they are doing well and even intend to visit Texas one day soon. He has sent them encouraging messages and texts.
“I just praise God for the opportunity,” Munoz said. “We did enter their lives and they had a tremendous need. It was orchestrated by God.”