The Testimony of Manuel and Nellie Sanguino
In 1996 Manuel and Nellie Sanguino had a mess on their hands—a marriage mess. Their relationship was dysfunctional and they had lost hope. Divorce was the only route they could see ahead.
One of the main problems was their priorities. Manuel was in sales and traveled extensively. Nellie was a nurse and worked at a hospital. They lived in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in the city of Merida. They had two children—Alicia was five and Fernando was three. They had no time for each other; they found their work to be an escape from the pain in their marriage.
Manuel struggled with alcohol and sometimes mistreated Nellie. Although they lived together, they did not have a relationship. They were so hopeless about their situation they did not even consider getting help; instead, they decided to get a divorce. Then something happened that moved them from a mess to a miracle.
Nellie had grown up in a Christian home and recalled the example her parents had lived out in their own marriage. So despite the mistreatment and alcohol problems, she decided to give Manuel another chance. They began to look for something that might help. That’s when God stepped in. Their friends, Pablo and Graciela Bernal, were on staff with Cru. Pablo encouraged them to travel to Miami, FL to attend a Weekend to Remember® event. The speakers were Dr. Leonel Motta and his wife, Miriam.
They wanted to go to Miami, but they didn’t have enough money to cover the expenses for the trip. Manual had just bought a set of language lesson CDs so he could learn to speak English. He sold the CDs to help pay for the plane tickets to Miami.
Not only did God turn their marriage mess into the miracle of a healed marriage at the Weekend to Remember, but they began to get a vision that God could use them to launch and lead a ministry to couples.
“After the Weekend to Remember experience, we stayed another week so we could participate in the speakers’ training and the HomeBuilders small group study training,” Nellie says.
The next year they joined couples from throughout Latin America in Cuernavaca, Mexico and received more training to help them develop the skills and strategies they could use to help other couples. They arrived late to the large conference room and only two seats were left—right next to the “gringo couple.” The Sanguinos couldn’t speak English and did not want to sit next to this couple. But they had no choice. They decided when the next session started they would find different seats. But again only two seats were open, and again they sat next to the “gringo couple.”
Later on they had some free time and went down to the city square. Manuel felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, and there was the “gringo couple” again! That’s when they began to understand that God wanted them to connect with this couple–John and Shirley Wind, missionaries who lived in Merida, Mexico (the Sanguinos’ home town).
John and Shirley were faithful to mentor and encourage Manuel and Nellie as they launched and led the Merida outreach, which included recruiting a FamilyLife committee, launching HomeBuilders groups, and organizing FamilyLife conferences. The Sanguinos now lead the FamilyLife Team in Merida with four other couples, all of whom lead their own HomeBuilders small group studies. That adds up to about 20 study groups per year for the past 15 years. They also introduced the HomeBuilders series to Pastor Villanueva. He has trained over 1,000 people in HomeBuilders small groups. Pastor Villanueva introduced this resource to the Baptist Seminary in Merida, and it’s now a part of their curriculum. That’s a snapshot of what God can do with healed hearts.
God delivered the Sanguinos from a mess and gave them a multi-fold miracle: a healed marriage, a third child (Alberto), and a ministry to help couples in Merida. The miracle of God’s work through Manual and Nellie will likely be seen for generations to come.