On Thursday, September 1, 2022, longtime pastor, professor, and author Alfonso Valenzuela passed to his rest after a long illness. Valenzuela is survived by his wife, Jeanine; their two children, Veruschka and Alan; four beloved grandchildren; his brothers, Abdiel and Alberto; and his sisters, Alma and Adriana.
Born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on March 6, 1954, Valenzuela and his immediate family were not raised Adventist. By a stroke of divine providence, an Adventist pastor moved in next door when he was a teenager. The pastor noticed the Valenzuela brothers, Alfonso and Alberto, dribbling the ball on their way back from playing basketball, so he asked them if they’d like to play basketball with their church team. Turned out that the church team, including the pastor himself, did not play basketball well at all, but a meaningful connection was made, and the Valenzuela family heard the gospel.
Both Alfonso and his brother Alberto were baptized into the Adventist church on February 2, 1972. In September of that year, Alfonso began his studies at Montemorelos University.
“On the path of life, he sowed the seeds of love, friendship, and service. He leaves us the legacy of knowledge and inspiration of faithful and self-sacrificing pastoral ministry.”
He received his bachelor’s degree in theology from Montemorelos, an M.Div. from Andrews University, and a master’s in psychology from National University. He also attained a D.Min. and a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary and went on to become a highly sought-after speaker for his expertise in the area of marriage and family life.
He lectured throughout the world—including Russia, England, Africa, South America, Puerto Rico, and Mexico—and all over the United States. In addition to the dozens of articles he wrote, he was also the author of several books on marriage, family, and preaching. He was a pastor and youth leader for several years in Los Angeles and taught counseling and marriage and family studies at Andrews University for almost 20 years. He served as vice chairman of the Tulare (California) County Mental Health Board and was nationally certified in Family Wellness, and he also pursued a license in Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of California. At the time of his passing, he was serving as pastor of the Yucaipa Spanish church in the Southeastern California Conference.
Throughout his more than 50 years of ministry and service, Valenzuela forged numerous lifelong connections. The following are remembrances from just a few of the many he touched through his friendship and mentorship.
(Retired) Vice President, Pacific Union Conference 2006-2016
I first met Alfonso when I was the senior pastor at the Spanish American church in East Los Angeles. Even though I was the senior pastor and older, I looked to him as a colleague and as a friend. Even after we went our different directions, we always kept in touch. He always said that I was his mentor, and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with him in his early formative years in pastoral work. He was just a giant in the Adventist world, especially in the Adventist Hispanic world. I was extremely proud to have had the opportunity to know him and be his friend. I think his legacy will be that he was someone who used his gifts to help congregations, to help students, and as an example of what individuals of humble beginnings can do with their lives for the betterment of society and the church. He left an incredibly powerful example of how a person who dedicates their life to God can be utilized by Him to serve others.
Communication Director, Pacific Union Conference
Our friendship began when Alfonso and I were both working in the Youth Department in Southern California in the early 1980s. We both loved reading, arguing about theology, the Beatles, and street tacos. We hung out at work, met each other’s families, and traveled together. We became brothers. When I became the Youth Director and assigned him to directing the Pathfinder program, he took me out for tacos. He could eat more tacos than anyone I ever knew. Alfonso succeeded in every endeavor to which he turned his brilliant mind and endless energy. He was respected as a scholar, teacher, counselor, writer, and pastor. I preached at his church recently, and he was too ill to sit through the service, but we still went to lunch afterwards, and he was still stealing food off my plate, as always. I am devastated by his loss. I will miss him more than I can possibly say. May his rest be peaceful.
Vice President for Church Ministries, Southwestern Union Conference
I first met Alfonso in the early 80s when we were both at the Southern California Conference. He was very down-to-earth. I was still a student, so I was very respectful, always addressing him as Elder Valenzuela. He would say, “Call me Alfonso. I’m going to call you Pastor Anobile until you call me Alfonso.” A few years later, he pointed out a young lady named Lisa and said, “I think she’s going to be your wife.” Lisa and I eventually got engaged. When we got married, Alfonso said to me, “I’ve only worn a tuxedo twice, at my wedding and yours. I don’t do this for just anyone, but I’ll do it for you.” The last time I saw him was in April 2022. The legacy he leaves is that he has impacted so many lives around the world and probably saved many marriages. When he called me in April, I canceled all my plans and flew out to see him. This is just huge loss for me personally, as well as for the church. He made an impact at Andrews University and around the world through his books and his work in family and marriage counseling. He was a great soldier of God.
Vice President for Hispanic Ministries, Southeastern California Conference
I had the privilege of being Alfonso’s student when I was doing my doctoral studies. He personally inspired me to academic excellence. My friendship with Pastor Valenzuela transcended our professional relationship. Our favorite place to meet was the Pancho Villa restaurant in San Bernardino to enjoy good food and talk about life and ministry. I am honored to have called him a friend. His life was multifaceted—he served this church as a college professor, pastor, writer, mentor, and counselor. He will be remembered for his integrity and transparency. For now, I simply await the fulfillment of the promise of the glorious resurrection morning.
Pastor Alfonso Valenzuela's legacy will defy the passage of time, for what he sowed will continue to bear fruit for years to come (Revelation 14:13). On the path of life, he sowed the seeds of love, friendship, and service. He leaves us the legacy of knowledge and inspiration of faithful and self-sacrificing pastoral ministry.
Cousin, and Pastor of Maranatha Spanish Church, Las Vegas, Nevada
It is with deep pain I offer these words in memory of Dr. Alfonso Valenzuela, who was a friend, counselor, and teacher but also my cousin. He leaves a great legacy as a teacher and spiritual mentor to multiple generations of pastors at Andrews University, where he taught for so many years. I remember him with great affection in the different classes and activities that I had with him. We carry what he taught us far beyond the classroom to our work as pastors. He impacted so many lives around the world. A soldier has fallen, but we also remember the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus, when we will meet again and where there will be no more separation from loved ones.
Vice President for Hispanic Ministries, Pacific Union Conference
I first met Alfonso when I was a student at Andrews University. He was a professor who spoke with great authority and was very knowledgeable. He longed to see his students grow and learn in their respective professions. I came to greatly respect him as a professor and a pastor. Later, when I was vice president for Hispanic Ministries at Southeastern California Conference, I invited him to pastor a church in Indio. He had a passion for souls, and he took a keen interest in the family welfare of our brotherhood of pastors. He shared with many of us practical principles for a healthy home. I believe his greatest legacy was a longing to see happy marriages. I was very saddened to learn of his passing. Amongst the Adventist Hispanic community, a prince of Israel was called to rest.
A life of service
“I can’t believe it. I still have so much to give!” Alfonso said upon being put on medical leave in July of 2022.
Even in his last difficult days, Alfonso Valenzuela longed to connect with people. He taught his last class on Zoom two weeks before his passing. He stayed in contact with his Yucaipa Spanish church family. He attended church one last time two weeks prior to his passing, despite the physical challenges of getting to church.
He once confided to a sibling that as a young man he had always seen himself speaking to large multitudes. Throughout his life he did that—not just on Sabbath mornings as a pastor but through numerous books, courses, and the ripple effect of his words, friendship, and heartfelt longing to see others thrive.
Those whose lives were impacted by him anxiously await the day of resurrection when they will be reunited with their husband, father, grandfather, brother, mentor, and dear friend Alfonso Valenzuela once again.