Last fall, Oscar Muñoz finally returned home after eight months in the hospital and then in a rehabilitation center, where he regained his strength after battling complications from COVID-19.
Just weeks later, right around Thanksgiving, he was back at Iglesia Cristiana Alpha y Omega in Charlotte, participating in meetings and catching up with members — with a 12-liter oxygen tank beside him.
Muñoz planted Alpha and Omega in 2014, after a church his family attended ended its Spanish service. He was meeting with a small group, “without me knowing what God was going to do to us and with us,” he said.
“Why can’t we just start a new church here?” Muñoz recalled the group asking. He met William Ortega, Hispanic church planting strategist for N.C. Baptists, who helped him spend the next year preparing for a church plant. In August 2014, Alpha and Omega began meeting at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Charlotte.
This year, Alpha and Omega moved to a new location after outgrowing the meeting space at Woodlawn and needing a place particularly for children’s ministry. And now they’re starting a second plant back at Woodlawn.
“We let everybody settle, and then we’re reopening the old church again, and we’re starting with new people,” said Katherine Muñoz, Oscar’s daughter.
Church planting isn’t new to the Muñoz family. Oscar is originally from Chile and moved with his young family to Brazil more than 20 years ago. There they planted a church in São Paulo.
“We didn’t know what it was, it just happened as we were praying in our house,” Oscar said. “We were gathering together in small groups, so people started coming, and in three years we started the First Baptist Church of Jardim Alzira Franco.”
A few years later, the family moved to the United States.
“We still didn’t know the purpose,” said Oscar. They lived in New York City for eight years and then were drawn to North Carolina when they attended a wedding in 2006. They relocated two years later.
“One thing I learned is that going through the problems and struggles with Jesus is completely different than when we are without him.” — Oscar Muñoz
Giving back hope
Muñoz caught COVID-19 in February 2021. Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma on Feb. 25. He opened his eyes two months later but showed little response and was confused about who people were. In May, he was moved out of the intensive care unit and to a different hospital. He was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in September.
“I’m very grateful because our God has listened to our prayers,” Oscar said. “He was merciful on my family, and He rescued me, and He gave me life. When the doctor didn’t give me hope, I think with my life and with my testimony, we talked about Jesus inside.”
Katherine remembered a respiratory therapist who called her to her father’s bedside and said, “I always have heard about miracles, but I never believed in one because I haven’t seen one.
“This year has been some of the worst days we ever lived,” the therapist said. “We have lost so many people. We haven’t had positive results. But your father is a miracle, and I saw it. And that gives us hope in order to keep working.”
Oscar has since begun walking again and recently started driving again. His oxygen requirements have also decreased.
While he is grateful that ministry at Alpha and Omega never stopped, Oscar said his absence taught him the importance of discipling leaders and letting them grow into their roles. The way members stepped up gave pastors a chance to see the church from a different perspective.
Sickness also revealed more of God’s character.
“One thing I learned is that going through the problems and struggles with Jesus is completely different than when we are without him,” he said.
“The blessings have been great. God has shown Himself to us. … God has held on to my job. Food was never missing from my table at home. He gave everything we needed plus more.”
He has cherished seeing his grandchildren grow and being at his daughter’s wedding in November.
This March, Oscar baptized eight people at Alpha and Omega. And once membership grows at the second church meeting at Woodlawn, he hopes to plant a third.