Salvation Story

Coming to America

Unexpected love led to a lifetime covenant for Envoys Alberto and Florinelvi Giraldo. by Major Frank Duracher

People migrate to America for a variety of reasons. In the early decades of our infant nation, it was usually for religious freedom, freedom from class distinctions, or even in search of riches in the New World. Pursuit of “the American dream” continues to be the most common aim.

For most of his life, Alberto Giraldo wanted to be one thing — a pastor. He is convinced that God brought him to this country to ultimately fulfill that plan. The same would prove to be true for Florinelvi (“Ody” for short) — but she didn’t know it.

Conversely, for most of her life, Ody would have been happy being anything but one thing — a pastor’s wife. 

Even when they met, neither imagined they would spend the rest of their lives together. Little did either of them know their unexpected love would lead to a lifelong covenant.

The two who are now husband and wife were raised in Christian homes. He accepted Christ as Savior when he was 13 years old and began to faithfully serve the Lord at his home in Colombia. Ody accepted the gift of salvation at age nine and was very active in her church in Guatemala.

Alberto came to the United States in 1980 and went right to work in a Methodist church.

“I have long possessed a call to serve God and had the desire to become an evangelist or a fulltime pastor,” he says.

Ody arrived in America in 1986 and began serving in her Baptist church.

They met in Rockford, Illinois; much later falling in love. But their union very nearly didn’t happen. In fact, Alberto had other plans entirely.

What God willed for these two was unthinkable at their first encounter. One day a newly engaged Alberto Giraldo walked into a jewelry store to buy the ring. Ody was the clerk who rang up his purchase.

“But I had nothing to do with their breakup!” Ody is very quick to point out.

“That’s right, she didn’t,” Alberto admits.

The fact is, his engagement ended some time later and Alberto did not run into Ody again until an even longer period afterward.

“She was in a youth group from another church, that came to my church for a young adult event,” Alberto says. “A friend of mine pointed her out and asked me if I knew her. I said, ‘That’s the lady from the jewelry store.’”

Obviously, Alberto had no problem remembering the lovely lady, even if he didn’t know her name.

They started dating and as love grew more serious, they married. That’s when Alberto “popped the question”—not about marriage (they had already wed)—but about ministry.

“After we married, I shared with her my desire (to be a pastor),” Alberto admits, but he wasn’t expecting her reaction. 

“Absolutely not!” Ody cried, “I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife!”

Alberto’s only recourse was to pray: “So, I began to pray and a few months later, the Lord answered my prayer when Ody told me that she had also now received a call to serve Jesus.” 

Ody now admits that the Lord had other plans for her life and just as He had brought the two together, so should theirs be a shared calling. After much prayer, she revealed to her husband that she, too, would be obedient to God’s will for their lives and their marriage.

Armed each with a calling to minister, the couple had only to find an avenue in which to serve for a lifetime. They started looking for a seminary or college to study for the ministry. God opened a way for the couple to go to Guatemala City to attend the Seteca Central American Seminary.

After four years of study, they became pastors to four different churches over the next 13 years. God blessed them with spiritual and numerical growth in each church.

The Giraldos returned to the U.S. in 2009, resettling in Rockford. 

Alberto continues, “My sister-in-law is a soldier at The Salvation Army Rockford Temple Corps. This is where Ody and I became soldiers after a year. During that year, I wanted to continue serving the Lord and preaching and I was blessed to preach to the Hispanic congregation at the Rockford Temple.”

Soon, Ody and Alberto agreed that they needed to serve God fulltime in The Salvation Army. In 2012 they became envoys and were sent to lead the Hispanic Ministries at the Des Plaines Corps in the Chicago area. 

“We believe our marriage covenant is so important,” Alberto says. “Our commitment is not only to each other, but even more important, to God!”

As corps administrators for Hispanic Ministries of the Des Plaines Corps, the Giraldos conducted their pastoral duties as fulfilling a covenant with each of the members of their flock.

“As God prepared us to meet each other and serve together in ministry, so has He prepared the two of us to love and pastor our soldiers and friends there in Des Plaines,” Alberto explains.

The corps is a healthy, and vibrant, ministry with many innovative programs. In the few years they served there, the soldiers roll doubled from 90 to 180.

In 2022, after 10 years at Des Plaines, Envoys Alberto and Florinelvi Giraldo were transferred to the South Side of Chicago, at the Lawn Corps—an Hispanic congregation with great leadership potential.

“We immediately took on this new challenge to serve the Lord in this place. We have already seen the movement of God, giving us spiritual and numerical growth in our first year,” Alberto says.

“Many of our corps family are married couples, and we want our marriage to be an example to them of what an unbeatable team we all can make when we are partnered with Jesus Christ,” Ody says.

The couple considers their lives to be “two miracles that came together as one (miracle).”

They admit that many obstacles have come and will continue to come as they live out their calling. But they also rely on God, Who helped them “overcome all those obstacles and Who will continue to do great wonders in our lives!”