Handy Helper

Pastor, Retiree Teaches Finance While Looking Out for Others

By Amy Morgan

Good Neighbor José Zambrana learned at a young age to not look “after his own interests, but … to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:4) As a young boy, he accompanied his uncle as he helped neighbors with odd jobs and renovation projects. By age 11 José was developing a heart of a servant while learning to paint and spackle, skills that served him well in the handyman business he ran for five years in the early 2000s.


José and his wife, Evie, have been married 51 year. They lived 67 years in the Northeast before moving to San Antonio.  José worked 33 years for the Con Ed utility company, which controls all the steam in Manhattan. His expertise proved invaluable during the 911 crisis when the towers fell. The utility company needed to release the pressure from all the valves across the city to prevent possible ruptures.


“We were basically saving Manhattan from blowing up,” he said. José retired at age 55 and has spent the last 18 years in full-time ministry. Five years ago, the Zambranas followed their daughter, Melissa, and her family to San Antonio. They immediately began reaching out to build relationships as they had done in their previous neighborhoods.

José serves as a spiritual supporter for their Independence Village neighbors. He notices people on his daily 11-mile bike rides along the community’s perimeter trail. Three times he’s rescued someone who has fallen — picking them up, calling relatives and getting them to help. José has become the unofficial go-to person for honey-do helps like fixing six neighbors’ gate latches or shoring up a fence for a 92-year-old he met on his rides. Even now, he’s painting the house of an elderly Vietnam veteran from the Zambranas’ 24/7 Church. José continues to model servanthood by having his 16-year-old grandson assist.


The couple continues to find ways to support their neighbors, whether taking a group of retirees to serve at the Food Bank, donating blood, writing cards of encouragement or starting a food program at 24/7.


“My motivation is that I follow Christ’s example.” José said. “Christ gave it all for me. If I can do something for him, I’ll do it for the Lord’s glory.”

José came to Christ at the Calvary Baptist Church in Warwick, NY, in 1981.  He led groups of Royal Rangers volunteers on maintenance workdays, served on church leadership for 41 years, and became an ordained pastor in 2019. In 2013, the Zambranas founded the ministry, Debt Free in Christ, which teaches Biblical financial principles about budgeting and stewardship. (Website: debtfreeinChrist.org.)


“If we look at the Bible, God mentions love 759 times (NLT:www.bibletools.com), but money 2350 times (www.compass1.org),” José said. He and Evie became debt-free at age 54, which allowed them to dedicate the latter part of their life to ministry.


“It’s marvelous to be debt free,” he said. “The peace it brings allows you to hear from God and to become a super giver.” He plans to begin teaching prospective pastors and high schoolers at the Trinity Christian Academy this fall, in addition to those who attend his current study. At age 73, he’s going strong, inspiring us all.

state farm.jpg