Mayuri Flores de Vilchez’s big, beautiful smile reflects her gratitude for all that God has done in her life. A tenacious yet compassionate woman, she’s known to make bold sacrifices for her family, especially her children. She’s been a conduit for blessings in their lives, and God isn’t finished with her yet.
In the ’50s, Mayuri lived with her parents and siblings in the poorest area of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. When Mayuri was two years old, a massive flood washed away every home in their community. She still remembers being carried out by rescue patrol as the impoverished neighborhood disappeared into muddy waters. The Venezuelan government stepped in and gave the families more land and houses; however, there was no running water or indoor plumbing, there was very little electricity, and Mayuri’s family had to share a bedroom. They were starting over, but nothing had changed. The only thing of value they possessed was their love for one another.
“We grew up poor, but we were so happy,” Mayuri says. “It formed the best part of our lives. And it didn’t matter if we didn’t have much money—anything my mother and father could get for us was enough.”
Mayuri knew she’d instill the same family values in her future children, but she didn’t want them to grow up living in poverty. In high school, she studied hard and did well and also fell in love with the English language. When she mentioned her interest in English to a priest from the local church, he suggested Mayuri study abroad in the States to further learn the language. She was going to be graduating soon and if she became fluent in English, she’d be a shoo-in for jobs in Venezuela. When the priest presented the opportunity to Mayuri’s parents, her father was skeptical, but her mother was certain the experience would be beneficial. “My mother is a woman who likes to move forward. She’s confident, and I’m like her,” Mayuri says. “My father said, ‘We have to think about it.’ He never actually said I could go, but I ended up on the plane!”
After speaking with Mayuri’s parents, the priest gathered a group of fellow priests to travel to the United States to vet potential host families for Mayuri. The three-month expedition led them to Ben and Mary Bocchicchio in Pennsylvania, an Italian-American couple with four boys. The Bocchicchios turned out to be a perfect fit—Ben and Mary treated Mayuri like one of their own children, and Mayuri had great relationships with their sons. She lived with the Bocchicchios for a year, improving her English. “They became my American family,” she says.
Mayuri lived in the States for a year, improving her English, before returning to Venezuela to look for jobs. By the time she entered her early 20s, she was working as a bilingual secretary at Ford Motor Company in Valencia. It was the start of a promising career, but her focus was never personal success—it was having the means to help break the cycle of poverty in her family.
When Mayuri was 22 years old, she got married and they later had three children: a son, Ruben Dario, and two daughters, Mayuri Alejandra and Laura Marina. Mayuri maintained a close relationship with the Boccicchios; she visited them multiple times on vacation with her children, and they visited her family in Venezuela. When Mayuri’s children graduated high school, she sent them to the United States to learn English as she had, and the Boccicchios ended up hosting her son, Ruben. Another generous family, Brooks and Jane Cottle (who later became Ruben’s father- and mother-in-law!), hosted Mayuri Alejandra and Laura Marina. “I wanted to give my children the [English] language, no matter what they ended up studying,” Mayuri says. “If they were bilingual in Venezuela, they would have more job opportunities.”
While working at Ford, Mayuri was promoted to several different positions, and her family’s financial state improved. All three of her children graduated from college and were able to find jobs. Life was good for the Vilchez family, and Mayuri’s hard work was paying off.
At the end of 2015, Mayuri had become a permanent resident of the United States. Her son, Ruben, had already been living in Texas with his wife, Erin, who had just given birth to their first child and Mayuri’s first grandchild, Eva. In 2016, Mayuri joined the facilities team for The King’s University, and in 2019 she became a shift leader for the facilities team at Gateway. “It’s beautiful to work in a place where everything we do, we do it in the name of the Lord, and the presence of God is a daily thing,” she says. “I feel everyone here has the same purpose: to help each other, to love each other, and to respect each other as we work in an environment where God is at the center of everything we do. I come to work happy every day.”
As Mayuri reflects on her life, she realizes the generosity of the Bocchicchios and the Cottles was a big part of God’s plan to bless her and her family. By opening their hearts and homes, the Bocchicchios and the Cottles helped change the course of the Vilchez family for generations to come. It’s a beautiful enduring story of two families woven together by generosity, love, and what Ruben calls a “thread of God’s faithfulness.”
“It is amazing how one family can impact the life of people in other countries as they send aid or sponsor students,” Ruben says. “It literally changed my mom’s life, our family’s life, and my life. What God has been doing in and through my mom is a miracle for which I am so thankful to the Lord.” The Vilchez family attends the Southlake Campus.