A Turning Point

April 27, 2020

His friend’s question, “Hey, what if we go to church tonight?” changed the course of Elvido’s life.

By Elvido Ortiz

T

he home I was brought up in was a multi-faith home in the Dominican Republic. My father was Catholic and my mother was an evangelical Protestant. My father lived in the United States for work, and when he would come home, he would take my sister and me to a Catholic church. While he was away, my mother would periodically take us to an evangelical church. A more consistent experience in my life was my grandmother taking me to the Apostolic Faith Sunday school. She lived near the La Romana headquarters church, and took me faithfully from the time I was about seven. Of the three churches I was exposed to, that is the one that stood out; I have vivid memories of my first class and teacher there.   

My dad brought our family to live in New York. However, after three years, my parents decided the schools were not safe and would not yield a good education, because of gang violence. In 1980 when I was twelve years old, my sister and I were sent back to the Dominican to live with my grandparents while my parents stayed behind in the United States to work. To me, this move seemed like a great window of opportunity. With my parents no longer having direct control over me, I would have the freedom to do more worldly things. I was a young kid who was ready to turn my life upside down. However, the Lord also saw an opportunity and turned the situation into something good.

After my sister and I returned to the Dominican Republic, our grandmother began taking us to Sunday school again. One Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on the front steps of my grandparents’ house when a friend who was not a Christian came by and said, “Hey, what if we go to church tonight?” I had never been to an Apostolic Faith meeting outside of Sunday school, but because there was nothing else to do that evening, I agreed to go.

Even though I did not fully understand the concept of salvation, I knew God had done something real in my heart, because everything was suddenly new to me. When I got up from praying, the burden of sin was gone, and I felt as if I were walking on air.

We went and sat on the second or third bench from the front. I do not recall anything about the service, except that afterward a young man came up to us and asked, “Do you want to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” I looked at my friend and said, “Why not? Let’s go.” We went to the altar and I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and God saved me. Even though I did not fully understand the concept of salvation, I knew God had done something real in my heart, because everything was suddenly new to me. When I got up from praying, the burden of sin was gone, and I felt as if I were walking on air.

I am thankful that the Lord saved me at that early age. Two years later, my mom passed away from cancer at the age of thirty-four. That was hard on my sister and me, as well as our younger brother who had been born while we were in the United States, but having salvation made all the difference. God was able to help us. Our mother’s funeral was on December 24, which is the day Christmas is celebrated in the Dominican Republic. Yet because of the Lord, over the years Christmas has not been a sad time for us. We know that our mom received salvation before she died, and we have the hope of seeing her again in Heaven.

One way the Lord helped me through the time following my mom’s death was by providing other mother figures in the church. Many of the women encouraged me and prayed for me. I became like an adopted son to them. One sister who was in her eighties would invite me to her home to read the Bible and pray. She always told me, “Elvido, no matter where life takes you, be faithful to the Lord.” I never forgot that.   

Eventually, I became involved in the youth activities and music at church. One day during special youth services, some of us young musicians were talking about serving the Lord, and we realized that by playing our instruments in church, we were part of God’s ministry. We suddenly felt the need to take our roles more seriously by seeking to receive our deeper experiences. As we tarried in prayer after the services that week and consecrated our lives to God, He began to bless us one after another, and I received sanctification.  

That experience helped me to grow closer to the Lord and develop a deeper relationship with Him. Where before I had a general desire to serve Him, afterward I had a clear purpose: to allow myself to be used by God in the way that He chose. Over the next several years, the Lord continued to strengthen me and our youth group.    

When it was time to go to college, I went to a school in the Dominican Republic for nearly two years, and then transferred to a school in the United States. At that time, I began attending the Apostolic Faith church in Brooklyn, New York, and became involved in the work there, singing in the choir and playing the guitar, as well as driving a van for Sunday school.

We do not base our decisions on our wants, but instead take everything to the Lord asking for His will.

In 1992, cottage meetings began to be held in the Bronx, New York, for Spanish-speaking residents. Many times, I had the privilege to go with others from the Brooklyn church to encourage the new group. One of the young ladies there caught my attention and I prayed for the Lord’s direction in asking her on a date. God put peace in my heart to move forward, and Jenny and I soon began a courtship. As time went on, we continued to pray for God’s will in our lives. We asked Him to show us if the relationship was of Him. He did, and we were married in 1994. Our relationship has been a blessing, and we attribute that to letting God have first place in our lives. We do not base our decisions on our wants, but instead take everything to the Lord asking for His will.

One of our first decisions was in which location to worship. The Lord led us to the Bronx church, because Jenny was very involved in the work there as a Sunday school teacher and choir director. While in the Bronx, I realized that to be fully effective in serving God, I needed the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and began praying to receive it. However, I became discouraged at times, and would quit seeking for a while. Finally, during a week of special services, I asked myself, “How can I continue like this?” I went to my pastor about the situation, and he began praying with me after the services. On a Thursday evening, we were praying until close to midnight when the Lord came down powerfully. Then the next morning, His Spirit came down again, and I received the witness. It was a wonderful experience, because it made me able to be fully used by God for His service. 

Over the years, God has brought me through some difficult times. In 2011, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The Lord was there and did not let me ignore the symptoms. It was by His grace that the cancer was caught early enough that something could be done, and He went with me through surgery. I praise Him for a full recovery.

In 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the camp meeting in Chile and help with the work as an interpreter, minister, and musician. Since then, I have been back three times to Chile and once to Peru, and each visit has been a tremendous blessing. I also attended my first Portland camp meeting in 2016, and fell in love with it. I could feel the Spirit of God from the moment I stepped on the campground, and found it to be a place where I could get away from my normal responsibilities and connect with God. Each service was filled with beautiful music, and I was impressed that it was truly an international camp meeting. I knew we had churches all over the world, but I had not realized that people came from all those places to worship together at camp meeting. The prayer meetings were so special, and the experience was so wonderful that I have attended each one since, and brought my wife and daughters too. I love the Lord and intend to serve Him for the rest of my days.

About the author

Elvido Ortiz is a minister at the Apostolic Faith Church in the Bronx, New York.