In Memoriam: Manuel Ortiz (1938-2017)
I am grateful for the opportunity to share these words of remembrance and appreciation for Dr. Manuel Ortiz from some of his students and mentees who are continuing the legacy of Manny in seeking the kingdom of God in various cities around the world. – Kyuboem Lee
Joshua Smith (Mexico City, Mexico):
When I first met Manny Ortiz, I was a young missionary wrestling with the reality of doing gospel work in an urban, postmodern world. I was in over my head and knew I needed some direction. That is what ultimately led me to Manny and the DMin program at Westminster Theological Seminary. As I attended my first summer Urban Mission course, I was excited, not really knowing what to expect. What I ultimately found was far better than I had hoped.
Manny was an academic but was never about just the academics. He was a local pastor but never one who forgot about the needs of the broader world. He was a legend in urban ministry but never too self-important to take a deep, personal interest in his students… in me. Dr. Ortiz loved the city because the city is filled with people, people created in the image of God, people in need of a Glorious Savior, people who are deeply broken and also deeply loved. And so he taught me to love the city too, to love its people, to look into the beautiful mess of modern urbanity and see genuine, life-giving transformative hope.
That is Manny’s legacy for me. Loving people. In Jesus’ name. To the glory of God.
Larry L. Anderson, Jr. (Philadelphia, USA):
When I think of Manny Ortiz I think of a great Man of God with tremendous knowledge, discernment, humility and hunger for God’s Kingdom. He lived every day as though it were his last by recognizing how important it was to pour everything he had in him into the next generation of Christian leaders.
I had the benefit of being one of those into whom he poured. Dr. Ortiz heard about my church moving from the suburbs into the city and he sent for me, to pray for me and offer any help I might need to bless the city. This introductory meeting was the start of a discipleship relationship with a man at whom I marveled from afar and only dreamed about one day actually meeting.
The greatest things Manny taught me were to understand the times, boldly speak into the times, and equip people to do relational ministry in these times. He was a man of Issachar indeed!
IW (Naas) Ferreira, aka The guy from Africa (Pretoria, South Africa):
My time with Manny was too short, but in God’s providence, just enough. Although I must admit, I wish I could have spent more time in his presence. I thank God that He has availed me the opportunity to meet Manny and Sue (and their families) in Philadelphia and also for a very brief but wonderful time – in South Africa (we visited a Game Park!).
During a Mission Conference in South Africa in 2005 I met Dr. Roger Greenway and was introduced to the name of Dr. Manny Ortiz (Westminster Theological Seminary). Dr. Greenway suggested and convinced me to contact Manny to inquire about a DMin in Urban Mission. After a few unsuccessful attempts to contact him by telephone, I still remember the first moment I spoke to him. It was just after his wife Blanca called him to say, “It’s the guy from Africa.” Within a few weeks I met him in person and had the wonderful, but very short privilege to be one of his students during my brief visits to the United States. Every time I visited Philadelphia he did his utmost to spend some time with me outside of class. I can still taste the ‘ribs’ and ‘steak rolls’ that he introduced me to.
During my last visit, a very brief hour or two at his church’s new offices, it was obvious that Manny’s health was deteriorating. I count it a God-given blessing to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to him. God has used him to inspire me to look differently at the city and the new mission opportunities that God is giving us by bringing the previously ‘unreachable’ within reach of the Gospel. His book, One New People, is at this very moment my cherished memory of him, but also my guiding companion as I journey towards rediscovering the church’s new identity in Jesus Christ. I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I was pointed in the right direction by Manny Ortiz.
Just a final, very important note. For me it always was, and in my memory still is, Manny and Sue. She was never more than a few steps away. They were, in my opinion, a God-given team. I know our time together was very brief, but I count it one of my most cherished blessings to have known them as some spiritual father… and mother. Manny and Sue. Thank you, God.
Ondrej Franka (Serbia):
As a foreigner I found myself sitting in a Westminster Theological Seminary class on Missions taught by professors Dr. Manny Ortiz and Dr. Sue Baker. In many ways I was getting into uncharted territory a bit nervously. What would I learn in practical terms for my home country of Serbia.? Of course, all my fears were gone after the first class. A great concern of the professors, especially Manny, was to listen to me with great interest and to encourage me to share. All my cultural, language, and other barriers had disappeared.
Professor Manny encouraged me to write about all of my experiences in ministering to refugees of Yugoslavia’s civil war in the 1990s. Thus, the theology of ministry to those people in need in the midst of strife and suffering was born in my mind. This was the style of Manny’s teaching–challenging, stimulating, motivating, and, above all, practical. As a result of this, at least ten new churches have been planted now in Serbia.
Finally, I discovered that Manny’s “cultural” experience from Chicago matched closely to what we have experienced in Serbia. In the context of my applied project on church planting in Serbia, this was extremely valuable. Only eternity will show how much of an investment from Professor Ortiz has been responsible for the expansion of God’s Kingdom in my part of the world. Thank the Lord for such a great and selfless servant of the Lord as Dr. Manny Ortiz.
Pedro Aviles (Chicago, USA):
In 1973, Manny Ortiz was 35 years old and was the new pastor of Salem Evangelical Free Church in the inner city of Chicago, which was a half block away from where I lived. I was 18 years old, a new Christian, a Puerto Rican raised in a poor Latino community with a poor education. But by the providential hand of God, He brought us together. For the next fourteen years Manny was my pastor, my mentor, my spiritual father, and my teacher. From the start there were certain values for which Manny was an exemplary model to me. I will mention three.
The first value was his dedication to the Bible. From the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, Manny primarily was an expository preacher who used the original Greek language to highlight God’s truth. Central to our weekly one-on-one discipleship was my learning to exegete the scriptures following good hermeneutical principles. He loved teaching the Word of God, whether in front of educated scholars in a seminary environment or to poorly educated indigenous lay leaders. The Bible was central to all Manny was and did as a follower of Christ. All life issues were scrutinized through the scripture. Only what conformed to biblical truth was honored and followed.
The second value was passion for the Missio Dei (Mission of God) in the City. He was an urbanologist for God, learning all he could about the city. To him, the people of God (the church) had to be the visible presence of Christ and of the gospel of the kingdom, living in the context of their missional calling, the inner city. Therefore, for our first church plant in Chicago, ALL members were expected to live within walking distance of the worship center (Spirit and Truth Fellowship in Chicago). All the ministries of the church had to concretely impact the immediate neighborhood. In this way, our neighbors were able to witness the power of the gospel through the lives and love of the church. We learned from Manny to love our neighbors and to love our neighborhood.
The third value was his love for worshiping our beautiful God and Savior. He may not have been a great flautist and/or singer, but it didn’t matter because he loved to worship our sweet Jesus. In my mind I still see him with the church musicians fingering a melody on his flute, or shaking his “pringles” shaped maracas, and/or spontaneously starting another worship chorus just before he started his sermon. His freedom in expressing his love for God in worship helped all in the church live out the same freedom in jubilant singing, dancing, clapping, humbly bowing and kneeling, or in shouting God’s praises. Oh how Manny loved Christ.
I know I could go on, and on, but I limited myself to these words.