This is a very special edition of Profiles. I want to tell everyone about one of the most amazing volunteers in the history of Life Pointe Church/Homestead Church of God. I want to steal the words of Pastor Travis when he said,”When I hear people give excuses why they cannot serve, I think of Ela Ortega.” Shame on me and others for excuse-making when it was unacceptable.
Easter 2005 was Ela and Ivan’s first time with us at Life Pointe. They were driving by the church one day, and felt drawn to come. In the first service, there was a call to donate canned goods (the event was “Canning Hunger”) and as visitors they made one of the largest contributions. In that same year, they joined in making handmade gifts for Mother’s Day. She also donated her dishes and several appliances after an appeal was made to help someone in the church. From there, the volunteering just multiplied.
Ela Ortega is without question one of the most important pieces of Life Pointe’s volunteer group. She serves as the right hand volunteer coordinator to my mom, Anne Johnson. Anytime a new person walks through the doors at the theater and writes his or her information on a connection card, they are sure to get a personal contact from Ela. Ela also helps coordinate the volunteers in hospitality by reminder phone calls during the week. Ela also has a nack for encouraging people. She definitely has a heart of gold. The most amazing part is that does all this in spite of a debilitating condition which has left her lungs at a fraction of the capacity of most people. This beautiful and kind woman of God has also dealt with the loss of her husband, Ivan, who was also a member and volunteer at Life Pointe. Through all these struggles, Ela remains an example of perseverance, dedication, faith, and kindness. Ela doesn’t get to come to church very often anymore, but every week she listens to the message via podcast and encourages the LPC bloggers with her thoughtful comments.
It’s really amazing that one of the areas in which Ela is so gifted, her words of encouragement and talking to people, is the area in which her physical body has been attacked. If there was a Life Pointe Hall of Fame, Ela would get my vote on the first ballot!
Please take the time to watch this video in Ela’s own words. This was recorded for a series called “LikeUs.tv“.
This installment will once again focus on a couple of people that most of the current LPC membership do not know. Gene and Margaret were an older couple from Georgia who coincidentally were parents of a classmate of my father JT Johnson. Gene and Margaret were missionaries to South America and frequented Homestead Church of God when they were in the US. They stayed in a little one room home behind the church and worked in the church while they were in town. They were some of the strongest examples of dedication and volunteerism, and were committed to seeing the lost saved.
Gene was a really nice fella. He was always “Johnny on the spot” when something broke at the church. He worked on toilets, appliances, replaced lightbulbs, and did electrical work. This was very important considering the church budget and the state of the large mortgage on the relatively new sanctuary (built in 78). Gene ALWAYS had a grin on his face. He always had a kind word to say and a very pleasant demeanor. I remember his hard physical work at the church. In particular, he would set up shaky scaffolding in the sanctuary so he could climb up to the mercury vapor chandeliers about 30 feet in the air. I would get a little nervous seeing him up at the top with nothing to hold on to while it wobbled around. It was quite a feet for someone who could see, but Gene was legally blind! He said that was part of why he wasn’t afraid of the heights.
Margaret worked with the children’s church and had a heart to tell the little ones about Jesus. While many of her methods are now outdated (flannelgraphs, some of the puppets, and the style of the songs she taught), she was actually skilled as a children’s minister. One of her best talents was the lost art of ventriloquism. She could have a conversation with herself! She would sit with her wood puppet on her lap and tell Bible stories, demonstrate by example how to tell friends about Jesus, how to pray for someone, how to treat each other, and also would tell the children about all the other people around the world who dress and sound different than they do. I remember she would try to teach me how to be a ventriloquist, but it never quite worked out for me. Margaret could cook as well and was always ready to cook a nice meal for church guests and volunteers.
I lost touch with Gene and Margaret sometime around the late 80’s, and I cannot tell you where they are or what they are doing now. But I can tell you that we would all do well to be as selfless, to strive to share the gospel message, and to work as hard as Gene and Margaret Hadsel.