I had heard good things about Pastor Amaury Ortiz from different people in the community, so I was interested to talk to him in person. I met him in the Civil War room at the Amsterdam Free Library for the interview. He was genuine, forthcoming, and he had a clear vision for his new non-denominational church. They have been meeting since June 2014 in the basement of the Adventist church at 214 Guy Park Ave in Amsterdam on Sundays.
Towne: I hear you have a bilingual service. How do you make that happen?
Ortiz: The Lord has blessed me with the ability to preach in both English and Spanish. Sometimes I start off in Spanish, sometimes in English but, it’s either phrase for phrase or sentence by sentence. When I’m done with one sentence I automatically translate into the next, so that way the full message is not only interpreted but also, correctly. I want the English and the Spanish communities to receive the same message. I don’t want one community to stay without what the other one received. So the Lord has blessed me with that through prayer. That came because, in the previous church I was in, I noticed there were two churches in one building, an American and then a Spanish church. And I never understood why the two churches couldn’t unite. So I pleaded with God and he gave me the ability to preach in both languages.
Towne: How does your congregation adapt to your process?
Ortiz: They enjoy it. They enjoy it because recently we’ve had American families come into our congregation so it’s nice because the Americans are motivated to learn Spanish and the Latinos who are in already the congregation are motivated to learn English. And at the end of the day the Lord has blessed me with a ministry of unity. We are to be one in Christ. There is only one church that is going to heaven. When we go to heaven there are not going to be Pentecostals here and Baptists there, Methodists or whatever, we are all going to be the church of God and Jesus Christ is going to be the head. It is pretty cool to see that, in our church, the people are going out of their comfort zone to learn a foreign language so they can assimilate with their brethren in Christ.
Towne: Tell me about your involvement with the Salvation Army church on Route 30.
Ortiz: My wife and I ministered there as “envoy pastors” for about 6 ½ months…Unfortunately they closed. We understood that God called us to Amsterdam, he just used the vehicle of the Salvation Army in the beginning. So what had happened was that we prayed and God opened up the door for Freedom Church.
Towne: Do you consider Amsterdam as being “ripe for harvest?”
Ortiz: Yes. A lot of work has been put in. My wife and I have met with several pastors in the Montgomery County area, about five or six total, and they have been meeting and praying over the city for the past 8 to 10 years; over the city government, over the streets of the city. And, the harvest is here. I understand that God is preparing his churches to reap the harvest. The church itself has to stand up, not as individual churches, as one body, so that we can reap a greater harvest than any individual church can do. So together we can do even more work than if we try to go out there separately. It’s like, together we stand, divided we fall.
Towne: Tell me one way in which your childhood affects your work now.
Ortiz: I had a very diverse and adverse childhood. But it’s awesome because I see how the Lord is permitting me to apply personal experience to the ministry. So, when I minister to people, I minister from deep down in my soul because it is something I have experienced in my life; that I have suffered through it and in Jesus name I have overcome. And when you are ministering to people they want to know that you’re not superficial, people want to know if you’re real. God has permitted me to be real. I may not be able to assimilate myself to you because of that exact circumstance, but I can assimilate myself to you through your suffering. Once we permit God to minister to our suffering, then the message becomes more profound and someone is more apt to receive the Gospel, but above all, practicing it in their lives.
Towne: What do you think when you read 1st John 3:18 which says “Dear children, let us not love with words but with deeds and truth.” What practical lessons can you teach from that verse?
Ortiz: Just like when the apostles says show me your faith and I will show you my faith through my works. There’s a lot of people out there now, ministers, clergymen, that say a lot but don’t do a lot. Jesus Christ was one of the examples. In the Last Supper he said “Do these things in remembrance of me.” We can even see that, hours before Judas turned him in, Christ washed his feet. He left an example of service for us to follow…And an example of service, in the Scripture it says that we are “the children of light,” and as children of the light we need to work in the light so that when the unbeliever sees our work he can glorify our father who was in heaven. So, it is not only our faith, but our works, combined with our faith, that is actually going to lead into a transformation of this community.
Towne: Can you name a Bible verse that sticks out to you?
Ortiz: Yes. It’s actually a grouping of verses, it’s Psalm 139, and I believe it starts at verse 13 and goes to verse 18. That verse is speaking about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You know we know God’s work full well. God ordained the days of our lives in his book before any came to pass. I love and appreciate that verse; it is actually my favorite verse or grouping of verses in the Bible, because no matter what comes at us in life, no matter what may come against us in life, we can always rest on the fact that God has ordained and is in control of everything. So, me having my faith in God and believing that he is the great “I Am,” just like the scripture says, whatever comes against me, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it frustrates me, and even when I want to get anxious about certain things, I can have solace in the fact that my God is in control. When I think of this, immediately I’m at peace. And in any situation I can ask for grace or for wisdom to see what it is that God is doing and how he either wants to build me, or how he wants to use me to better myself or my surroundings.
Towne: What is planned for the future of your congregation?
Ortiz: God has called me to be a pastor of nations not just as a pastor of a church. So, Freedom Church is not me and I’m not Freedom Church, the Lord is Freedom Church. It’s to be an organization which services the entire person. We don’t want to just be a Sunday to Sunday organization, we want to be an organization that functions seven days a week, that people can get financial help, or help with food or help with bills, whatever it is. But above all to minister to the entire person. I understand that there are physical needs, psychological needs, health needs. Freedom Church will be the epicenter, in communities around our nation, to minister to the whole person, with something as simple as clothes, or something as sophisticated as providing a home. We know that God will be able to open doors in such a way, and to have the financial backing in such a way, that in 3 to 5 years, when we enter a community and a portion of it is a ghetto, so that in every location where the church is established, it won’t be a ghetto anymore. People that love their community and love Christ in their community, they take pride in loving Christ and showing those works, when outsiders come in they can see the difference.
Towne: You are talking about an expanded outreach?
Ortiz: Way more than an expanded outreach. The Lord had given me a vision back in 2012 that I detailed in a journal, how the ministry is going to be a worldwide ministry. How it is going to have schools to provide better education, how it’s going to be multifaceted. But it’s going to take time to get there, and at the end of the day we are going to have to start wherever God chooses for us to start. So, he started here in Amsterdam.