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A Tribute to my first Pastor, Ed Ormeo
Too often we let our lives go by and we fail to let the ones who are most important to us know just how special they are. Today is his funeral. I failed to let Pastor Ed know. He was special. There are so many reasons I am thankful that he was my pastor from 1989-2007.
He Loved my Family
Pastor Ed loved my parents. After my mom repented from sin and believed in the gospel in 1988, he strategized to have my mom share her testimony on a Thursday night Thanksgiving service so that my dad could hear the gospel. They knew my dad would not give up his golf on Sundays to attend Christian Fellowship Bible Church (CFBC) in West Covina. My dad heard the testimony of my mom's converting out of Roman Catholicism and the false gospel she previously believed. My dad eventually repented from his sin and trusted in Christ alone for his salvation, not his good works or religiosity.
Pastor Ed loved my wife, Frances and me. I remember spending time in Pastor Ed's room confessing lustful thoughts and actions and asking him to help me, pray for me, and hold me accountable. He strengthened my faith in Jesus in that critical season. Soon after, he officiated my wedding.
He Discipled his Daughter who Discipled me to Convert to Christ
Pastor Ed, along with his wife, Day Belen, discipled their oldest daughter Elaine (Ate Ging). I had been attending CFBC for some months when we were in a Sunday evening service on January 8, 1989. Pastor Ed was preaching. I was running around in the back with other kids, so Pastor Ed stopped his sermon, called me out and told me to get to his office with the kids. A few moments later Ate Ging comes in and starts to tell us that we will never be good enough for God. In answering my objection, she turned to Ephesians 2.8-9 and told me we were only saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, not our good works. I was convicted and felt my condemnation. Then she called me to trust in Jesus and turn from my sin. I did. If it were not for Pastor Ed and Day Belen discipling Ate Ging, I would not have heard the gospel that night and turned to Jesus.
He Challenged and Supported Me to Pastoral Ministry
Pastor Ed gave a lot of altar calls. He would occasionally call out to see if any in the congregation were willing to serve in full time vocational ministry. I remember going up a few times when he would. I was willing to obey Jesus, but I didn't want to be a pastor.
Eventually God changed my heart. I remember the first time Pastor Ed let me preach, it was on a Wednesday night in 1998 at prayer meeting. I preached on loving God with all of your heart. It was probably really terrible. But I felt the Lord's encouragement as I preached and Pastor Ed's encouragement when I finished. I remember Nanay Ormeo, his mom, giving me the biggest hug, kiss, and affirmation from the depth of her soul. They helped put steel in my bones at that fragile stage of exploring the call to pastoral ministry.
Pastor Ed and CFBC gave me opportunities to lead the youth ministry. I was able to cut my teeth in leadership as a student leader, then a college leader, and eventually a youth pastor and assistant pastor in charge of leadership training, and monthly preaching. There was never a doubt in my mind that Pastor Ed was behind me and 100% supportive. So was CFBC.
We shared some tough and horrific pastoral situations together with the rest of our pastoral team. I've been in pastoral ministry for 9.5 years after I left CFBC but my toughest case was still at CFBC. Pastor Ed and I were thrown into the pastoral fire. But God was faithful. And we were transformed. It was a blessing to have Pastor Ed in the trenches with me. We've also had late night calls to confront and try to save members from sinful life choices. It was a privilege to serve by his side in shepherding God's flock.
Pastor Ed even let me lead in moving CFBC to make membership more meaningful in 2007. When that led to some big conflict with those close to Pastor Ed, he gave me the room and slack to make the leadership choices I needed to make. He did not pull the plug but let me face the pressure and criticism while pushing through. I still lean on that strength in the church revitalization ministry I engage in today.
Pastor Ed always supported and encouraged me. Always. I am forever indebted to Pastor Ed and CFBC of 1989-2007. He led the church to support me financially, spiritually, and prayerfully through my Bachelor's degree at The Master's University, my Master of Divinity at The Master's Seminary, and my ecclesiological pastoral internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Without CFBC I don't train at any of these places for the pastoral work I do today.
He Preached the Word
Pastor Ed's greatest gift to me was the fact that he preached God's Word to me. I knew the Bible was the Word of God with divine authority and inerrancy because of the words Pastor Ed preached and the way he preached it. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Pastor Ed used to preach those hell, fire, and brimstone messages where he would shout and wail and raise his voice that put the fear of God in my young soul. He effectively warned me away from worldliness and cold-hearted Christianity. I remembers his sermons on the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. In his many cross-references used I learned that the Bible was coherent, systematic theology was viable, and that I need to learn how the whole thing fits together. He was in the best sense of the word, a powerful pulpiteer.
He Shared His Life with Me
The Apostle Paul tells us, "We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us" (1 Thess 2.8). Pastor Ed shared his life with my family and me. He and Ate DayBelen shared their lives, their family, their home. As a kid, I would sleep over there for 2-3 days at a time in the summer to play with Jan Jan. The fridge was open for everyone. Their food was our food. His house was our house. He never complained about all the people in his home, but enjoyed it.
I've always appreciated how my parents kept an open home for our church family as I grew up. I didn't realize that Pastor Ed's pattern had to have significantly influenced theirs. And now mine. Our house is open to our church family and others. It is a strategic hub for ministry because all of life is ministry. In this, Pastor Ed showed me the crucial importance of a man's local church.
I regret that I didn't see Pastor Ed more in the last 9 years. I say that to my shame. I love him and will thank God forever for him. But in some sense, I carried out this particular strength of Pastor Ed's life. He was all in with his church family. He was so absorbed in our lives that he didn't have much time for other churches or outside ministries. In that sense, I take comfort to know that one of the best reasons for not seeing Pastor Ed more was the reason he stamped on my life: sharing Christ and sharing life with your local church family is the greatest way for a pastor to invest his life. And so I move forward remembering and imitating my pastor in the way God has called me to pastor and invest my life.
I close with a quote Pastor Ed would often repeat:
Only one life 'twill soon be past
Only what's done for Christ will last.
- C. T. Studd