For Carmen Ortiz, 63, God is the friend who never leaves.
“He has carried me through all my tribulations and problems. There is no one else but Him. You can have friends and everything but as soon as you have a problem they leave you. He is always there for you no matter what,” she tells Mustard Seed Stories.
For the last 25 years of her life, Carmen has been finding solace in her faith in Jesus and she is hanging on right now because of one thing.
“I wanna go to heaven, I wanna be with Jesus,” she says.
Carmen was born and raised in New York City but left for a while to live in Florida where she says she found Jesus.
“I got baptized there. That’s how I learned about God,” she says. Since then, God, she explains, has done “everything” for her and kept her through her most difficult times.
Her mother died almost five years ago but before she died, Carmen, her only child, was forced to watch and care for her as she battled a brain tumor and dementia for 13 years. It was her mother’s sickness that forced her to return to New York City and it wasn’t easy.
“The reason I came from Florida to New York City was to take care of my mother. She had a brain tumor and dementia. At the beginning it was very hard to see her like that. She was no longer my mother. I had to be the adult. She was the child and the Lord took me through that path. She needed help in everything,” she says.
These days whenever she can, she attends the Trinity Grace Church Westside which currently meets in rented space at P.S. 163 in Manhattan’s Upper West Side community.
On Sunday, she listened quietly as the church’s senior pastor, Derek Worthington, preached about baptism.
“It’s about this thing, this community, this family, this body. This weird conglomerate of people who are from opposite ends of the world. Opposite cultures, varying sort of degrees of socio economic achievement and possibility. And we have actors and we have people in financial services educators and all across…it’s bizarre that we are all here together quite honestly,” says Worthington who describes the diversity in his church as a “beautiful mess.”
“Because nowhere else in New York this week would you find this kind of gathering. Because we are all gonna get together with people who look like us and sound like us and talk like us and are interested in the same things we are. Who have the same goals the same aims, the same skill sets,” he explains before chalking up the diversity to “Jesus.”
“We came in here because of Jesus. We are drawn to Jesus…in this beautiful mess,” says Worthington.
On Sunday, Carmen is one of the few older adults in the congregation which is made up of mostly younger people in relaxed clothing, singing contemporary worship songs like Gungor’s “You Make Beautiful Things.”
“I come here on and off. I’ll be moving to Florida so I don’t want to establish anything yet,” she says.
She had been fighting to stay in the apartment left behind by her mother but she lost her bid and she has accepted it as God’s will. So some time this year, she is going back to Florida to live out the rest of her life.
“I was fighting for her apartment which I didn’t get but it’s OK,” she says. “It has to be God’s will, not your will but God’s will. That’s how I realize everything is God’s will.”