Orlando Rivera, a former pastor at a megachurch in Orlando, wanted Christ to radiate through his every breath.
"Orlando lived his life to honor Jesus and make his name known," says family friend Chris Winkler.
Rivera died early Monday morning in a reported head-on collision, leaving behind his wife and 10 children and countless others around the globe who were impacted by his ministries.
Rivera and his wife Nancy ministered in the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative; various initiatives within the Holden Heights neighborhood of Orlando; the Hub University Church; Nyack College; Mount Vernon Alliance Church; and countless other ministries around the world.
"Few people have had the worldwide impact for Christ that Orlando and Nancy Rivera have had. As a pastor, speaker, teacher, entrepreneur, leader, mentor, community organizer and developer and family member, Orlando and Nancy have personally poured their hearts and souls into people from Egypt to Costa Rica to Nigeria to urban centers across the United States," Winkler says.
Christie Winkler, Chris' wife, collected stories through Facebook and GoFundMe about Rivera's legacy.
In 2015 my friend from Nyack College, Eleisha Veinotte, and I were driving from New York to Florida. We were planning to live there for a year and try on our "adulting" shoes. We didn't have jobs or a place to live (sounds like something Orlando would approve of, right?)
Somewhere in North Carolina I got a call from Orlando. He had been my professor for a few classes in college but I didn't know him well, and when he said who he was I was shocked. He said, "I hear you are moving to Orlando, FL?" He then proceeded to tell me that he had a small house on his property for rent and that even though it is in a "rough area", it was a great ministry opportunity for me and Eleisha and the rent would be manageable.
A few months later, after he had introduced us to his family in the area and some friends in Holden Heights with similar passions for serving others, we decided to move in!
Not only is Orlando the reason Eleisha and I have been happy residents of Holden Heights for 3 years, he is the reason we are even in Florida. I was one of the Nyack College students who he connected with Northland Church's summer internship program, and after a brief interview in his office with Northland staff, I decided to go to Florida for the internship. I haven't left!
Since then, we have had the great honor and pleasure of living next to the Riveras, playing with Enoch, Ezra and Josiah, befriending Ashleyand Jermaine, and having Orlando speak into our lives. He encouraged Eleisha to start an art business and he spoke frequently into my passion for work in "inner cities". It is truly amazing to be one of hundreds (thousands? millions?) of people who he impacted, and I am inspired and motivated to grasp tightly onto the legacy he has left to live life fully each day.
When Orlando and I would attend conferences together, he would always go forward if a time of (physical) healing prayer was offered. The first time he explained to me that he desired God's healing touch so he could have biological children. He never let an opportunity pass. He would always go forward to receive healing prayer. Most times I would accompany him and pray for this specific healing. Through the years as Nancy & Orlando continued to adopt I began to think that this repetitious prayer was a foolish waste of time. Why couldn't Orlando understand that it was God's will that they were to adopt children as we had been adopted by God? After the seventh child was brought into the Rivera household I felt pretty confident that I understood God's will in this area better than Orlando did. Then I got the call; "Nancy is pregnant" Orlando exclaimed. I was dumbfounded. I asked him to repeat what he said. I could hardly believe it! It was incredible! We praised God together for this miraculous healing. It was then that I began using the phrase, "Eight is Enough!" But eight was not enough. Nine was not enough. It had to be a perfect ten! Orlando loved all his children equally yet always desired to have children with Nancy. This is just one example of how Orlando discipled me by how he lived his life.
"You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives." (James 4: 2b-3a)
Someone else commented:
In 2006, he asked me when I was getting married and I was like, "Uh, we don't have any money." Then he told me I didn't need money to get married, and proved his point by telling me his and Nancy's net worth when they first tied the knot. I don't remember the amount, but I do remember that shortly after that and for the next 12 years I remained zero percent married until I found the person who was as sure about me as Orlando was about Nancy.
Other people shared their memories on the GoFundMe page, including a Regent professor.
Dr. Rivera graduated with his Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. We mourn his loss and pray for God to pour out His grace upon his wife, children, and all who loved him so dearly. Rivera family, please accept our sincere condolences and prayers. Doris Gomez, Ph.D. Dean
Love is a verb. Your family has demonstrated this and much more to me and Zeke. I cannot possibly express the magnitude of your influence. Thank you for being family.
And still more people continued to remember Rivera for his godly influence in their lives.
Orlando was more than a pastor, though that was a high calling. He was an amazing husband, father, friend ... He was so much of Christ walking on this earth. He will be missed, but he will not be forgotten.
Someone else said:
Orlando was my pastor at the Hub for over 10 years and we have remained friends ever since. He and Nancy impacted me to be a better and more equipped Christian in so many ways. Today I am a mentor to the guys at 33rd st and am helping a wonderful ministry called Inside Out Jail Ministries to succeed and grow. I owe so much to Orlando and will miss him so much. Nancy I love you!
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