Pastor Carlos Ortiz: Building Bridges with Hispanic Christians and Israel
As America celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, host Yael Eckstein welcomes Pastor Carlos Ortiz, Church Outreach Director for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and a longtime and ardent pro-Israel voice to the Hispanic Christian community. Pastor Ortiz, a native of Colombia who immigrated to the U.S. in 1986, was recognized for his work in building bridges between Latin American countries in 2016 when the state of Israel named him an Ambassador of Good Will. On the podcast, Pastor Ortiz shares his deep love for God’s land and her people and why he carries the love of Israel wherever he goes. Listen today to this inspiring conversation about one man’s mission to spread love for Israel to Christians everywhere.
From a young age, Carlos Ortiz was inspired both by a deep desire to serve people and by a deep love for Israel.
“I’ve always has this passion not only for the Bible, but everything that had to do with serving people,” Pastor Ortiz recalled of his growing up in Colombia. “Once I was in the United States, I was given the opportunity to study and become a pastor, so that’s what I did. To me, it was the best way I could help my community.”
Pastor Ortiz was influenced by one pastor in particular, Pastor Michael Witman, who had a strong love for Israel. “He would come to church wearing a kippah, a yarmulke, and I would ask him, what’s that? He would teach us about the Jewish holidays, the High Holy Days, and everything to do about Israel,” Pastor Ortiz said. “That’s what first brought the love for Israel to me.”
Pastor Ortiz translated that love into advocacy, first working with Pastor John Hagee with CUFI (Christians United for Israel), and then later after leaving CUFI, working on his own to mend strained or broken relationships between Latin American countries and Israel. It was this work that earned him the recognition as an Ambassador of Goodwill by the state of Israel in 2016, and as one of the “50 Most Influential Israel Supporters” in the world by Israel Allies in 2020.
He recalls bringing a book about Israel to then Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, with a promise to return with a delegation to discuss a project about restoring a menorah that had been destroyed in an anti-Semitic attack. When Pastor Ortiz returned with a delegation made up of a rabbi and several pastors, President Ortega not only agreed to have the menorah restored but ordered the government to pay for it.
“He told me to just bring the plans for the new menorah to the mayor of Managua, so I went out, found an architect and told him to put on paper the biggest menorah he could,” Pastor Ortiz said. “This guy draws this beautiful 20-foot menorah. It was the most amazing thing you’ll ever see — and they built it!”
In addition to being one of the leading pro-Israel Hispanic voice in American, Pastor Ortiz also served for 13 years on the Executive Board of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), America’s largest Christian organizations serving over 42, 000 churches. He is the senior pastor of Cristo Vive Church in Miami, FL, where he lives with his wife and three children.
While Pastor Ortiz himself has only been to Israel twice, he says he believes he can make more of an impact on behalf of Israel by spreading a love for Israel to others. “I have sent more than 300 pastors to Israel. I may not be in Israel, but I carry Israel in my heart . It doesn’t matter where I’m at; Israel is always with me,” he said.