The former pastor of one of Florida’s largest congregations has been tragically killed in a traffic accident. Orlando Rivera, who served as pastor of Northland Church in Longwood for nearly a decade, was killed while driving on Interstate 4 at around 3 a.m. in downtown Orlando on Monday.
According to Orlando Police, 31-year-old Nelson-Enrique Molina was driving a black Mercedes the wrong way on I-4 when his vehicle struck Rivera’s, as reported by Spectrum News 13. Molina was hospitalized at Orlando Regional Medical Center with severe and life-threatening injuries. Rivera was killed instantly.
Since the freak accident, tributes have been pouring in for this faithful minister of the gospel.
“He preached [at Northland]. He was our mission’s pastor. An incredible man, he and Nancy (his wife) are dear, dear people and have several children, adopted many children, and they have a house full. So I want to just acknowledge how difficult this is for us, and our community,” said Northland Church Pastor Kevin Urichko. “I always looked to him for mentoring. A lot of people have been mentored by Orlando over the years, you hear that from so many folks.”
“He just had that ability to come up and engage you with something that was outside of what you were thinking,” the pastor added.
Rivera ministered at the church for almost 10 years, leaving to help plant other churches and to also become a professor. He had 10 children, seven of whom were adopted, and had been married for almost 30 years.
Northland Church posted a lengthy message on Facebook, honoring their late former pastor.
“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,” the post read.
“Orlando and Nancy were married for 28 years. After trying to grow their family biologically and being told they could not, Nancy and Orlando adopted seven children (Ask around to learn more about this remarkable story!) Then came three biological children, the youngest of whom is five. Their ministry impact has been felt through Northland Church; the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative; various initiatives within the Holden Heights neighborhood of Orlando; the Hub University Church; Nyack College; Mount Vernon Alliance Church; Paterson Habitat for Humanity; and countless other ministries around the world. They longed to see people groups and individuals come.
On the early morning of Monday, May 28, Orlando was struck by a driver going the wrong way on a major interstate in Florida. He died instantly. This comes as a great shock to thousands of us who have been impacted by Orlando’s ministry and leaves a great void on this earth.
Nancy, Jaq, Ashley, Meena, Breshia, James, Jermaine, Jamie, Enoch, Ezra, and Josiah are left in about the most challenging position imaginable.”
Now, this tight-knit church family is appealing for their community to step up in providing both spiritual and financial support to this heartbroken family.
“The Rivera family needs as many prayers and as much emotional support as possible right now!” the post continued. “They are grateful for each and every prayer that you can offer on their behalf. In addition, there are significant financial expenses about to hit the family, including the funeral, but also basic living costs with the loss of their family’s primary income. Your financial gifts will ease the monetary burden caused by this tragedy, both now and into the future! We would like to raise $100,000 to help Nancy navigate the challenging financial waters ahead. They have impacted so many of us around the world—would you please consider impacting them as well?”
You can donate to the family’s GoFundMe page here.
Demetrius Summerville headed up Kaley Square, a community center which provides after-school activities in partnership with Parramore Kidz Zone and the City of Orlando. It was through the running of these programs that he met Orlando, who encouraged him in his vital work.
“He was a leader, a compassionate leader in our community,” said Summerville. “He was definitely an inspiration to me and to others.”
“Orlando was on the forefront of lobbying and advocating for change in the community of Holden Heights,” he added. “He was always looking for creative and innovative ways to bring about sustainable changes in communities like ours.”
“The Orlando Riveras of the world are rare. And when you find them, you want to get to know them and spend as much time as you can with them.”
Rivera’s funeral will take place Sunday at Northland Church, but the former pastor’s family are determined to make it more of a celebration of life.
“At the request of the family, please wear bright clothes,” the church noted on its funeral event page.
“He and I have done many funerals together,” Urichko added, according to WOFL-TV. “So it’s going to be strange to be celebrating his life at a funeral.”
Pray for Orlando’s family and the many people his life touched at this extraordinarily difficult time.
(H/T: Spectrum News 13)