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Joe Ortega makes no bones about who he is trying to reach as pastor of Celebration Community Church, a new church plant in Holland, Mich.

“We are focused 110 percent on broken people. None of us have it all together. All of us are on the verge of not making it in our lives,” he said.

Funded in part by Christian Reformed Home Missions, Celebration began about six months ago, meeting on Sundays at Faith CRC in Holland.

Ortega said his goal is “trying to create an atmosphere of acceptance and to think about the needs of the broken people who come through the doors.”

Ortega recently presided at a funeral for one of those people—20-year-old year-old Candelario Soto. Soto came to Celebration several weeks ago and took to the church right away.

Though troubled and hurting, he had a big smile and grew quickly committed to Celebration. He soon brought his girlfriend and invited his mother.
Ortega and his wife, Jackie, saw something in Soto and decided he ought to serve on the church’s leadership team.

But then Soto died, drowning in nearby Lake Macatawa.

“When we did the funeral, I talked about his story, about how he is an example of who we are trying to reach,” says Ortega. “I talked about how he was on fire for the Lord.”

The service was standing-room only.

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