One night in early November 2012, Rev. Jorge L. Vega stood outside of Full Gospel Tabernacle church on Beach Channel Drive and 41st St. in Far Rockaway. It was cold and the street lights were not on. He had been waiting for hours with his wife and a handful of church members to receive a truck that was coming with donated goods for the community. It was days after Hurricane Sandy had struck the area and his church, which had suffered significant damage, had become a distribution center seemingly overnight. He rejected the opportunity to stay with family outside of Rockaway and instead he opened the church every day to serve his neighbors.
“His concern was the Rockaways,” his wife Eva reflects. “He couldn’t leave his congregation while he’d stay in comfort.”
His devotion and love for the Rockaways began after he and his family moved to the neighborhood in 1978. At the time, Vega was a computer engineer and worked as a consultant to the U.S. Navy designing navigation programs for submarines. He loved his job and quickly became a leader among his coworkers.
While Vega grew up in church, God has not been a priority in his life and he struggled with alcoholism as a young adult. On Dec. 31, 1983 he and his family found themselves at a New Year’s Eve service at Full Gospel Tabernacle (FGT), where he recommitted himself to God and to overcoming his addiction—saving his marriage, family, and his life. Jorge and Eva became members of FGT in the summer of 1984 and subsequently took on increasing responsibilities in the administrative and spiritual aspects of the church. Ultimately, they became pastors in March 1995 and among other goals he made it his mission to increase unity among churches in the area.
“He always believed that the answer to issues in Rockaway could be solved if the Christian community could come together,” said Rev. Dennis Cook of Living Rock Christian Center on Redfern Avenue.
This goal would take him decades to achieve, but he was relentless in his efforts to spread unity. His wife even recalls Vega driving around and stopping at churches to write down the pastor’s name and information to send them letters inviting them to join him and other pastors once a month for prayer and fellowship. He also collaborated with other pastors to host a joint worship service with singers and musicians from several churches in the community.
“That was one of the most important things to him, that the Rockaway pastors would become one people,” said a long-time elder of FGT.
Rev. Vega also invested his time in the youth of the community, often highlighting the importance of the next generation. Every summer he would go with the children and youth in the community to a bible camp in Connecticut, a trip sponsored by the church. He also started college tours for the youth and a weekly after school center for children in the community.
“Education was very important to him,” Eva said. “He believed the next generation should be better than the last.”
He served on the boards of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, NY Leaderships Center, and New York School of Urban Ministry. Annually, he put an emphasis on outreaching during the holidays, hosting community Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas toy distributions, and walking and praying throughout each zip code in Rockaway. Internationally, Jorge travelled to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to minister with World Vision and support children in those areas. He and his wife also travelled to Ghana annually, where he would train more than 300 pastors and leaders. The church also set up a computer lab complete with Wi-Fi for the community for the pastors to research.
In addition to his time spent ministering to others, he did his best to spend his free time with his family. He would utilize his Saturdays to enjoy time with his wife and his three sons. He liked to be at home, talking and watching movies. As his family grew, he would arrange the church schedule around his grandchildren’s birthdays as often as possible.
“He knew his priorities; his God, his wife, his family, his church, his community, and then the nation,” Eva said.
Rev. Vega always started his day in prayer and his greatest pride in life was serving God. He died Tuesday, June 21 2016 surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by his wife, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, and church family. As a result of his absolute faith, Jorge was comforted by the complete confidence that he would see his friends and family again.
“This is someone that the Rockaways are going to miss, this is someone the world is going to miss,” said Rev. Cook.
Like Rev. Cook, those left behind vow to continue his work in the Rockaways and stay connected through their faith and desire to help the community.
“We are determined, we will mourn,” said the FGT elder. “But at the same time, what he started – that must be continued.”
Portions of this article were taken from his printed obituary with permission.