VIDEO: BISHOP FRANK OTTO – A life of illness, deaths, success and worshipDecember 19, 2023 0 By Horace Mills
Bishop Frank Otto, revered especially in business and religious circles, is being celebrated for serving as pastor of Linstead Pentecostal Tabernacle in St Catherine for 48 years and counting.
Members of his church threw him a special ceremony at their sanctuary on Sunday afternoon, December 10, 2023.
“I have enjoyed ministry tremendously. If I have my life to live over again, I would come straight back into ministry subject to the will and purpose of God,” he told The Beacon.
His most joyful experience over the years, he said, is to see people progressing.
“Building people is what brings joy to me… There is no greater joy for me than that… There is nothing that outlasts that; no building; no money; no physicality,” he added.
That is among the reasons, according to Bishop Otto, his church spends millions of dollars annually providing scholarships and other forms of assistance for students to acquire a sound education, which is among the surest means of escaping poverty. “In our church, education is a big thing,” he emphasized.
Bishop Otto was born in the seaside community of Runaway Bay, St Ann, to late parents Edmond and Viveen Otto.
His father was working as a contractor in Runaway Bay, resulting in his mom also being there.
A few days after Bishop Otto’s birth, his parents relocated with him to their native Portland.
“Inasmuch as I was physically born in Runaway Bay, I was registered as being born in Portland,” the clergyman told The Beacon.
He added that, ‘somewhere about 1954,’ his family was again on the go; this time migrating from Portland to the community of Linstead in St Catherine.
They first settled in a section of Linstead known as Grove Road, and, while there, Bishop Otto was enrolled at the then City Mission School in the community.
His family later moved to Orangefield – another district in Linstead.
Despite relocating relatively frequently, the late Otto ensured the stability of his family, which, at the time, included six biological children – Bishop Otto being among them.
His father was employed as a contractor at the then Alcan bauxite company, now known as WINDALCO, which is located near Linstead. The house in which he and his family settled at Orangefield district was facilitated through his association with Alcan.
“Inasmuch as we didn’t have everything that we wanted [while growing up], we had love in the home…” said Bishop Otto, who was baptized at age 16 in the church that he currently serves as pastor. His mother, he recalled, was the one who led the family’s journey into the church.
Living at Orangefield, Bishop Otto was able to pursue primary-level education at a private school there. That institution, at the time, was known as Orangefield Preparatory School.
Bishop Otto earned a scholarship after reaping success in the Common Entrance Examination and was placed at St Jago High School in the island’s old capital – Spanish Town.
He later enrolled at the College of Arts, Science and Technology – now known as the University of Technology – where he studied to become an electrical technician.
His academic journey also took him through the Caribbean Bible Institute.
Life was not all about books for Bishop Otto, who, at age 22 in the year 1973, wedded Kingstonian teacher Lorna Thomas, whom he had met at a wedding.
“It was divinely orchestrated; it was God’s will and purpose – and, over time, we proved that that is exactly so. It was love at first sight,” he asserted in relation to his wife.
After the two exchanged nuptial vows, they relocated to Spanish Town, where they lived ever since.
Four years after their marriage, their family expanded with the birth of their first child. The couple went on to have a total of four children – three daughters and a son.
Two years before he became a father, the then 24-year-old Bishop Otto, in 1975, was asked to assume leadership of the church, which he said had a membership of about 60 people, including himself.
“I was nervous; I wondered if I could do the job,” he said, adding that his promotion was consequent on the passing of his pastor Clifford Reid.
Bishop Otto led the church through various infrastructural changes.
His first major task was to finish construction of the church building that he had inherited in an incomplete state.
He recalled: “We sold our matrimonial home and used the money and finished that church over there [near the current church building]. And with a membership of about 50 or 60 persons, it was not an easy decision. But the calling of the Lord was upon my life and I believed that God had a future for me.”
A few years after completing and occupying the old church building, Bishop Otto saw the need for a brand new structure in which to worship. That’s how he, with assistance from his father and other church members, ended up erecting the edifice, where the church now operates.
Another highlight of Bishop Otto’s leadership is the growth in church membership. It is now stands at 300, up from about 60, he told The Beacon.
Under his transformational leadership, the name of the sanctuary was also changed from Mount Zion Apostolic Tabernacle to Linstead Pentecostal Tabernacle. “Mount Zion Apostolic Tabernacle is really the organizational name, which we still have as our registered organizational name,” he explained.
Bishop Otto, while serving as pastor at Linstead Pentecostal Tabernacle, leads a group of churches under the Mount Zion Apostolic Tabernacle organization. “That organization over which I give leadership has 13 churches – two overseas and 11 in Jamaica. We bond together,” he noted.
While undertaking religious duties, Bishop Otto was busy ensuring his family’s financial security.
He, at one point, worked with the Ministry of Labour, where he climbed the ranks to become senior factory inspector.
In addition to that stint in the pubic service, Bishop Otto was mainly self-employed, initially using his skill as a licensed electrician. “That was the beginning of something great; I did quite a lot of contracts around St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew,” he said.
He told The Beacon that he later became a licensed realtor and a real estate developer, relying heavily on his father’s expertise. “My dad, who was a builder, continued to work until he retired. And it was at that stage that I decided that I was going to get into real estate. He was the shoulder that I leaned on because he was a builder and I decided to build. So I bought property and he built it for me for the first four or five years,” Bishop Otto said.
He further stated that he eventually became a valuator for banks, and also shifted focus from constructing houses to developing housing schemes.
Bishop Otto, buoyed by the success he was reaping in real estate, dived deeper into commerce.
He started three private schools. “We have a basic school; we have a pre-school and then we have the preparatory school,” he explained. The prep school, Lorna Otto Preparatory, was named in honour of his wife. A multi-purpose building on the church property is also named in her memory.
Mrs Otto was 70 years old when she passed away 28 April 2023. That’s almost four months after Bishop Otto’s mom died on 4 January 2023.
Amid sighs of grief, the clergyman recalled his wife dying on the day they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
“That aches my heart,” he declared. “On the very day she died, we celebrated 50 years of happy marriage. I stood by her bed-side and watched her go from me, not just on the same day [that we were celebrating our anniversary] but the same hour – 4:50 in the afternoon when we were being joined together at the altar. It was heart-breaking.”
Mrs Otto had been ill for 18 years and was bedridden. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, a type of dementia that affects one’s memory, thinking and behaviour.
Her husband, Bishop Otto, also had a major health scare of his own. In late 2022, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“That was just surprising; that was scary – very very scary, because the tumor was very large and we had to do major brain surgery,” he told The Beacon, adding that he is not fully recovered as yet.
Despite his challenges, Bishop Otto is keeping a positive outlook while steadfastly worshiping his maker.
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