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Faithful children’s minister, prayer warrior, passes to reward at 99

By Mark Ellis

She led generations of young people to invite Jesus into their hearts and headed up her church’s crisis prayer chain until she was 98-years-old. With her assignment finished, she passed on to her reward on July 15th.

Mrs. Elizabeth Ogg

“I always related to children better than adults,” said Mrs. Elizabeth Ogg, who was the children’s ministry director at Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach for decades. For many years, she was the first person people called in a crisis, as she headed a telephone “tree” that transmitted urgent prayers to the faithful before email was invented.

She was the daughter of Italian immigrants, Frank and Lena Bua, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1901. An itinerant street evangelist led eight members of her family to Christ on a street corner in Lodi, New Jersey, shortly after they settled there. Then they traveled west to Los Angeles in 1919, drawn by glowing reports about the fast-growing city with its ideal Mediterranean climate.

“My mother was a Christian lady – very strict,” Elizabeth notes. “But dad was the boss. There was no changing his mind.” They planted themselves in Sierra Madre, where her father opened a dry goods store. Elizabeth helped in the store, selling socks, underwear, needles and notions.

Her father started an outreach to Italian immigrants and other new arrivals near Chinatown, and constructed a brick church that became known as The Italian Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Elizabeth took on the role of Sunday school teacher and organ player.

During high school she got involved with the youth ministry at Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles. Dr. Louis Talbot, pastor at the time, became an early mentor. The pastor who succeeded him, Dr. J. Vernon McGee was a primary influence on Elizabeth’s life, and she continued to listen to his daily radio broadcasts until her final years.

Always a teacher

Elizabeth enjoyed teaching, and she nurtured this gift as a Sunday school teacher at Church of the Open Door. She shocked her parents when she announced she wanted to go to college. Against their wishes, she graduated from UCLA with a degree in education and a teaching degree. 

Jobs were scarce during the Great Depression. Her first teaching job was in a tent on Alameda Street near the city landfill. It was a rough neighborhood where she was tested daily. “Just keep the kids from killing themselves,” her supervisor advised. She often rode the streetcar home in tears, but she stuck with it.

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