"Let’s see…It was the summer of ’82 – the Cortese family was on the West Coast ministering throughout the churches of the Los Angeles area – Joe, myself and the girls…doing what we’ve been doing for most of our lives. But this trip would turn out to be different …..for a couple of reasons.
First, I got a chance to spend some wonderful days ministering at the Sepulveda Christian Center with Sam & Janel Meza . This was not the first time I met this couple. You see….Pastor Sam was a just a little boy when I had grown close to his grandmother, Rev. Felicidad Fernandez. What a woman of God! …..and a preaching voice that needed no microphone. But as the years passed, she too passed her mantle to this young man of God. And what a man that boy turned out to be. I love you Sam!
But something else happened on this trip that would forever change the rest of our days. While staying in his home, God, through His Holy Spirit, whispered something into my heart that I almost didn’t believe…“Aimee, it’s time to go back to the Bronx.” I had been away from pastoral ministry for some time now.
It seemed like Corrections and evangelism would be my role the rest of the way through. But God said it again…”Aimee, back to the Bronx.” I said, “Lord how about sunny Florida, Puerto Rico, even California.” And, right there in Pastor Sam’ kitchen God said it a third time. “Aimee!…” and I said, “Yes Lord.”
By this time we knew the chorus well, “Where He leads me I will follow.” And His leading took us to the Castle Hill area of the Bronx. My friend, Monin Santiago, told me of a storefront church just under her apartment, that had been vacant for some time. A quick phone call – and before we knew it, we were negotiating a lease. The owners of the building were glad to see us come in. You see…they never wanted to see this building be anything else but a church. They believed there was a remnant in that little house of prayer..
It was 1246 Castle Hill and with the crisscrossing of highways, like the Cross Bronx, Bruckner Expressway and Hutchinson River Parkway, it was clear that this place would be called Crossroads. The building was now ours and it was time to make it pretty. But first, the demolition. God sent us strong arms in Benji Rivera, Tommy Cubertier, my son-in-law Luis, and my husband Joe…and he sent us a few crazy nuts as well - can’t build a church without a few of them. The ladies cheered us on, and Debbie supplied the musical interludes.
We had no sign on the front of the building yet, so we just told people to look for Hickey’s Tavern. But eventually, Willie Sierra from the Brooklyn Tabernacle blessed us with our first sign. I guess the sign is supposed to be three dimensional, but somehow the design lacked, so people just called us Tabernacle Crossroads.
In came the Spring, left over lumber became the podium, some left over funeral arrangement was used to beautify it, and we began our first worship service. And God just kept giving and giving and giving.
We had no sound…but God sent us Abraham Viera and he blessed us with a sound system. Debbie was on the piano by herself for a while but eventually God sent in great musicians as well.
He didn’t stop there…the Lord surrounded this female Pastor with some of the finest men in my son-in-law, Luis Rivera and now Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. He even blessed me with a retired IRS man in Lou Crocco to help us maintain our finances. When you have Jesus, you have everything you need. And, what’s a church without children. Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me,” and we made sure they did, and don’t forget the teens.
Now evangelism is my heart. So in the Summer of ’83, it was time to hit the streets and God blessed us, in a joint effort with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, to minister to the Castle Hill projects. Boy was that powerful! But what we never knew at the time was that the drummer would one day become a Pastor as well. Even our long time friends, Soul Liberation, from Texas, came and gave us a standing-room only gospel concert like never before. God fell on that little chapel that night and we officially “had us some church!”
And God kept giving us more souls – we eventually had to move to a larger facility, like the YMCA around the corner, and God blessed us there. And we outgrew that place, and God sent us to JHS 127 - and God blessed us there.
But, never did we think that the big theater down the block, the Bingo Parlor, was what He eventually had for us. He gave it to us and He is blessing us here. But, in all of this, we never want to forget or despise our small beginnings: 1246 Castle Hill – the little storefront church.
How precious is our God…I started my walk with Him, “In a little storefront Church” at the age of 12. I’ve come full circle around and back to my beginnings: “A little storefront church.” We are not little today……we’re growing daily…Never satisfied – size is not the goal; outreach is our cry…souls for the Kingdom…
Children, young people, Moms and Dads at the Master’s feet – till Jesus returns to take us home. This we’ll be doing…It’s His Command!"
-As told by Founder Rev. Aimee Garcia Cortese