From The Mall To Brazil And Back

December 16, 2018

While at the Staten Island Mall in 2005, Tony Rivera was shopping with his wife, Barbara. With packages in tow they saw the Crossroads Church Gift Wrapping in the center of the mall. Looking to Barbara, Tony said; “Honey, let’s go get these gifts wrapped.” While it was after closing time, Tony asked if he could have his gifts wrapped and the team started wrapping his gifts. Tony met Pastor Ray Parascando there and as they were talking he felt like he knew Pastor Ray for years, and thought it was amazing that a Church was wrapping gifts. After receiving an invitation to church, Tony said “I’m gonna see you guys this coming Sunday.” As he and Barbara left, Barbara asked Tony if they were going to go to Church on Sunday, to which Tony replied “Yes. I want no problems with God.

True to his word, Tony and Barbara attended service that Sunday. At the time Crossroads was in a Series on the Chronicles of Narnia which Tony found very touching and biblically based. “Wow this place feels just so right” was Tony’s feeling after that first Sunday Service. With work obligations on most weekends, it would be two years later that Tony would find himself at Crossroads Church again. Feeling that he needed to find a Church home, Tony went to a service in another church, but as he was in service things didn’t seem right;

“I was sitting there and it was an amazing church, with an amazing choir, but I felt like it just didn’t feel right. And I remember the Gift Wrapping and I knew I had a flyer in my car.” Tony would head to his car and find the Crossroads Church invitation from two years ago. Seeing that he had time to make it to the 12:00pm service, he rushed over and made it in time for service. ‘There was about six people in the entire service, and there was Pastor Ray preaching; and it was amazing all over again. When the service was over Pastor Ray came up to me and he said how are you doing Tony? How’s Barbara? How’s the family? He called everybody by name. I haven’t seen him in two years, and I was overwhelmed. I remember that day I came home and I said; ‘Honey, I’m sorry about that big pretty church that you wanted to go to because God has called us to our home here at Crossroads.”

When Tony and Barbara would first come together to services the first thing Tony remembers being shown was a video on a missionary trip to Brazil that was coming up. “I looked at my wife, and I saw her raising a hand; and I said ‘Oh no!’ Next thing I knew I’m on an airplane flying to Brazil.” The Riveras would head to Brazil on a mission trip, which would be an amazing experience for them. Tony would say that “it was better than any vacation that you could imagine. It was an incredible time of being in God’s presence in this country. That’s an experience that’ll last a lifetime.”

Tony describes his time here at Crossroads church as a “privilege” seeing the church grow. There were times of difficulty; “but I tell you, it’s like you have a second family, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of this. That really touched my heart. I felt like I had a belonging and I needed this because we sort of lost our way; and this foundation, this church, this pastor, and this second family of mine was a part of our growth. We were able to grow with the church, and it was just an amazing journey.

By his own admission, Tony and his wife are not young. He’s retired, with a son in his 40’s and two daughters one in her 30’s and the other in her 20’s. Tony thought things were pretty much done, but due to circumstances, Destiny came into Tony and Barbara’s lives.

“She’s been such a blessing. We love her so much, but the incredible thing was the way Crossroads welcomed her. The love they showed her. It was just amazing. It was like Destiny was coming and becoming their child. It was just amazing, and I’m so thankful. I mean Destiny didn’t know anything of Christ and through the Sunday classes, the teachings, the Bold Generation youth group; and now she’s involved with the worship. She was able to sing a solo, and I almost became a complete mess watching that. I’m just so grateful to see the growth.“

Tony has been on a journey here at Crossroads Church and it all started that night in the Staten Island mall, leading to a mission trip to Brazil, and back again as a member of Crossroads Church for over thirteen years.

“I didn’t know that so many years ago in 2005 wanting to get my gifts wrapped, it was going to be a whole different thing that God had planned. What He was going to do was take my life and direct it towards Him. And because of that everything was planned perfectly, and I’m so grateful. Seeing Destiny, my wife, and myself here growing and being a part of this church; during the difficult times, during the happy times; it’s just an experience that you can’t imagine and it’s a true blessing. I’m so thankful for being a part of this church.”

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