Mario & Leigh Gonzalez are Assemblies of God, nationally appointed U.S. Missionaries for the Hope Center , and Senior Pastors of Hope Center Tabernacle. Their mission is to create a culture of worship in the Body of Christ, encouraging worship in spirit and in truth, with a foundation in a holy lifestyle. Also, in response to the great commission, the ministry presents the gospel to a lost and dying world, utilizing the arts.
Prior to entering into full time ministry, Mario served as Vice President of a multi-million dollar corporation that focused on high tech defense manufacturing and was lauded by then President Reagan as a premier minority led corporation, and then worked for Lockheed and a variety of other Defense contractors as both a consultant and a Purchasing/Material specialist. He subsequently left the Defense field and entered the retail market designing and selling store interiors/fixtures. He has owned and operated several private companies. Leigh had a career in finance working for a nationally known interior-decorating firm, whose client list included the Rockefellers, the Astors and the Kennedys.
In March of 2000, Mario and Leigh founded The Hope Center a ministry that utilizes the visual and performing arts to present the message of the gospel to an increasingly auditory and visual generation. As classically trained musicians who loved to worship God, they both had a clear understanding of the impact of the arts on society. Whether ministering in churches and high schools, stadiums and parks, or partnering with a local ministry, Mario and Leigh and The Hope Center team have presented the gospel to thousands in a relevant form without compromising holiness or excellence. Prior to the foundation of The Hope Center, as seasoned pastors and builders, they have had over 10 years of fruitful ministry.
In 1994 while serving as associate pastors in Harlem, N.Y. , Mario and Leigh founded The Least of These a ministry to those affected and afflicted with the AIDS virus, with ministry in four hospitals, three in New York and one in New Jersey . This led them to serve as protestant chaplains for Terence Cardinal Cooke Medical Center a long-term care facility for critically ill and chronically ill patients. During their tenure hundreds of patients were led to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As a means of ministering to the families of patients in the hospital they planted a new church, Samaritan Christian Assembly in Harlem, NY .
In August of 1996, Mario and Leigh took on the pastorate of an additional church, Calvary Assembly in Jersey Cit , which is now known as The Hope Center Tabernacle. Originally consisting of 30 members, the church has now blossomed to over 500 adherents. In 2002 as a response to the growing Latin community in Jersey City , they planted a new Spanish congregation called El Tabernaculo at the Hope Center . All three churches are positively affecting their communities.
Every church bears the DNA of The Hope Center. Each congregation is filled with people that have been touched by The Hope Center’s ministry. Single parent families, young adults, married couples; children and the elderly come together in an ethnically diverse environment. The effect is also seen in the churches, ministries and organizations with which the Hope Center has partnered. Many have come to know the Lord through Hope Center presentations. Whether it is expressed through music, fine art and other areas of the performing arts, the message has been clear and has pointed thousands to Christ. The ministry has been featured on NBC, FOX and UPN, with numerous articles written in local and national publications as well.
It is Mario and Leigh’s vision to further expand the ministry beyond the borders of New York and New Jersey, to additional inner city mission fields. They currently reside in Jersey City with their two daughters, Stephanie and Sarah.