Greater Love Outreach Ministries, a non-denominational church on Yontz Road in Brooksville reaches into the entire community to help people in their daily lives. Reverend Yvonne Woods is the pastor to the approximately 75-member congregation.
After graduating from Eustis Vocational High School in 1963, Reverend Woods attended college in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and began teaching children in the Head Start program. She met her husband in Gettysburg and in 1979 they moved to Brooksville with their four daughters. The couple would go on to have one more daughter after moving here.
She started attending her mother-in-law’s church. After seventeen years as a member of that congregation, Ms. Woods joined another church. Later, when the pastor decided to leave, the deacons came to her and asked her to consider taking over as pastor. She was no stranger to the ministerial life, as her father had been a minister for thirty-five years before he passed away.
To prepare herself for the ministry Ms. Woods attended Life Christian University at Grace World Outreach Church in Brooksville. She eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Theology and is currently finishing up on her Doctorate.
Pastor Woods states, “My passion is loving others above myself and helping others that need help in many ways.”
Her ministry extends beyond a couple of hours on a Sunday. She works with people who need food, housing, or guidance in the right direction; whether it be a drug addict or someone who needs to find a job.
In 1994, local mothers were losing their benefits; food stamps, and other state help. She held classes for some of these women to help them find employment. Many did not know how to complete a job application or how to “dress for success.” Reverend Woods helped get some of the women enrolled in a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) class and many of them went on to get jobs as home health aides and CNAs. She also worked with some of the young men to find employment.
Ms. Woods and members of her congregation also work with Seniors. They volunteer with the organization People Helping People preparing bags of groceries and delivering them to the senior centers. Her church has a food pantry also that provides food for people in need.
The pastor has just started a program called Unity Connect and is contacting other churches to join in the effort. The purpose of Unity Connect is to help people, whatever their need; from helping them pay their utility bills to assisting them with medical expenses. The program also refers people to social service agencies and networks with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Jericho Road Ministries.
Greater Love Outreach Ministries has outgrown several locations over the past few years. One day, she started looking for a permanent home for the church. The story she relates of how she found the current property is an example of divine intervention.
“I was in my office when a gentleman came to fix the roof. I was on the computer looking for property and he asked me what I was doing. I told him and he said, ‘get in your car and follow me.’ He stopped at an old abandoned piece of property that was covered in underbrush. You couldn’t even see the building.”
They located the owner of the five-acre property and he met her there to show her inside the building. He warned her that the place was in bad shape. Pastor Woods asked her husband to look at the property to get his opinion. He said renovating the structure was “doable.”
Their owner turned down several other offers and sold them the property. Pastor Woods asked for donations of supplies and money from local businesses. She, her husband, and numerous volunteers worked night and day to get the property in shape and renovate the building. Against all odds, they completed the project within a month and held their first service on December 13, 2015.
Being a pastor of a church has many rewards, but there are challenges also. “The most challenging thing is getting people to be unified, to come together, reason together and work together. You can’t please everybody.”
“The most rewarding thing is watching the church grow and see how it came together,” Pastor Woods remarks.
Although Greater Love Outreach Ministries has achieved success in its mission, Pastor Woods had a revelation from God the first time she preached in the church.
“I heard the Lord speak to me and He said, ‘Yvonne, this is not it. There’s going to be a bigger and greater building that you’re going to see in this community.’
And I prayed about it.” Reverend Woods’ vision is to have a bigger building that will house classrooms, a computer lab, and space for Crescent Clinic, (a free clinic in Spring Hill), to come a couple of times a week to treat people. She also wants to have a soup kitchen to feed the homeless and a place where these people can take a shower and wash their clothes. The pastor would like to have educational programs and tutoring for the children.
If past performance is an indicator of future progress, then there is no doubt that with hard work, cooperation, knowledge, determination, and, most of all, faith Reverend Yvonne Woods will accomplish her goals.
For more information on Greater Love Outreach Ministries call 352-585-7328 or go to their Facebook page. The church has several activities coming up. On February 27 and 28 there will be a revival that will include a BBQ on Saturday at 12:00 noon to raise funds. On Sunday February 28, the youth of the church will do a presentation on Black History. The entire community is welcome to attend these activities and Sunday services at 11:30 a.m.