First Lady Files: Deborah Ellis

First Lady Files: Deborah Ellis

For First Lady Deborah Ellis of True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church, it was growing up in the church that guided the Seattle native to her purpose.

“Being involved so much in the church—in the choir and youth department—helped me focus more and as I grew I understood more what the Lord wanted for my life,” Ellis said.

That part of her purpose was becoming the first lady to her husband’s childhood congregation sixteen years ago, after two decades of membership, came as a surprise.

First Lady Files: glenda goree

First Lady Files: glenda goree

“Becoming a pastor’s wife and even being a first lady—everyone else could see that when I couldn't—and then it just turned out that way,” says First Lady Glenda Goree of Faithful Service Missionary Baptist Church.

The wife of Rev. D.L. Goree now teaches the adult Sunday School class, leads a woman’s group, coordinates the annual women’s day conference and is a member of the First Ladies Health Initiative—and she’s more than happy to take it all on at the church that was organized by her uncle in 1962.

First Lady Files: Kera Tulloss

First Lady Files: Kera Tulloss

First lady Kera Tulloss of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church knows what it is to serve. For the last seven years she has managed the church’s weekly food give away, served as president of the women’s ministry at Missionary and assisted her husband—Rev. K.W. Tulloss—wherever needed, all while balancing her role as the mother of three and her fulltime job as a preschool teacher.

“I help wherever I'm needed,” she explained. “My challenge is to uphold the title of first lady, to keep striving in the right direction and not be distracted.”

First Lady Files: Earleen D. Ross

First Lady Files: Earleen D. Ross

The youngest of eight children, First Lady Earleen D. Ross experienced loss at a young age with the passing of her father and says she found solace in her faith.

“We grew up in the church so it gave me an appreciation and foundation for the things of God. I looked forward to serving. It was something that I gravitated to at a young age,” recalls the Baltimore, Maryland native and first lady of Greater New Light Baptist Church.


first lady files: Laverne Williams

firs lady laverneFor First Lady Laverne Williams of Victory Institutional Baptist Church in Hawthorne, her career as a registered nurse feels very closely related to her role as the pastor’s wife.

“Who I am in the church setting is who I am at work,” says Williams, who has been serving as first lady at Victory Institutional for 28 years.

Because she is one of the coordinators over the Health Awareness Ministry at the church and because she’s passionate about educating her church members about diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and weight loss, she seamlessly glides from her career to her ministry.

“I believe being healthy also plays a role in working together with your spiritual growth because if you’re sick and ill you can’t really focus on your spiritual growth,” said the wife of Pastor Richard Williams III and mother of two adult sons.

Interestingly enough, in all of Williams two decades at the church, obstacles have been few and far between.

“It’s all a learning experience. If a person is comfortable in their own skin and in who they are and their relationship with Christ, know what their gifts and their passions are, strengthen those areas and move forward. Treating people the way you want to be treated,” is the advice she would give a future first lady.

“I always ask God, what do you need me to learn from this experience or this challenge? I need to learn it so I can move forward.”


first lady files: Lady Lisa Craig of St. John Presbyterian Church

lisa craigAt a very early age, First Lady Lisa Craig of St. John Presbyterian Church discovered her desire to serve in a helping position or profession—whether it would be in ministry or outside of the church, she didn’t know. It turned out to be both for Craig, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“My relationship with God started as a child,” says the mother of two and wife of Pastor Steven Craig. “I started to participate in my church’s youth program and developed a close relationship with my youth pastor’s wife; I believe God was drawing me in a direction that I ended up going.”

Now, the UC Davis and Fuller Seminary alumni owns her own private practice—just a half a block from St. John’s—where she meets with children, adults, couples, and among them, members of her very own congregation.

“It’s been very gratifying. I really believe God puts me together with these individuals who come into my office and that God is the healer and I’m a vessel of his healing truth.”

But even successful women have role models. For Craig, she thanks her husband’s mother (who was also a first lady) with guiding her in balancing her home life, taking care of herself, and also serving outside the walls of her home.

“One of the things she said early on, that fit for me, was of playing a more behind the scenes role and making sure that the home is a refuge. And that’s been a real value of mine—the opportunity and responsibility of being available to my husband and my children in a way that supports them and nurtures them.”

First Ladies High Tea
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