first lady files: LaVette Gibson

First-Lady-LavetteLaVette Gibson is the First Lady of Life Church of God in Christ in Riverside, CA; a former teacher; a social worker; the Chief Administrative Officer of COGIC, and now, a television personality. Her husband, Bishop Ron M. Gibson, took a lead role in the Oxygen reality series, Preachers of L.A, which depicts their personal and spiritual lives as they interact with their congregation and 5 other bishops and pastor circles.

While taking part in the show wasn’t an obvious decision, LaVette and Ron decided it was the next step for their church.

“The Lord had been dealing with me about broadening our reach and broadening our perspective,” LaVette said. “He let me know that what we are doing within the four walls of our church is good, but it’s not the full extent. And I didn’t quite know what he was giving me, but when this opportunity came, I’m like, ‘oh, this is part of what he’s saying.’”

While some might have been afraid to take such a big step into the spotlight, LaVette admits that she has always had an adventurous side.

“I took a personality test, and it said that I have developed a more cautious approach to life. But that’s not my natural bend. I was a tomboy growing up. I was kind of a daredevil.”

But she tampered her wild side to be the reigning First Lady of Church of God in Christ.

“Coming into, and being called to the ministry, being a pastor’s wife, I’ve just kind of learned to pull some of my adventurism in a bit. I found that it’s just wiser.”

Preachers of LA was recently renewed for a second season.


first lady files: Johnetta Toodle-Tarkington

Johnetta Toodle-TarkingtonIt was only last October that Johnetta Toodle-Tarkington’s husband, Reverend Sean Tarkington was called to minister the St. James A.M.E. Church, and she maintains she is finding her niche in the many opportunities the title of First Lady has given her.

“Right now, I’m serving as an associate minster, and one of my ministries is the music ministry. So I accompany the choir or provide music for the services when there’s a need. I’m also helping to cultivate the ministry of the church with the young people, especially the young ladies.”

But a persistent dedication to excellence adds flair to her first lady service as Toodle-Tarkington, a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar and Zeta Phi Beta alum, also serves as the Coordinator for the Women In Ministry for the Southern California Inglewood Conference. She also works as a hospital chaplain.

“Being a hospital chaplain has helped me as a first lady to be attentive and to use my spiritual ear and natural ability to hear what people are saying, and to help to meet the needs of the people.”

Residing from the South, Toodle-Tarkington believes she brings a Southern charm to her role as First Lady at the St. James A.M.E. Church.

“I bring Southern hospitality—and central focus, and down to earth appeal, humility and a genuine spirit to where I care.”


First Lady Files: Yolanda Dove

Eighteen months into her tenure as first lady, Yolanda Dove is grateful to be at a church filled with love, history and welcoming people, but doesn't exactly feel it’s been a lifestyle change.
“I don't see it as any different than being just an ordinary person,” says the wife of Pastor Larry Dove of Park Hills Community Church.

“Its really a role of serving and being available to people, encouraging them and praying for them, which is no different than what I’ve been doing elsewhere as a Christian.”

Raised in South-Central Los Angeles, Dove grew up detesting the stigma that came with living in a region known for riots, gang violence and poverty.

“People felt that if you came from here you wouldn't make it or that you were disadvantaged or you somehow didn't have what it takes to succeed. But growing up in South Central gave me more motivation to prove everybody wrong and prove it doesn't necessarily mean that where you came from defines where you’re going.”

The daughter of an ordained mother, Dove grew up working for the church and in the community.

“I learned the value in serving people who did not have,” says the mother of two, who earned a MA from Cal State Dominguez Hills and holds a managerial position with the California State Department of Rehabilitation. “And that’s still my endeavor today. Even though I’m in an area [of Baldwin Hills] that is more affluent I still have the passion inside for those who don't have or those who are labeled disadvantaged.”


First Lady Files: Stacey Andrews-Shaw

Stacey Andrews ShawFirst Lady and co-pastor of New Beginning Faith Ministry Church, Stacey Andrews-Shaw is living proof that God delivers those who remain steadfast.

In her younger days, Andrews suffered from deep depression after a harrowing diagnosis shook her faith.

“The doctor told me I had cancer cells and if I didn't have surgery I would be dead in ten years,” says Andrews, who was also told she would never bear children. “But my son is here as a living witness that God is able to heal.”

It was a trial that made her stronger and built her up to one day give back.

“It let me show somebody else how to get through it because I had been through it myself,” says the wife of Bishop Willie E. Andrews. “The Word took root in me very early on.”

In her fourteen years as first lady—besides the youth department and her prophetic ministry—her passion has become their skid row ministry, which during the holidays allowed her and thirty members to feed over 500 people, as well as fit them with “brand new shoes, clothing and toiletries.”

“One Thanksgiving I was blessed with extra turkeys and I stayed up all night cooking. My husband and I got up early Thanksgiving morning and went down to skid row and fed a lot of people down there. That's when I discovered this is something I wanted to do on a regular basis.”

An operations manager for the Department of Motor Vehicles and graduate student of Biblical Studies, Lady Andrews is also a good news prophet.

“I like the role of a first lady. I like being able to lead by example and most of all I like being kind to the people of God. My life has been so fulfilled.”


First Lady Files: Charlette Withers

CharletteWithersA mother of two, grad student, nurse and the First Lady of Unity Christian Fellowship, Charlette Withers describes herself as someone who won’t give up fast, who will persevere and has the tenacity to follow through—traits she learned from being raised in a single parent home.

“My first ministry is making sure that my home and my husband are taken care of,” says the wife of Bishop Johnny Withers, who founded the church in 1999 and just recently opened a second location.

Also the leader of their Women About Results ministry, and the choreographer/director of the Charisma And One Mind dance ministry, Withers says she grew up leading and influencing people around her.

“I’ve come to the realization that if my relationship with God is constantly being cultivated and constantly maturing, that He will make me the woman that I need to be to my husband. And He will make me the leader and supporter that I need to be to our church,” says the inland empire native.

“You pull from your heart,” she says of dealing with constant responsibility. “The position itself and the title mean nothing - it is what you do and how you do with your position because your body gets tired.”


First Lady Files: Brenda Young

“I am now the international first lady of our organization. So that’s a lot of responsibility,” says First Lady Brenda Young of Miracle Temple Church of God Pentecostal. “My whole spiritual life has really just blossomed. I mean it’s a different capacity now, from just being the first lady of my church.”

The youngest of nine, Young has come full circle in the organization her father founded and led until his passing in 2007, that’s when, her husband Bishop Johnny Young, was elected to succeed her father as presiding prelate of the Churches of God Pentecostal.

“Whereas it was just our local church, now it’s our national church I’m involved with,” says the mother of two sons who both play an active part in the ministry. “I also have a PK (preacher’s kids) network that I’m in charge of. I saw a need for that when I became the international first lady.”

A retired school nurse for the Inglewood Unified School District and lover of education, Young holds two masters in nursing and education and a Phd in biblical counseling.

“I’m also more involved with the women of our organization as an advisor. It’s been wonderful.”

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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