"How The Outreach Began"
Overseer Willie Thomas and his wife Mother Gail Thomas are among 30 original members of the Outreach Evangelistic Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith. Originally founded in early 1980’s by the mother of Bishop Thomas, the late State Mother Katherine Thomas. State Mother Katherine Thomas, affectionately known as Polly, responded to a vision and a call from the Lord to establish a church. It was one afternoon during her daily mid-day prayer that the Lord vividly gave her 30 names of known individuals who had fallen away from the Lord. Amongst this list of 30 individuals were her son, now Bishop, Willie Thomas and his wife Mother Gail. As Mother Katherine Thomas reviewed the list of names, she sat on a chair positioned along her bedside with a phone, her bible and an end table. Her grandchildren often recall the moment they could hear their grandmothers’ voice echoing from her bedroom through the house as she called on the phone each name on the list telling them the vision God had given her. Her statement to each was that they must all come back to God.
On the first day of the opening service at a building on Ohio Ave in the Village, all 30 came to church. Of this number of 30 were her adult children, including son, Willie Thomas and his wife Gail. However, there was one item on the list that just didn’t appear clear to Mother Katherine Thomas. Music wasn’t the missing piece of this ministry because all of her children, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews were musically talented. She herself could play rag-time gospel on an organ. With certainty the Lord had clearly given her the vision of an outreach ministry. He even gave her the names of the founding members. What he did not give her was the name of the preacher. Paul the apostle says in Romans 10:14-15 KJV, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Not knowing what God had in store, Mother Katherine Thomas continued to obey the voice of the Lord as she waited.
It was during this waiting period for a pastor to lead the flock of 30 that the Outreach church was ministered to by many preachers who were invited to hold long term assignments as temporary shepherds over the ministry. These individuals were appointed by the late Apostle Lymus Johnson of the Evangelistic Churches of Christ of the Apostolic Faith Inc., who wanted to ensure the success and stability of this new mission.
As the church progressed, the ministry found itself going through a sudden transition without a preacher. Her son Willie was playing the guitar every Sunday while his wife led a highly anointed praise and worship service. The Lord then led her son, Willie Thomas to take a trip to visit Apostle Lymus Johnson at one of the national churches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During this trip Willie Thomas sat in the basement of the church while he had dinner and discussed the mission of the Outreach Church with the late Chief Apostle Lymus Johnson, the Presider and founder of the Evangelistic Churches of Christ. As they sat, the Lord spoke to Chief Apostle Lymus Johnson and told him to ordain Willie Thomas in that evening service as the first Deacon to this ministry. Now a Deacon, Willie Thomas, went back to Ohio to pick up the mantle to lead the ministry as the first ordained officer to the vision the Lord gave his mom.
Deacon Thomas, had been taught the word of God under his uncle, Bishop S.R.Tyus, pastor of Holy Temple, as a young man. He was a reader for his uncle during the morning messages and radio broadcast which created the ground by which the word was planted at a very young age. Now that he is a Deacon, when the ministry did not have a representative to preach on a given Sunday, Deacon Thomas took his place to preach the word of God to God’s people. With his wife Gail at his side, she became an active missionary leader, songstress and soul winner. By this time the Lord had saved and called Bishop Thomas’ entire family to the work of the Lord.
In a very short time after, Willie Thomas being ordained a Deacon, the Outreach mission began to go through a second transition which still left the Outreach Church without a pastor to lead the flock. Bishop Thomas knew the word of God which stated as he being the only Deacon, ordained officer and spiritual leader of the mission, he had to lead the flock. He would often reference the word in Acts the 6th and 7th Chapters when Stephen, a Deacon, stood before the council and preached the word of God full of the Holy Ghost and without fear.
This transition opened the door to the call. His mom, State Mother Katherine Thomas prayed and asked the Lord to confirm for her that her son, was called to the ministry. Her specific request to the Lord that night was to have Lymus Johnson call her the next day. This was a unique request to the Lord because Mother Thomas had not heard or spoken with Apostle Johnson in months. He knew nothing of her prayer to the Lord. It was no sooner than 24 hours later that Apostle Johnson called Mother Katherine Thomas because she was on his mind. He just wanted to see how she was doing. Mother Thomas immediately recalled her prayer to the Lord. It was a simple request. “Have Apostle Johnson call me.” A few months later Deacon Thomas, the congregation and his family attended the Evangelistic Churches of Christ National church convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The late Apostle Johnson, looked on the Deacon leading the flock of God's people in a growing mission and firmly declared him an Elder to pastor God’s people.
From day one Bishop Thomas delivered an anointed, spirited message and continued to serve in the ministry. He was ordained by Apostle Lymus Johnson as Pastor, an Elder and then later as Bishop of the Outreach Evangelistic Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith. Most importantly, up to today, no one foresaw that Bishop Thomas would soon become the successor of the late Apostle Lymus Johnson as Overseer and leader of the National body for the Evangelistic Churches of Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. Through his years in leadership as pastor to the local membership in Cleveland, overseeing the National Organization for the Evangelistic Churches of Christ, Bishop Thomas helped to refocus the evangelical mission of the National Organization by adding international ministries, increased the national fellowship amongst churches within the Pentecostal Apostolic body , became a member of the Cleveland Apostolic Ministerial Fellowship (CAMF) and established a nonprofit called the Sons of Levi (SOL).
The Sons of Levi was started from a concern Bishop Thomas had when he surveyed the struggles men were having in their homes, workplaces and everyday life. Sons of Levi is a local Outreach brotherhood ministry which mentors newcomers and brothers seeking Christ while strengthening brothers in Christ as they move into greater works for the Lord. The Lord showed Bishop Thomas that without harsh judgement, men need a support group to confidentially run to for strength, prayer and support. The mission for this nonprofit is “To see men as God sees them. Find treasure in the trash. Be able to see their potential to draw them out and develop them.” Simultaneously, Mother Gail carries out leadership and mission work among the women and newcomers in the church with a focus on spiritual growth, family development and health awareness.
Through the work the Lord established in these two servants, Bishop and Mother Gail Thomas, they have worked to win many souls for the Lord Jesus. Many have been witnesses to the miraculous conversions of what man counted worthless to what God called worthy in this ministry. Countless men have received their calling into the ministry which has birthed other ministries as far as Atlanta, Georgia. Most importantly souls have been baptized and received the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, families have been healed, delivered from drug addiction, healed of incurable diseases, gainfully self-employed and now each soul has become a greater witness to the change this ministry has brought to their lives.
The bible says in Mark 16:17 KJV, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues…” All of these works declare the ultimate goal of saving souls, lifting up the Lord, and bringing in souls to the wonderful and matchless name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.