BROOKSVILLE — On May 6, David and Nellie Garcia will say goodbye to the congregation at Grace World Outreach Church, where they’ve ministered for 30 years, and launch a new ministry. Daniel Norris was installed as the new pastor on Easter Sunday and came with his wife, Jenna, and three children, from Dallas.
"I came the first Sunday in May, and I’m leaving the first Sunday in May," said Garcia, who has been married to Nellie for 46 years and describes himself as 67 going on 45. "God has been leading me the last two years to do this."
The departure comes as no surprise to the congregation, which was informed in January. The elders learned about eight months ago, giving them time to find a replacement.
"I chaired the meeting where Pastor Norris was voted in, and then on Resurrection Sunday I led the service and preached when he was installed," Garcia said. "This whole month of April I’ve been pastoring the transition, and we’ve been co-pastors."
Sandi Tafelski and her family were part of the small congregation that welcomed the Garcias in 1988, when the church was called Brooksville Assembly of God. She and her husband, Ed, have served in various ministry roles over the years.
"Pastor has been a very strong and in-depth teacher," Tafelski said. "I remember the excitement when we voted him in. I was excited to grow, excited to learn, excited to go deeper, and I was not disappointed."
Tafelski also benefited from Garcia’s example.
"I’ve watched him over the years strive to live his sermons," she said. "I think my favorite thing about Pastor has been the way he digs into the Bible and the way he embraces change. He always wants more, and that is not a bad thing."
Though the message will be the same, the Garcia’s venue will change with their new "1:28 Ministry," taken from a verse in Colossians that says, "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
"Nellie and I are planning on traveling full-time and preaching, teaching and doing evangelism in churches in the United States, and occasionally overseas, to do mission work," Garcia said. "A lot of evangelists go to win souls, but they’ve never been pastors. We’re also going to encourage the pastor of a church and his wife and children."
The couple will spend time encouraging their daughter and son, who are in full-time ministries with their families in other states.
Meanwhile, Garcia is happy with the results of his ministry here. He’s taken the Sunday attendance from 125 to 1,125 and led the congregation’s move from Russell Street to a new facility, affectionately called "the dome," on Cortez Boulevard. It’s been important to Garcia that the church remain debt-free.
But the pastor said his biggest accomplishment is about people.
"My wife and I were true to the message of the Gospel without compromise," Garcia said. "Most of our people are strong disciples, and we’ve taught them to discern the difference between good and evil. We’ve taught them not to need us anymore."
Any credit for the ministry’s success, he said, goes to God.
"It has to be (because of) our prayer life," Garcia said. "My wife is a tremendous prayer warrior and leads a Tuesday morning prayer service, which set the pace for the entire church. The prayers from that Tuesday gathering and also our own intimacy with the Lord, has to be the number one reason."
Church members will see the Garcias at church when they are back home in Spring Hill.
"I’d like to sit in the back somewhere and just enjoy the fruit of my ministry," Garcia said. "But we will not be in any counseling or leadership capacity. The torch has been passed; the staff has been given."