A shared passion for souls and community intersects for this couple’s careers and family.
Bishop Lester Woods and Pastor Christine Woods are co-founders of Urban Empowerment Ministries, which has evolved and grown in its nearly twenty-years of community service to become one of the most influential churches and movements in Columbia.
How did you meet?
Lester: I’m a musician and Christine is a singer. We met on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia during a Legion of Black Collegian Gospel Choir rehearsal. I was asked to play keyboard for the choir and she was a singer.
What was your first date?
Lester: We went to lunch at G&D Steakhouse.
Christine: Although I don’t think he expected me to order a steak. But what was I supposed to eat? I wanted what he ordered: A KC strip, of course.
What’s it like to work together?
Lester: Recently, the main time we really work together is in the church or on special events, or on ideas for the church or community.
Christine: Most of the time we understand each other’s body language and we know if something is working well or isn’t. Working together seems to work well.
What keeps you busy during the week?
Christine: I own Crowned Counseling, a mental health group practice, and work as an assistant teaching professor for the School of Social Work.
Lester: I work full-time in Jefferson City. After work, I often have activities at the church or planning sessions for the Source Summit community work.
What interests or excites you about working in the healthcare field?
Christine: The most excitement I get is to have the privilege of breaking barriers and stigma of mental health that has plagued people of color and other underserved populations.
What is the key to a lasting and healthy relationship?
Lester: The 3 C’s — Communication, Compromise, and Complement. Communication is a two-way conversation where you listen and respond. Compromise is where you don’t necessarily get everything you want, but ensure each other’s needs are met. Complement is where each of your gifts and talents support each other to make each other whole.
Christine: Communication and spending quality time with each other.
What is your partner’s best quality?
Lester: The best quality of Christine is her ability to overcome obstacles and excel in every aspect of her passion.
Christine: Lester is passionate. He’s a family man: a provider, protector, a priest, and prophet in our home. He provides for me and the girls.
What is unique about your relationship?
Christine: We have different career paths, but they complement each other. With our foundations of social justice, we just fit like a hand and glove, even though we do the same work but through different methods.
What does the future hold for the two of you?
Lester: I think we have a future of community service and support, which will bring a positive change to many in our sphere of influence.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Lester: I like to ride my bike on the local trails.
Christine: I mostly like to stay home and do something completely mindless, like watching “Good Times” all day — spending days when I don’t have to exert any mental energy.
What is your favorite art/culture activity in Columbia?
Lester: Driving around the city looking at houses and enjoying the city’s growth and development.
What is your favorite restaurant in Columbia?
Christine: We love to eat out! We frequent our favorites such as G&D Steakhouse, CC’s City Broiler, G&D Pizzaria, and Murry’s.
What has been your favorite project to work on together?
Lester: Our favorite project together has been our family. Raising our two daughters, Lesli and Kiyah, has been the joy of our life!
Christine: Raising our two beautiful daughters. This brings us the greatest fulfillment.