A native of Slidell, Louisiana, Sister Emelda Tolbert was born the eighth of eleven siblings to the union of David and Bernice Faciane. Educated in Louisiana, Sister Emelda moved to Kansas City after graduating from high school in 1975. She attained a degree in fashion merchandising from Penn Valley Community College. Emelda and Mark Tolbert were wed in April 1978 and they have two sons, Mark Jr. and Britton Elliott.
Emelda’s career began in 1976, when she went to work for Safeway/Food Barn Stores, Inc. Her job duties included accounting, office management, and coordinator of fund raising events for the Easter Seals Society. After 12 years in the grocery industry, Emelda’s desire to make a career change led her to the Medical field, accepting a job as office manager for Dr. James Carter.
Although she enjoyed being employed within the corporate structure, a desire to spend more time with her family convinced her that what she needed was a business of her own. Immediately, she got involved ina multi-level marketing company (Golden Neo-Life Diamite) along with her husband Pastor Tolbert. Within 18 months, she was able to quit her job and venture into the business full-time. Today, their network consist of over 1100 distributors and customers which operates in 12 states and the Caribbean. Emelda not only handles the day to day operations of their business, but also conducts nutritional clinics, seminars and workshops, teaching others how to start, develop and maintain their own independent GNLD distributorships. For two years, she co-hosted a radio talk show “To Your Health” with her husband Pastor Tolbert.
While growing up, Sister Emelda dreamed of becoming an airline stewardess, a fashion buer and an entrepreneur, but never a pastor’s wife or First Lady. The position of a First Lady comes with little or no training, unlike their husbands who have the opportunity to attend the seminary, conferences, read books on the subject or work as an assistant or understudy to a pastor. Not until recently has there been help for a pastor’s wife in the form of books, conferences and support groups.
In summarizing her role as First Lady, Sister Emelda first asked, “Who can define the role of the pastor’s wife? We are the only women I know who work full-time on our husband’s job without pay, in a role that has yet to be defined.” At some point in our tenure we will be secretaries, cooks, hostesses, chauffeurs, inn keepers, teachers, interior decorators, program planners, auxiliary leaders, bookkeepers, counselors and other duties as assigned or as the need arises,” she expressed. As First Lady, she has functioned in each one of these capacities. Thank God there is a Crown laid up for us in heaven
“I give honor to each of the First Ladies of Christ Temple who served before me: Mother Lorene Tolbert, Evangelist Mattie Scott-Rogers, and the late Evangelist Zephyr Scott. Each one of them, in their own unique way contributed something special to this ministry. Following in the footsteps of Mother Tolbert was a smooth transition,” shared Sister Emelda. She further elaborated that, “Mother Tolbert never tried to change her or make suggestions on what areas of the church she should work in. I appreciate her for allowing me to be my own person and to seek God for the direction in finding my place in the ministry. Mother Tolbert is an excellent teacher and a lady with a lot of wisdom. I knew I could not fill her shoes, therefore, I brought my own with me.” Sister Emelda clarifies that statement meaning that she could only be herself and the pastor’s wife that God would have her to be.
Born, raised and educated in the Catholic faith, making the transition to the Pentecostal faith was quite different, but not necessarily a difficult one for Sister Emelda. On July 7, 1977, she was baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Ghost on September 16, 1977. There were many things that she did not understand in the areas of doctrine, worship, dress as compared to the Catholic faith. God would eventually open her understanding through the teaching and reading of His word. Immediately, upon getting saved, she got involved in the youth choir, usher board and the young people’s department which allowed her to feel a part of the church and made the transition easier.
Some advice received from Mother Lorene Tolbert was not to become so involved in the ministry that she would not have quality time to spend with her children. Sister Emelda stays involved in her children’s academic progress and extra curricular activities as well as their spiritual growth.
Contributions to her husband’s ministry involves directing Fashion Share, a ministry for battered and homeless women, coordinating Honor Roll Recognition, a program that awards our children for academic achievements, teaching in the Christian Education Ministry, coordinator of the Women’s Ministry (Sisterhood Department), assisting our corporate secretary and head deacon in church administration and finance. In addition to assisting her husband in the ministry. Sister Emelda runs errands for the church, she houses, provides meals and entertains church guest, decorates the church, attends church growth conferences and accompanies her husband on some of his speaking engagements. Currently she is the Assistant Secretary of the Northwestern District Council Women’s Auxiliary, a position held since 1995.
There will always be some sacrifices when in the ministry. You don’t just share your husband’s ministry, sacrifices are made in order for them to be the pastor God would have them to be. There are times when church schedules, member emergencies, and speaking engagements conflict with holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and the kids activities. Sister Emelda has learned to adjust accordingly. After her husband became pastor, Sister Emelda took over the operation of their business, as well as continuing her family and church responsibilities. Not only have there been sacrifices on her part, but their children as well. They too, have to share their father with the congregation, community, and other churches. As pastor kids (PK Kids) more is expected of them, forgetting that they are no different from other kids, and at various stages in their lives will go through some things.
Sister Emelda advises other minister’s wives, to first of all, be yourself. You can never be everything to everyone. Seek God for which area of the ministry he would have you to operate in the church. Be a help meet to your husband and support him in his ministry, don’t become so involved that you don’t allow time for your family or yourselves. “It is very important that you retain your own identity. As pastor’s wives our identity is sometimes lost in the shadow of our husband’s ministry,” encourages Sister Emelda. Personally, never stop growing; find something that will give you a sense of self-fulfillment, whether it be a business, career, community work, etc. This will help build your self-esteem and give you a sense of assurance that if something happens to your husband, you still have a “life”.
As for pastors and their wives it sometimes gets lonely at the top. Be your mate’s best friend and always keep a line of communication open. Sister Emelda recommends finding someone in the ministry you can relate to because they too will not have many friends. Concerning the congregation, never show respect of person, learn to be a friend to all and a “buddy” to none.
Sister Emelda urges all First Ladies and potential First Ladies to remember God has placed you here for a time as this and it is he who will strengthen you for the task. Never compare yourself to other pastor’s wives or feel inferior if you are not the best at what task is at hand. Take care of your husband so that he can take care of the church and God’s business. Your greatest asset to your husband’s ministry will be hospitality. Romans 12:13 instructs us to distribute to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality.
“As a pastor’s wife you will have some good days and some bad days, but your good days will out weight your bad days” encourages First Lady Emelda Tolbert.