Melissia Coley didn’t attend church growing up as the oldest of three children in a home headed by her single mother. While a student at John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont, California, a classmate repeatedly invited Melissia to meetings of a Christian club that met on campus during lunch.
She decided to go to ask for prayer for her troubled life. Melissia’s mother gave birth to her at 17. Her parents never married after a brief relationship, and she had never met her father.
In time, Melissia also accepted an invitation to attend First Assembly of God in Fremont. She gave her life to Christ at youth group. A youth leader noticed bruises around the girl’s neck and reported it. Child Protective Services removed Melissia from her home and placed her in foster care.
Meanwhile, because of the girl’s inquisitiveness about Scripture, a youth leader from the church encouraged Melissia to attend Central Bible College (CBC), the Assemblies of God school in Springfield, Missouri.
“I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Bible college,” recalls the youthful-looking Coley, 51.
She applied, but with low grades she didn’t qualify for acceptance. A tutor helped her study, Coley raised her grades, and she gained admission.
“The Lord helped me learn skills I did not have,” says Coley, who is a meditative speaker. She says being baptized in the Holy Spirit during her junior year in high school transformed her life.
Moving from the multiethnic Bay Area to overwhelmingly white southwest Missouri proved to be a bit of a culture shock for Coley, who is African American. Nevertheless, Melissia made friends with classmates of various races. She also met her husband, Earl Coley, who graduated from CBC with a bachelor’s degree in biblical and theological studies.
The couple returned to California and became part of Trinity Chapel Life Center in Compton. They then joined a church planting team to launch Inglewood Community Church. The Coleys served as associate pastors there for five years and lead pastors for three years.
During that stretch, the Coleys were bivocational: Earl employed by Transamerica Financial Advisors; Melissia worked as assistant director of Grace Elliott Clinic, a faith-based nonprofit pregnancy counseling agency.
In 2004, the couple became full-time senior pastors at Los Angeles Grace Assembly. Melissia oversees outreach ministry, which includes food distribution to neighbors and children. In 2015, she received her AG ordination.
“Ordination helped solidify the nudge to preach that I had felt from the Lord,” Melissia says. “I am better equipped to understand Scripture and exegete the text carefully.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical theology and leadership training in May from Vanguard University. She desires to preach impactful sermons.
“I want to see the message of Christ be at the forefront of believers in terms of everything they think,” Coley says. “Faith shouldn’t just be event oriented or church oriented.”
She also says Christians need to be outward focused rather than making a self-seeking interpretation of the Bible.
“We should be reaching out to the lost, not just concerned selfishly about material things or our happiness,” Coley says.
The Coleys, married for 30 years, have three grown children — David, Leah, and Garrison — who are all college graduates.
Earlier this year, Melissia became southwestern regional director for the AG’s National Black Fellowship.
“We should share Christ wherever we are, at the gas station, at the grocery store,” Coley says. “The message of Christ should not just be a formal presentation.”
Coley is doing her part. She regularly distributes gift bags to prostitutes on the streets of L.A. that contain hand sanitizer, hand lotion, toothpaste, facial cleanser, lip balm, and breath mints. Included is a card telling the recipients that Jesus loves them, and if they are ever in trouble to call out, “Jesus, help me.”
Cherie Candler, who met Coley more than a quarter century ago at Trinity Chapel, regularly joins her on the ministering treks in the streets.
“Melissia loves witnessing and she’s going to find ways to reach the lost,” says Candler, a 66-year-old retired medical center secretary. “She is intentional in her conduct to reflect Christ. Her desire is to see all churches come together in evangelism and work together in love for God.”
Teri Shea, 52, has known Coley for more than a quarter century, since they attended a small group together at church. Shea is impressed at how Coley worked through childhood hurts and family dysfunction to become an effective minister.
“The street ministry she’s involved in is so needed,” says Shea, a software engineer. “Melissia totally relies on God and she didn’t let fear take over. She shows the women that they are valuable.”
LOWER PHOTO: NBF officials pray over Melissia Coley at her installation as regional director.
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