AN OVERVIEW OF OUR HISTORY
The vision for the formation of Universal Outreach Church was conceived in the heart of our leader in the late 1990s. After much prayer, Pastor Johnson, joined by his wife, Dr. Richel Sion-Johnson, and their children, Ashley & Rendell, began to initiate plans to start a ministry in Irmo, SC. They were also joined by some members from our sister church, Bowman Temple, Bowman, SC, where Pastor Johnson was serving as the Pastor. The first outreach was a community fest held on Saturday April 14, 2001. On the following day, we held a worship service at Harbison West Elementary School with 15-persons in attendance. During those early months, members from Bowman Temple were instrumental in assisting with the outreach programs, the basketball league, the music ministry and in other areas. On Mondays we met with the children in the community in the gym, taught them, provided recreational activities and served them a meal. We served 50-60 children weekly. As these activities increased, the church grew and needed more space.
In order to meet this need, we purchased a building at 7232 Broad River Road, Irmo, SC, which was subsequently renovated and dedicated in February of 2004. Soon afterwards, we started the Universal Leadership & Arts Academy (ULAA). Through ULAA, we reached out to neighborhood children throughout Irmo. We also partnered with the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice to provide outreach programs for the community. Hundreds of children were served and several families were added to the church through these outreach efforts. Universal has also been actively involved in promoting unity and service among local churches, within and outside of the Church of God in Christ. We were one of the supporting congregations for the Global Day of Prayer in Columbia. This interdenominational, interracial gathering of churches brought thousands of believers together to pray throughout the Midlands, in the Colonial Center, the Columbia Convention Center, and in local churches. Some of our members continue to support prayer and ministry gatherings that grew out of the Global Day of Prayer.
In the interim, we out grew our facilities in Irmo and looked for a period of time before settling at 25 Bluebird Trail Irmo, SC, in September of 2013. We experienced our greatest growth, established more ministries to our members and expanded our community service during the nearly 3-years that we spent at 25 Bluebird Trail. It was a very significant step on our journey, but it was not to be our destiny. As a church family, we prayed that God would provide us a location in a residential area, where we could better serve and have more direct access to families. Our prayers were answered in August of 2016 as God opened the door for us to relocate to the former Columbia Church campus at 220 North Royal Tower Drive, Irmo, SC, in the heart of Friarsgate, Irmo’s largest residential community. We assumed the purchase-option on the campus and God blessed us to complete the purchase of the campus and expand our ministries. God moved us ahead with the mandate to, “Possess the Land”, from which we developed the 2016 Operation Possess The Land!!! (OPTL) vision. The centerpiece of OPTL is the immediate closing on the purchase of this campus and expanding our effort to reach and serve this great community. To God be the glory!