Dr. Gary L. Williams, Sr. accepted Christ as his personal Savior at the age of nine. He is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and the younger of two sons born to Alfreda Williams and the late Rev. Roosevelt Williams. Pastor Gary Williams is no stranger to the ministry. In 1990, Dr. Williams accepted the call to become the pastor of First Baptist Church of Mandarin. He has the longest tenure as Pastor of the First Church. He seeks to transform the lives of many through the simplicity of the gospel. The focus and aim of his ministry is church and family centered – to do what he can to support the nucleus (the fabric of the community). Under his leadership at The First Church, membership has grown from under 100 to several thousand. There are more than 30 active ministries, and they continue to develop to meet the demands of the ministry. Other accomplishments include the construction of a new sanctuary, a family life center and a collegiate gymnasium, totaling 80,000 square feet. In addition, two churches, Light of the World Christian Center and Mt. Horeb Baptist Church, have been planted and supported. The Promise Land Pre-school and Promise Land Academy have been established. Under the direction of Dr. Williams, extensive work is being done in Malawi, Africa. In 2011, construction was started to build the "Village of Hope". The Village of Hope, located on two acres of land, will consist of eight buildings where literacy, Bible and vocation skills will be taught. Dr. Williams works to expand God’s kingdom on earth spiritually, socially and economically. Therefore, the vision continues to unfold with the “City of Hope,” which is Christ-centered, and involves conversion (salvation), and commitment (community involvement). The City of Hope, comprises 30-acres of land and will be the new home of First Church Hopewell, an administrative building, gymnasium/teen center, recreational field, senior housing development, and maintenance building. As plans progress for the construction of the City of Hope, which is located in St. Johns County, Dr. Williams has established Hopewell Lite. Hopewell Lite fosters the ministry's presence in the community and serves as a means to bring the gospel to those who live in the area. Dr. Williams earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies and a Masters Degree in Apologetics both from Luther Rice Seminary. He holds Honorary Doctorate Degrees from the Jacksonville Baptist Theological Seminary, Doctor of Divinity from Saint Thomas Christian College and Edward Waters College.