It began with God's Call
More than 25 years ago, God spoke to Leonie in the middle of the night, calling her to a place called Yeovil. It seemed inconceivable that a single woman from South Africa could plant a church half way across the world, but Leonie believed and waited on God to fulfil His promise.
Having been greatly influenced by the ministry of Brent Rue, Leonie went on to spend a formative time at the Vineyard School of Ministry (VSOM) with the Desert Vineyard in California. At the time Desert Vineyard was still meeting at the Antelope Valley Fairground in Lancaster.
Upon returning to South Africa, Leonie met Hendrik and they got married in 1995. It was also at this time that God started speaking to Hendrik about the call on his life and it wasn't long when Hendrik & Leonie were contacted by and returned to VSOM, this time to be on staff.
They got exposed to the teachings of a wide range of pastors and teachers, both in the Vineyard and without. They also had the opportunity to visit and get involved in the compassion ministry at Anaheim Vineyard, which had a big impact on them.
The view from the Vineyard Ranch was spectacular, ovelooking the Antelope Valley towards the Tehachapi mountains. This was truly a place where you could draw near to God and be inspired by godly people and passionate students.
Realizing that the time was coming to make preparation to head for England, Hendrik & Leonie returned to South Africa to start making preparations for the move. During their time back in South Africa, they did an internship with Costa Mitchell and were involved in a church plant in Melville, which later became the Hillside Vineyard Church.
The School of Ministry was located on a ranch near Lake Hughes and students from all over the world came for 3 months in the Spring and Fall. Part of the school was an outreach, either to Mexico or Russia.
The outreach ministry at Anaheim was huge. Trucks were loaded with food, clothing and equipment, and then set out to do a block party in a neighborhood. They provided free medical care in addition to prayer, entertainment and fun for the kids, as well as providing groceries and clothing.
It was important for them to be recognized and released by the Vineyard church in the UK, so in 2001 they arrived in London and joined Riverside Vineyard Church. They began leading small groups and started an inner healing ministry. Leonie also went on staff at the church office, which was a great experience and a time of equipping for her. During this time, Hendrik & Leonie underwent the church planting programme with Rick Williams, and in 2007, felt that God was releasing them to go to Yeovil.
What followed was a difficult and testing time with changing jobs, selling and buying houses, and getting to a place where they had a suitable space in which to welcome people. They finally began meeting as a small group in June 2009. The small group grew and they began to prepare the group to be the nucleus of the church plant.
In April 2010, the fledgling church began meeting in a pub for Sunday evening services.It was a really great time and unchurched people loved it. The services grew until they could not fit into the space anymore, when the decision was made to start morning services. God led the church to start meeting in the Café area of the Octagon theatre, starting in April 2011. This was another amazing chapter in the history of the church, as we began gathering families for the first time and had to begin a children's ministry.
Initially we sought to buy the Park School when it came up for sale, but as time progressed, it became obvious that it would cost too much and by then we had outgrown the space it provided. We said goodbye to the Park School in February 2018.
We became a truly nomadic church, briefly occupying Buckler's Mead school in Yeovil East, before needing to move again to Yeovil Central! During our time at Buckler's, we had wonderful experiences, but also suffered great tragedies as we had some of our key leaders developed cancer and tumours.
We moved to Westfield Academy, which provided fantastic facilities and is much larger, with a great cafeteria for catering and the Young Vineyard classrooms had their own block. Additionally, we had 10 times more parking than before! But then COVID Struck and the school was forced to use their hall as a socially distanced classroom, meaning we had to find another venue that would be available as and when we dipped in and out of lockdown.
In-Person and Online
For the last year we have been meeting at Abbey Manor Community Centre, which is a COVID-Secure building set in a beautiful park. We have been able to meet on and off over the last year as lockdown rules have allowed.
Going forward, it is our continuing commitment as a church, to pursue the vision that God gave us: To love God, to love People and to transform the world through loving-kindness. We want Yeovil Vineyard to be a place where people encounter Jesus, build lasting relationships, get challenged to go deeper in their faith, and where people get the opportunity to walk in their life's calling and purpose. If you are hungry for God and want your life to be different, this may well be the church for you!