Establishing a new life in New Iberia is part of her calling
JoAnn Rochester has traveled to more than 100 countries in 35 years as a missionary. Starting in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, Rochester entered missionary training in South Carolina during her 30s after first being an educator. She later graduated from Victory World Missions in Oklahoma located across from the world renown Oral Roberts University.
Invited to New Iberia by Word of Hope World Outreach Church to help organize city prayer walks and a community summer program for children, her temporary stay has recently become home base. With relocation, Rochester said, the work God called her to in the city has just begun. Her mission organization, Every People Tribe and Nation, is focused on meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the community of New Iberia as she has in the nations of the world.
Where did you recently return from traveling?
Kampala, Uganda. Generally I’ve been in those countries before and over the years you establish relationships and start schools, support orphan children, things like that. People get to know you so the more you go, the more and more people, and many more doors are open to you. They reminded me I’ve been coming there since 2004, fourteen years. Each time I’d tour the entire region, sometimes other countries. Uganda would be a base.
What impact have you had on the people in the refugee camp you visited?
I visited a refugee camp, people from many, many countries who had been at war and they had to leave their countries. You have these different tribes, nations and languages all together. Remember when the children of Israel had to leave and there were all these tents everywhere. That’s what it was like. This was the first time I was approved by the United Nations to go inside the camp.
You can do more things, see a lot more people inside. There are about 70,000 people there. It’s much larger than New Iberia. I’ve seen it grow but the most beautiful thing, while I was there, I did the altar call and just about everyone came forward to receive Christ. That was about 1,000 people that came forward, the largest group I’ve seen. They were on the inside, the outside, on the platform — while I was gone, mission work was happening by the leaders I trained up on previous trips. The people that help me are the ones I taught in bible school. They are leaders now. I always minister to pastors, teaching what is the making of a Godly leader — a person that God has dealt with their hearts to be involved with people in their communities. They don’t just pastor the church, they pastor their entire community. They’re not just people who just want to horde money to themselves, but they’re being a blessing to the people in their community, not just in their church. You have to hammer that home. You also have to hammer that when someone is holding a meeting, you should all come and participate, not establish something else so people will not come to that man of God’s meeting. I say that, they get real quiet.
What languages do you speak?
A little German. There are more than 400 African dialects. I am introduced as we go, so I’ve learned basic greetings, pantomime is used a lot. One time I had six translators on the stage with me, and the end result sounded like a grunt. But by the time it got through six translations, you have to trust that God is speaking to them, and he has. They accept Christ as their personal savior.
What do you want to say to New Iberia?
What I really want to say is that people are always talking about the millennials and how our young people are not going to church and that they are just out there. I believe that if we would go after the millennials and get them involved in things like drama, music and all of that — and taking care of people, loving people and that means in this country as well as overseas, God will get involved and change their hearts and minds. You won’t have to worry about building prisons and all these other things you see. That is so important and necessary. I’m on the streets here all the time and in the evenings when I go out there, I see the children gathering amongst themselves. Not that they are doing anything, but they have nowhere to go, nothing to do.
When I was a little girl in the third grade, I was a part of the Detroit Center District Choir. The whole city — I was in the third grade and my teacher selected me to be part of the citywide choir. We practiced for an entire year for one performance outside in the snow at Christmas time. We did opera, this and that, it kept us busy. We didn’t gather on the streets. I remember being the angel up on top of the Christmas tree. I’ve always done Christmas drama.
New King James Version
“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven,
having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth — to every nation, tribe, tongue and people — saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ ”