Meet the ECM founders

Every Child Ministries Founders, John and Lorella Rouster

Every Child Ministries Founders

John, Lorella and Whitney Rouster

John Rouster has found that his background and experience in agriculture (dairy farming) was extremely useful preparation for his missionary work. He loved farming. In fact, John was milking cows one Sunday morning when God clearly and unexpectedly impressed on his heart that he was to leave the farm and become a missionary to Africa. John has been responsible for planning and supervising construction of many buildings in Africa, from ECM's first African Leadership Training Center and a medical clinic in Congo to ECM's Haven of Hope in Ghana. He was recognized as Distinguished Graduate of Belleville High School, Belleville, MI in 2000 in recognition of his missionary and humanitarian work for the poor. John completed his Adult Bible Study certificate from Moody Bible Institute, the culmination of many years of study, the last lesson being completed by lantern light in a mud hut in Congo where the family was living at the time. John enjoys refinishing and rejuvenating "junk" furniture, all kinds of woodworking, reading history, especially about the American Civil War, gardening, and Gospel music, especially the Gaither Homecoming Series.

Lorella's background is in writing (over 200 published articles and Bible lessons), teaching (she taught high school English and journalism before going to Africa), and Christian education. Lorella studied at Moody Bible Institute, received an A.A. from Jackson Community College (Jackson, MI), completed a B.A. in English and Education at Tri-State University (Angola, IN), and received a M.R.E. (Masters in Religious Education) from Covington Theological Seminary in GA. More recently she became a certified Christian counselor with the National Conservative Christian Church. She is a prolific writer with published articles on Christian education, missions, Bible and science, literature, biography and history, and has written many Bible lessons for Child Evangelism Fellowship and for Union Gospel Press, as well as Christian Education articles for a wide spectrum of denominations. Before becoming a missionary, Lorella taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Summer Bible Clubs, and served on the Christian Education committee of her local church. Lorella enjoys swimming, scrap booking, family history research, reading, Gospel, jazz and classical music.

Lorella's specialties in her work with Every Child Ministries include teacher training, writing teaching and training curriculum, and serving as an advocate for the trokosi and other slave children and women who are held in ritual servitude in idol shrines in West Africa. In her work with ECM, she has traveled widely in Africa and enjoys learning about African culture.

Both John and Lorella have studied extensively with the Evangelical Development Ministry Institute are are members of the Association of Christian Development Professionals. Their sending church where they held active membership for many years was Hillside Community Church of Crown Point, IN.  Presently they attend Valley Baptist Church in Valparaiso, IN.

The Rouster family

The Rouster childrenThe Rousters have four grown children—Carrie, Sharon, John Henry, and Kristi, adopted from Congo. Carrie and husband Bill Boehmer have given them eight lively grandchildren—Marissa, Caleb, Serena, the twins Alaina and Elizabeth, Tessa, Alisa, and Abigail. Sharon and husband Steve Carroll have added two wonderful grandchildren to the family—Jordan and Hannah. Both Carrie and Sharon are proud to be stay-at-home moms and are both home schooling their children. John Henry and ex wife Kelly have given them a third John Rouster—John Everett Rouster. In 2004, John Henry completed his career in the U.S. Army, where he developed his skills in diesel mechanics. John loves fixing things, making things, gardening and fishing. Kristi, adopted in Congo, is the mother of Whitney, who is being raised as John and Lorella's own daughter see photo at top of page), Jenna, who was adopted by Joe and Debbie Roberts and family, and Trey, adopted by Bruce and Kim Thompson. Despite challenges due to early malnutrition, Kristi completed high school. She now works in Indianapolis, is married, and volunteers for worthwhile political causes.

In the woodsThe Rousters are pleased that all their grown children have served short terms in Africa after their initial time growing up in Congo. Carrie and Sharon have contributed to teaching, nursing and literacy efforts. While still teenagers in Congo, they helped deliver babies and learned to make marshmallows from scratch. John Henry has worked with mission construction and was recently an immense help in installing solar power and a playground at Haven of Hope. While growing up in Congo, his main interests were shooting bats with his BB gun, building stick huts with his African friends, and roaming the wide African countryside. John learned to speak the African Kituba language so fluently the Africans claimed they could not tell an American was talking without looking. He also taught mom and dad Kituba sign and body language.

The Congo years

Farming in the congoThe Rousters lived for nine years in Congo, six of those years in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. The Rouster Family in AfricaThey are full of stories of adventure from their years in Africa. John tells of the time a black mamba snake got in bed with him and of struggling to unload a tractor from a river boat over planks that bowed down, the tractor slipping more off the planks with each trial to get it on shore. Lorella once sank up to her armpits in mud while hiking alone in the forest, sat on a stream of driver ants passing over the outhouse seat, and watched a roll of toilet paper unrolling and disappearing down the dirt floor of their home to make a rat's nest. There are wonderful memories, too. John remembers grinding mbambi (a small antelope) by hand to make burgers, watching the stars as they sat outside their mud hut at night singing hymns, family reading times, endless games of Dutch Blitz, and helping the kids set up their "Slip and Slide" on Christmas day. Lorella loved swimming every day at 4 p.m. year round, and reveled in the stillness of the warm water and the quiet beauty of the lakes. She loved the beautiful tropical flowers, colorful birds that live in the savannah grasslands, lively African music and dancing, and warm African hospitality. Lorella taught her own children when she lived in Congo, as well as three children of missionary colleagues Jim and Nancy Smith.

Trouble and protection in Congo

The Rousters were evacuated once during troubles in Congo. John remembers getting up at midnight to receive a note saying that all Americans had been ordered to leave and that they must be in a town 65 miles away the next day. They threw a few clothes in overnight bags, woke up African friends for teary farewells, and drove the truck over the rough Congo roads so fast that the back window broke out, shattering glass all over them. They kept going, arriving just in time for the last flight out. Thatched African hutAfter some months they returned, only to be placed under house arrest for their own safety when there was trouble again. Lorella remembers hearing gunshots all night long. She got up and got dressed so that if soldiers came for them, they would not find her in her pajamas. Another night they heard their section of town was earmarked for destruction. There was no way out, so they knelt on the porch with African friends, with tears and with a strange sense of joy and peace, committing their lives to the Lord. The soldiers never came. The next morning, a wide-eyed guard, a faithful old Christian, told them of seeing angels over the front gate.

Still another time, John, with visiting board member David Bryant, traveled through the epicenter of the deadly Ebola outbreak, sleeping just yards from the hospital that was the main center of the outbreak. Just as he arrived in Kinshasa, the entire region he had just left was quarantined. His pleas to return to get Lorella were turned down by authorities. Meanwhile at Garizim, Lorella began rationing supplies since she would be responsible for all the families of the mission until John returned. Fortunately it was not long, and John did not get sick.

The Rousters' ministry at present

Since 1997, the Rousters have served as International Directors for Every Child Ministries, living for years in Merrillville in Northwest Indiana and now living in Kouts, while they oversee the growing mission work in Congo, Ghana, and Uganda. Most of their time is devoted in one way or another to the mission work. The Rousters raise funds for African staff and projects, keep in close touch with African leaders by email, supervise volunteers that collect, sort and ship materials needed for the African work from ECM's International "Mission Central" in Northwest Indiana, and visit Congo, Ghana, and Uganda at least once a year. Lorella has developed a Children's Ministry Training Manual, "Teaching the Next Generation" that was originally written in Kituba, then translated back into English, as well as French, Portuguese, Lingala, Tshiluba, and parts into Spanish. She is previously worked on in-depth Sunday school lessons in French, and is now focusing on Kituba, utilizing active African teaching methods. Lorella has now expanded on her training materials, producing "Master Trainers for Africa" materials to help African leaders develop the next generation of children's teachers. She sometimes teaches those materials at the "Every Child Institute". You might say the Rousters live, breathe, and sleep for African children. The Rousters don't mind. When they think of those precious African jewels, they know they are precious and worthy of investment.

An opportunity for your group

Both John and Lorella Rouster speak on behalf of Every Child Ministries and as advocates for the forgotten children of Africa. They do not request payment for speaking—only transportation costs and an opportunity to tell about God's work. A freewill offering is appreciated, and all funds go toward developing Every Child Ministries' work with African children. If your group might be interested, contact ECM.

Lorella Rouster with African children

Read more about the Founding of Every Child Ministries