Founding of Every Child Ministries
When John and Lorella Rouster received a pamphlet in the mail in 1979, it seemed directed just to them. They had no idea how or why the pamphlet came to them, but it described the need for farmers and English teachers in Africa. John loved his dairy farm, the fulfillment of his life's ambition and deepest heart's desire. Lorella was happy teaching high school English and journalism, freelance writing, and teaching children in their local church. John threw the paper away, but God kept bringing it back to his mind. One morning as he milked his cows, the Lord spoke very clearly to him, making it clear that the family was to go to Africa as missionaries. By June 1981 the farm was sold and the Rousters with their three children, Carrie, Sharon, and John Henry, were in Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of Congo) as missionaries.
The growth of the vision
It wasn't long before they felt the need to help develop children's ministries. None of the churches in the bush where the Rousters were located had any programs to interest children. Worse, the churches frequently expelled children forcibly from church services because there was no room for both children and adults to get in at the same time. They began with a Sunday school at Nkara, the station where they were located. Lorella remembers that an hour before the announced time, the church was filled with eager children waiting for Sunday school to start. Soon the Rousters responded to calls from neighboring villages who liked what they were doing. Thousands of children came to Christ, and many adults in the villages were also saved through the Sunday school teaching. Sixteen village Sunday schools were established during those first three years.
The Rousters are the first to admit that they made a few mistakes along the way. They remember one Sunday school lesson on Jesus healing a leper. They had dressed someone up in rags, with dots of cold cream on his body to look like leprous sores. At a certain point in the lesson, he staggered into the church crying, "Mvindu! Mvindu! (Unclean! Unclean!)" About 80 children were in the church. Their eyes grew wide, they jumped up, like someone had shot them out of a gun they all ran out of the church and down the street as fast as their legs could carry them. Lorella ran after them yelling, "Come back! It's just a skit. It's just pretend." Very few were convinced, and they finished the lesson with about 15 students. After that, they were very careful to explain well in advance before trying any lifelike visuals like that!
Adopting an African child
During those first three years in Zaire, the Rousters also adopted a baby girl, Kristianne, who was brought to the mission clinic near death. Kristi could not speak or even stand when she first came at 2 1/2 years of age to live with the Rousters. With extra doses of loving care and good food, she started to grow and develop.
Founding Every Child Ministries
More and more churches were asking for help with Christian education. It was also evident that the need was so broad that a mission was needed that was not limited to only one particular church group, and thus could be free to help all churches. This eventually led John and Lorella, with the help of many Christian friends, to found Every Child Ministries (ECM) in 1985, a mission specially devoted to the needs of African children. ECM's first project was training Bible teachers to help local churches reach out to children and establish Sunday schools or other ministries for children and youth.
Read about the Early Years of Every Child Ministries.