Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Overseer" Mothers Hundreds

Lucia Rosetta Howe will never know what it is like to give birth to a child, but she has, over the past 50 years, single-handedly raised more than 200 children from her May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica home.

The 82-year-old pastor has also seen to the establishment of 19 churches, both locally and abroad - some of which her foster children are now pastoring.

"The overseer." as Howe is affectionately called, shared her passion for children with the Sunday Observer during a recent visit to her home. And while her body has now been rendered incapable of much work due to arthritis, she related her years of working in service to the Lord.

"I just had a love for children - to care for them to see that they come out to be something good," she said. "In fact, somebody wanted me to be married, but I wasn't interested in marriage. I was interested in preaching, and I felt that I would have children for the Lord rather than anybody else," she said.

She was at the time a member of the Church of God of Prophecy in Rosewell, Clarendon, Jamaica, where she and her seven siblings were raised by parents who were lay preachers. She remained in that church until 1957 when she was asked by "the overseer" to take charge of the May Pen branch.

This was a huge undertaking for the then 30-year-old, but she took up the responsibility and remained there until 1961, when she resigned.

"The young people used to come to the church to hear me preach. I was very slim then," she boasted, holding on to the handles of the motorised stroller she now uses to get around.

Despite her success there, Howe decided to build her own church - The Good News Release Centre of the Prophetic Church of God - in May Pen in 1962. She went on to build others in Manchester, Westmoreland, New York, Connecticut, Canada and India.

As her ministry grew, so did the number of children she took in. Most of them were given to her by their parents who were unable to take care of them.

"She took five children from one husband and wife because they didn't have it. They got sickly and had problems, so she fostered those five children and sent them to school [high school] until they graduated," said Pastor Beverley Brown, who was among the first group of children that Howe took in.

She added that Howe fed them, clothed them and saw to it that they received an education.
"Some of them [those children] are abroad, some of them are in different parts of Jamaica. We have university graduates; we have one teacher at one of those prominent high schools in Kingston; we have one who has her master's and is a chartered accountant; and others who are doing just as well," said Brown.

"I am proud of where they are at now in terms of their profession," added Howe, who was a primary school teacher for eight years prior to becoming a full-time pastor.

As a pastor, "the overseer" introduced a number of ministries in her church that would allow her to impart her knowledge of sewing, crocheting, embroidery, cooking, making jams and baking cakes.

Some of her children are now using these skills to make a living for themselves. One of them is 68-year-old Mazi Thomas, who was taken in by Howe, at the age of 14 years.

"She taught me how to crochet and so I now crochet for everybody in the community," she told the Sunday Observer.

Howe also gave her a chicken coop and a refrigerator, a few years ago, and Thomas has since been supplying restaurants and households in the area with chicken.

Pastor Brown said she and her foster sisters and brothers are very grateful for the sacrifice "the overseer" made in raising them.

"It was a faith venture. It's not that she had it in lump sum, but there were days that the Lord provided. There were difficult days, of course, but we went through," she said.

[BY NADINE WILSON, Sunday Observer staff reporter,]