- Early Life
Joan E Whittaker was born in Alderton Jamaica West Indies; a small rural town of not more than two thousand people. Joan’s earliest recollection of herself was at about age three when her birth mother placed a small spoon of medicine in her mouth when she was sick. It is common knowledge in the family that she was so sick that she died and after her death was announced to the community she miraculously woke up from that state.
At age four her mother died dramatically while giving birth to her tenth child. Joan was the last of the nine children remaining. Joan remembers her mother’s funeral like it was yesterday. She shared in her book entitled the Journey how thousands of people gathered from the surrounding communities to participate in the grieving process of her mother’s untimely death. Joan’s mother Ivy’s last words and prayer to God was for her baby girls to grow up and become great spiritual leaders.
Granny Pin the aunt, a single mother residing in the same household became the mother of Maurie, Joan and the rest of the siblings. Granny Pin had seven children of her own but quickly became mother and father to a large family of children and young adults. Granny Pin’s tenacity and determination as a Christian woman kept Joan focused on God as she grew up in this poor, rural community. Joan did not begin formal school until she was age seven but quickly caught on to the basic math and English that was taught. At home the family Bible was frequently read aloud and this impacted Joan’s love of reading in a significant way.
Joan’s father, who married Ivy her mother, lived in the same community in a small two room house he inherited from his father. He was a dedicated Christian and hardworking man. Joan’s father had great influence on her life. He was a remarkable businessman, organizer and committed worker despite him being illiterate. Joan remembers penning her father’s letters and reading aloud those he received from family members afar. Those moments were painful and provoked Joan to privately pledge as a little girl that one day she would become somebody of importance.
At age twelve Joan made a pact with her late cousin George Sewell that they would both attend college and become doctors. By that age Joan was an avid reader. The bookmobile visited her village frequently enough for her to read all the great British classics and Jamaican stories. George wanted to become a medical doctor and Joan, a professor. George later became a successful medical doctor and died at an early age from cancer. George’s death propelled Jones to pursue a dream even more aggressively.
- Married Life
Joan graduated from high school at age seventeen and married her high school boyfriend. After two months she realized that a major mistake was made. She was taught by her church that divorce was wrong. She knew that one day it would end but also that she would not be the one to initiate divorce. She gave birth to two boys by age nineteen. She lived in a household of anger, bitterness and malice. She realized that neither of them understood the demands of family and marriage. There was infidelity and complete disregard for the emotions of the children. She cried out to God for help.
God sent help in the form of the couple’s closest neighbor. She approached Joan and had a deep and life-changing conversation about her marriage and destiny. The lady was an angel from God who informed Joan that God and an education were the tools that would get her into a good future. Joan quickly enrolled into the nearest community college some two hours away by bus from her home. Joan was the only married student in the college. She asked her mother-in-law and neighbors to help with babysitting in order to get through school. After one year of aggressive studying, traveling by public transportation four hours per day and living with barely enough food and money to survive college she graduated the top student in her entire college.
A series of events quickly followed. She was hired by the Manchester Parish Library in Mandeville Jamaica as a Library Assistant. A year later she was pregnant with her third child and gave birth to Twudian, her daughter. Some months later, the library director informed Joan that she was recommended for a government scholarship to attend the University of the West Indies to study Library and Information Science. Her three children were sent to live with her mother-in-law, her husband stayed in Mandeville and Joan left for Kingston to attend college. Every weekend Joan visited the children four hours away by bus to prepare them for school and return Sunday night by bus to college.
She again graduated with honors in four years and became the head of children services at the Mandeville library in Jamaica. Her husband migrated to the United States to seek work while Joan lived with her three children as a working single mother. Again life became challenging financially and emotionally. Joan again decided that she needed more. Driven by her passion to succeed, she packed up for America, left her boys with a colleague in Mandeville, took her four-year-old daughter Twudian and migrated to the United States.
Joan was accepted in the library science program at the state University of New York in Buffalo. She had no friends, family or support system in Buffalo but again graduated with a three point eight grade point average. Her professor gave her room and scholarship to her best friend and asked that Joan drop out of college for a while. Joan’s response was that she does not believe in “dropouts.” In twelve months Joan completed her Masters in Library and Information Science and left Buffalo to begin her tenure with Queens Library in New York City as a Librarian.
In 1989 Joan reconnected with her husband and rented an apartment in Bogota, New Jersey. She became a member of a local church in Englewood New Jersey where she committed to serve in a variety of ways. After six years traveling to Queens by public transportation she relocated her job to Irvington New Jersey. She became head of Children’s services. During the same time, her two boys migrated to the United States as well as her stepdaughter. One big happy family turned into one big sad family. The marriage again struggled with the pain of the past. There was no maturity or growth. Joan picked up the slack as a single parent when a family member informed Joan that her husband would not return to her.
The long, excited journey as a single parent began in 1993. Joan was left with four children, a mortgaged house, a car and a big dream for her family. She had an encounter with God. In a vision she was told that if she committed her entire life fully to God she will be used by God in a mighty way.
Joan dived into ministry work with passion. Her pain was subsided when she worshiped and prayed. She cooked for the church, cleaned the floors, did gardening, evangelized, taught Sunday school, served on the finance team, served on the women’s team, headed the youth department and supported her pastor completely. She adopted five young ladies and mothered and fathered eight to nine children. It was a bitter sweet life as she enjoyed her family, worked in her career and served in her church. Her children all graduated high school and entered college.
In 2000 her life changed radically again. After crying out to God for change she was promoted to Library Director and Pastor all at the same time. When she visited her sister in Ossining New York to pray, God told her while praying that a local church must begin in Ossining. She stepped out by faith, quit her part time job and began her new life as Library Director and Pastor.
After 16 years as Library Director, in 2015 Pastor Joan retired from the State of New Jersey and entered into full-time ministry as senior Pastor of HORAC ministries.
- The Bishop
Today, Pastor Joan spends her daytime hours counseling, writing, preaching, teaching and traveling to minister at churches globally. Joan E Whittaker is the dean of the Mount Olive Bible Institute and seminary Ossining campus, an author and public speaker.