By Reva G. Harris

Joanna Turner
Courtesy of Marta Habtu

Long-time Hyattsville resident, Joanna Turner, began our conversation with a fervent “Praise the Lord!” Joanna is first lady of Word and Spirit Ministries, an apostolic church located in Washington, D.C. Her husband, Pastor Maurice Turner, founded the church in 2003. Joanna is also a minister, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Biblical studies and Biblical theology. As first lady, she is responsible for praise and worship services and for teaching children’s Sunday school. Joanna also assists in organizing church events. “I am there to support,” she declared. In addition, Joanna facilitates a prayer phone line that is available Monday through Friday. 

 

Joanna moved to Hyattsville on her wedding day, Oct. 1, 1988. The couple lived in Fleetwood Village Apartments for six years and had two sons. In 1993, the Turners moved to a home located near Queens Chapel Road. “I was a stay-at-home mom, but I volunteered at Independence Court ,” she said. Joanna described how she and her sons would knock on apartment doors in the senior living facility, introduce themselves and “begin ministering by reading Scriptures, praying and singing to residents.” 

 

Before marriage, Joanna was a part-time student at Howard University majoring in journalism, but she did not complete the program. “I looked for a job in journalism, but could not find one,” she stated. “I have a neighbor who will tell you the truth, even if you don’t want to hear it. She told me, ‘If you want to work, you will work.’ There was a housekeeping position open at Independence Court. I asked about the job, and they hired me right away because they knew me.” While working at Independence Court, Joanna said she would see Mayor Robert Armentrout when he came to the facility to visit his mother, who was over 100 years old. Armentrout was Hyattsville’s mayor from 1999 to 2003.

 

As a freelance journalist, Joanna wrote articles for The Hilltop, Howard University’s student paper, and for the Afro-American’s Living Church section. “In 2001, I applied for a position at The Prince George’s Sentinel. I got the position mainly because I was a Hyattsville resident. I was the sole writer for the Prince George’s Sentinel’s Hyattsville paper. I had much to learn,” Joanna admitted. “The managing editor helped me a lot,” Joanna said, referring to her colleague, Barbara Bolden. “When she left in 2002, I was forced to leave as well. … I’m forever grateful for her helping me while I was at the paper.” Joanna has also contributed to the Hyattsville Life & Times.

 

“My sister-in-law told me about free training to become a home health aide. … The job was nothing like journalism, but I needed to pay the bills. I realized that I enjoy helping people, so I went on and got training at Prince George’s Community College,” she said. Joanna worked for Visiting Angels as a certified nursing assistant. “This is my calling,” she explained. Currently, Joanna works as a home health aide in the District. Four years ago, she founded a ministry to provide cases of bottled water to the elderly. “I started the water ministry because I saw a need … I’ve even delivered water to the Rev. Walter Fauntroy and his family.” 

  

Joanna and her family have experienced several tragic events. In 2007, Joanna’s niece was killed by a Metrobus. In 2014, her husband, who also worked as a mail carrier, was assaulted, abducted, duct taped, thrown on the sidewalk and left for dead by two men who were looking for a package of drugs they assumed was in his postal truck. Fortunately, someone found Maurice, and he survived. “My family knows about tragedy,” she noted. Joanna quoted Psalm 34:19 to summarize those horrendous experiences, saying “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” She added, “God took the bad and made it into good. My husband was freed to begin his ministry to Africa.”

 

Joanna reflected on life in Hyattsville. “What I like about Hyattsville is that everything is convenient. I can walk to Prince George’s Plaza, the doctors, the dentist, the grocery store and the fitness center. All are within walking distance from my house. When I covered a Hyattsville City Council meeting about 20 years ago, there was a developer who said he was going to build a theater, restaurants, stores, and put lights on East-West Highway. What he said came true.” That area of land is now University Town Center.