While many companies might not consider a chaplain the key to profitability, for Nashville’s Charter Construction, adding Eduardo “Ed” F. Rocha to its staff has resulted in healthier, more productive employees.
Will L. Ivey, chief financial officer of the Tennessee-based company, says by helping employees struggling with addiction, marital woes, or other personal issues, the chaplain has improved their quality of work. Rocha began his role as a marketplace corporate chaplain on a part-time basis in March 2020.
“We liked the idea of having a corporate chaplain,” says Ivey, 37. “We wanted to see how our employees would respond. Ed was able to meet with folks, gain their trust, and be a blessing to them.”
Two months after Rocha, a native of Uruguay, joined Charter full-time last September, he received endorsement as an AG chaplain. The recognition caps a 35-year relationship with the Assemblies of God that began soon after Rocha accepted Jesus as his Savior in a New York jail cell.
Alone and in despair over the possibility of a long sentence for cocaine possession, at 18 Rocha wrapped sheets around his neck in an attempt to hang himself.
Suddenly, Rocha says, he heard a sweet voice calling out: Ed, don’t do it. There is hope for your life.
Although he had attended religious-affiliated schools growing up, Rocha says when he heard God calling, his relationship with Jesus became real.
“The voice was in Spanish, not English,” recalls Rocha, 53. “I took the sheet off my neck and said, ‘God, if that’s You, help me. I don’t know what to do.’ I was very depressed. I faced a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.”
When the judge sentenced Rocha a month later, he received only a 3-year term. Soon after, at the western New York penitentiary where he would serve his sentence, Rocha attended a Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International meeting.
When a member asked Rocha if he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, Rocha responded that he didn’t know what they meant. But he agreed to allow other men to pray for him. The next thing he knew, Rocha began speaking in tongues.
“That’s my main way of communicating with the Lord,” says Rocha, married and the father of three adult sons and grandfather of three girls. “So many times I don’t know what to say. I rely on Him to communicate in my heavenly language.”
Despite his conversion, Rocha’s drug conviction got him deported after his release. The same week he arrived back in Uruguay, he enrolled in the AG’s Centro de Estudios Biblicos (Christian Biblical Center) there. While attending college, Rocha worked as a bilingual secretary for an import-export company and started going to Iglesia Evangelica del Centro Asambleas de Dios (Central Assembly of God Evangelical Church), where he met his wife, Sandra da Cunda.
Although they served as youth pastors, children’s pastors, and ultimately as lead pastors of churches in Uruguay and Paraguay, Rocha kept thinking of the people he had known in the U.S. He wanted “to pay a debt” and tell others about his faith in Christ.
A 20-year effort to obtain a tourist visa to reenter the U.S. culminated with Rocha receiving a pardon and granted residency, winding up in Tennessee. In 2012, an AG church just east of Nashville hired him to work with Hispanics and then to pastor its Hispanic congregation.
Remembering the inmates with whom he had associated, in 2012 Rocha also became a volunteer chaplain with the Tennessee Department of Corrections. In 2018, Brian K. Darnell hired Rocha to take his place at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
While Rocha left his prison position following a one-year deployment with the Tennessee State Guard, Darnell considers Rocha the ideal chaplain.
“Whenever he shows up, the response is favorable,” says Darnell, an Anglican priest who now directs a nonprofit foundation. “He’s quick-witted, bilingual, and can assess things quickly. I admire his innate empathy. He’s been through stuff in his life, and he knows what pain looks like.”
Rocha plans to continue going into prison as a volunteer chaplain. But whether behind bars, on a construction site, or as a military chaplain, he loves how God changes lives.
“I see a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit,” Rocha says. “I’m seeing marriages restored, people healed from addictions or being encouraged, and many prayers answered.”
Ivey says it’s obvious that Rocha cares for those he serves.
“He speaks their language,” says Ivey, who notes that four-fifths of Charter’s workforce are Hispanic. “Ed genuinely cares for the people in this company. He wants to be there for them.”