You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2006.

To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
–Karl Barth
(An Aymara woman praying in Bolivia–public domain photo)

For those who may have gotten overlooked in the bulk email-out, we also wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas season.

This year has been yet another in which God has demonstrated his abiding faithfulness to our family. Though there have been many moments of stress and uncertainty, we can look back at year’s end to see how God’s hand has worked in our lives over this past year.

We started out the year in Togo, already preparing for our fast-approaching departure. Anthony was able to complete work on translating the Train & Multiply leadership training series which continues to be used among the Watchi leaders, and is also being translated into the Kabiye (Togo) and Dagara (Burkina Faso) languages. Our final months in Togo were filled with goodbyes as we visited each of the church clusters, as well as packing, selling, shipping, praying, and planning for Maureen’s immigration to the U.S. Shortly before leaving Africa we were able to participate in one last West Africa Missionary Retreat in Ghana. The following week, Anthony flew to the States to interview for a ministry position. While we thought that might be the direction that God was leading our family, it turned out that He had other plans.

We left Togo on Jeremy’s birthday, May 4, following a memorable day in Lomé with our teammates relaxing at a newly-found hotel. At the hotel that day, we were able to meet a Togolese artist whose work we had long admired, and purchased one of his paintings as a last souvenir. Our wonderful teammates sent us off that evening with prayers and tears.

From Lomé, we flew to Paris, where we spent three days sightseeing and preparing ourselves for life out of Africa. We then flew to Singapore where we spent the rest of the month of May visiting family and friends there. Jeremy and Jonathan always love going to the Singapore Science Center. This year we visited the Night Safari for the first time, and we were also able to see some rare, undeveloped wetlands in the middle of this bustling city. As usual, we were spoiled by the hospitality of our Singaporean friends.

On May 31 we arrived in Chicago where Maureen’s immigration procedures went smoothly. The next day we met our family in Alabama, where the real process of missionary re-entry started. There seemed a million details to deal with – buying a car, purchasing insurance, getting cell phones, planning travel, and communicating with churches about prospective employment. These first several weeks in the States were hard, since we did not have our own place and had no idea how long we would be in transition. Our transition was made easier by the hospitality of family, as well as the Steve & Amy Castleman and Bill & Twila Jones families in Birmingham.

Maureen and I made a trip to Dallas to help with a Discovery Lab for Mission Alive, as we considered working with that incredible church-planting ministry. When we arrived in Dallas, Gailyn Van Rheenen greeted us with the sad and shocking news that our dear friend and colleague, Cyndi Chowning, had been killed in an accident in Benin. Anthony was able to return to Texas the following week for Cyndi’s funeral in Denison. Our hearts continue to go out to Richard and all of Cyndi’s family.

In the midst of the tragedy of Cyndi’s death, I (Anthony) was blessed to be able to see many missionary colleagues at her funeral. Two of these, Andy & Rhonda Wilson, our former co-workers in Benin, told me that the church in the small West Texas town of Albany where they had just moved was looking for a preacher. Though I did not pursue the opportunity immediately, it came up a second time at the encouragement of Dan McVey, so I thought that I should give it some attention. In the end, it turned out that this was just what God had planned for us all along.

In the meantime, we were blessed to be able to spend the last part of the summer and the autumn months in Birmingham. The Homewood church warmly received us and aided our reentry in so many ways, including helping out with rent and a very generous house warming, which was also supported by Christians from Disciples’ Fellowship. In Birmingham, Jeremy was able to attend Vestavia Hills Elementary East School, where he loved his teacher Mrs. Palmer. Jonathan stayed at home with Mom while Dad occupied an office at church where he prepared lessons, searched for a ministry, made travel plans, and worked on a survey of returned missionaries for a course project. We were able to do quite a bit of traveling in search for a ministry position. When we traveled to Albany to meet the church here, Anthony attended the ACU Lectures and renewed many relationships.

Through many prayers, God opened up the door to the ministry in Albany, and opened our hearts to the church, the town, and the people here. We were able to purchase a 1920s-era home just one block off Main Street and the courthouse square. Albany, though a small town, is rich in its civic pride. It boasts that it is “The Coolest Small Town in Texas,” and has the world-class art museum, publishing company, renowned steak house, exemplary schools, vast ranches, historic architecture, live theaters, and friendly people to prove it.

We spent our first two weeks here in the home of Ken and Marilyn Thompson. Ken is an elder in the church and he and Marilyn are truly “given to hospitality.” We are still in the middle of setting up house with bare walls and lots of unopened boxes. Jeremy is finishing up his third week at Nancy Smith Elementary School. Jonathan has spent many days at the Wilsons’ as Rhonda has graciously watched him while we painted several rooms in the house and moved in. Now we are preparing for a quick trip to Alabama to spend Christmas with Anthony’s family.

If you’ve made it this far, you are truly a faithful friend and we are grateful for your presence in our lives. May the coming of Christmas time herald an even fuller coming of the blessings of God into your life.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We managed to finally get a Christmas tree up this year!

Jeremy and Jonathan received new bikes for Christmas with money given by their “Ah Mah” (Grandmother) in Singapore. Seen in front of our home in Albany.


The boys got to see Santa at a Christmas event at the Old Jail Art Center.

A couple of nights ago Maureen and I were scolding ourselves for not spending enough time with Jeremy and Jonathan in the midst of all of the transitions that we’ve been going through lately.   Somehow, some kind of message, however, is getting through.

Last night we had met with a small group from church to sing at the Bluebonnet Nursing Home.  A few people gather there to sing for thirty minutes or so on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.  I think it’s great for us and for our children to be a part of this.

When we arrived at the nursing home last night, we were informed that another group would be coming in soon to sing Christmas carols.  This was no problem, and as the large group of young people arrived, we simply joined forces.  As they were leaving, the group’s leader introduced himself to me.  It seems that, in addition to working with the young people at the First Baptist Church, Kyle Bartell also teaches music at Jeremy’s school.  His comment made me proud.  He said, “I’ve met your son.  He told me that ya’ll came to Albany because God sent you here.  I think that’s great!”

In Africa we were always concerned that our children know why we were there, and that they know and feel that they were just as much a part of the mission effort as we were.  Here in Albany, we are still being led by God and are still very much a part of his mission. I’m thankful that Jeremy continues to see our family’s presence here in that light. 

 

Well, we’ve been painting this week and hope to move in tomorrow. Our new contact information is:

Anthony & Maureen Parker
224 S Jacobs St.
P.O. Box 1353
Albany , TX 76430

Please use the post office box for all mail.

Phone numbers:Home: (1) 325-762-2650
Church Office: (1) 325-762-2078
My Cell: (1) 325-320-3547
Maureen’s Cell: (1) 325-320-4478

Our boys often mention our missionary teammates from Togo, but rarely have they talked about life in Africa. This morning was an exception. Jeremy hasn’t been feeling great lately and he’s somehow convinced that it is because he has drunk too much local water. He said this morning that he’s more used to the water in Africa and in Birmingham. That must have got him to thinking about Africa.

He said, “You know when people used to invite us to their houses in Africa — I’m not talking about [the other missionaries], but the Africans. Well, one thing is that the food was usually pretty good — I liked that! And people were friendly, too.”

He then started talking about the kids in the neighborhood that he would play with — Honoré, who is so funny; especially when they play chase, Tsevie and Atchou, who are nice, Rejuan, who is always kind and says ”I’m sorrry” if anyone is hurt, even when it isn’t his fault.

It was neat to see a wave of nostalgia for Africa sweep over my 8 year old and to hear him talk about life in Africa with such fond memories. I think he is doing fine here, though it has to be hard on him to still be ”homeless” after so long. Maybe that will end soon.

It’s hard to believe that we arrived in Albany, Texas a week ago today.  My last post was from Monroe, Louisiana where we were enjoying the hospitality of the Baer family.  A cold front had blown through and so we left on a frosty Friday morning heading for Texas.  We had a smooth trip and arrived in Tyler, Texas a little early, so we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch before driving over to the East Texas Storage Center, which had generously donated space for storing our shipment from Africa.  There we were met by the some men from the West Erwin church who did a great job of packing our belongings into the 26 foot Penske truck that we had driven from Birmingham.  We were a little short on space, however, so we had to rent a small U-Haul trailor to pull behind the truck for the rest of the journey to Albany.  In Tyler, Dale and Carolyn Blackstone welcomed us strangers into their home and treated us to dinner at The Shed, where I ate the best catfish ever, in the charming town of Edom (find it).

Andy Wilson, our teammate from Benin and current assistant principle in the Albany schools, hitched a ride to a little town about 40 miles from Tyler, and I picked him up a little after midnight.  He helped us our greatly by driving the truck (with trailer in tow) to Albany so I could relieve Maureen who had driven our car from Birmingham.  Stopping just for lunch at Chili’s in Weatherford, we made it to Albany around 2:30 p.m. last Saturday.  Within a few minutes we had a full work crew from the church who unloaded out stuff into a storage building owned by Steve Hudmon, our youth minister.

It has been a great first week.  We have been staying with Ken and Marilyn Thompson.  Ken is an elder in the church here.  We closed on our house yesterday and plan to start painting today. (Thanks to Bea Ruff of Clear Fork Realty and Matthew Breston of Iron Harbor Mortgage for all your help!)  We are going to have the hardwood floors buffed and put a coat of polyurethane on them before moving in, hopefully next Saturday..  This is much less expensive than refinishing and should have the floors looking nice.  There will be quite a few projects to undertake as we go along, but it seems easier to do these before we move in. (Thanks for the advice, Mom!)

Since we haven’t really started unpacking yet, we have had a little time to explore the town and meet people.  Jeremy started school here on Monday and he really loves it.  His teacher is Mrs. Fields, who happens to be the wife of the local school superintendent.  The kids in the school have been very welcoming and inclusive.  We’ve enjoyed walking down Main Street.  We’ve explored “The Daily Grind,” the local coffee shop, the pharmacy, complete with soda fountain, and the Heritage Gallery, operated by local artist Cheryl Smith, visited with church members (and north Alabama natives) Jess and Helen Philips in their shop and toured The Old Jail Art Center, a truly remarkable facility for a small, west Texas town.  I attended a meeting of the local ministerial alliance and was able to meet ministers of several different local churches and become aware of several opportunities for ministry.  Two local families lost their homes in fires just last weekend and the community is responding to help.

Most of all, the people here have just been so welcoming.  Everyone seems genuinely excited to have us as a part of the community – even the DPS officer who let me off with a warning last night.  (I learned that the speed limit on two-lane country highways drops from 70 to 65 mph after dark—and they are serious about it!)

In the middle of moving, I haven’t had a lot of time to read blogs, much lest post, but I thought I’d update anyone who is still checking on our progress.

Yesterday morning at 7:00 a.m., several guys from Homewood showed up and made short work of loading the 26 foot Penske truck that I had picked up the previous afternoon. (Maybe I’ll tell the story later of how I got stuck within ten minutes of renting the truck and had to be towed out.) It took us a while to finish cleaning out the apartment, but we were on the road by 10:30. I was driving the truck and Maureen and the boys were in the car.

We arrived last night in Monroe, LA at the home of Kevin and Nancy Baer. The Baers are member of the University church where I had interviewed. I didn’t get that job, but we made some new friends, and that is a precious thing.

The plan today is to drive to Tyler, TX to load up our stuff that we had shipped from Africa. Once again, we are being blessed by help from some family members we have not yet met — some brothers from the West Erwin church will be there to help.

Tonight, the Albany Lions football team is playing in a playoff game in Denton. Go Lions! Late tonight after the game, Andy Wilson (our teammate in Benin and current assistant principle in the Albany schools), will join us in Tyler to help with the drive to Albany tomorrow. Others from the the church will help us unload–probably the men as the women will be preparing for the annual “widow’s banquet.”

It’s great to be a part of God’s family — our move is being facilitated by members of 4 different congregations — Homewood, University, West Erwin, and Albany.

We have been watching the weather all week and have been praying that the Lord of the weather would clear the way for our move. Now, I know that God has bigger agendas than our move and that many people’s plans have been disrupted by the weather–I don’t presume that we are more favored by God than they are–BUT, when we pray for something and receive what we asked for, the only response I know to give is to thank and praise the One from whom we asked the blessing. The predictions are for cold, but clear, weather the rest of the way.

Please keep our travels in your prayers over the next couple of days, and pray that we may be a blessing to the people of Albany as we begin a new chapter of our lives and ministry there.