By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—A back injury that left her unable to walk for six weeks became the inspiration for many things in Gayla Parker’s life…. a book, yes, but more importantly, a belief.
At the time, Parker and her husband Freddy were serving as missionaries in the Philippines.
While being forced to remain motionless, Parker devoured the Bible, searching for passages that would provide inspiration for her condition.
She landed on Mark 2, where Jesus heals a paralyzed man, whom friends lowered to Jesus through an opening in a roof.
“The passage in Mark became very important to me. I read the passage daily as a reminder that God does heal,” she shared. But as she pressed into the story, something else entirely different emerged in her heart.
“So often when we hear the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered through the roof of a house, we center on the miracle Jesus performed. Jesus certainly changed the life of the paralytic that day,” Parker acknowledged, noting it went much deeper than that for her.
“What about the four men who carried their paralytic friend to Jesus? What would have happened to the paralytic had they not been willing to do whatever necessary to carry him to Jesus? His life may never have been transformed.”
Parker, who now serves as a missions education missionary with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and as the Woman’s Missionary Union executive director of Maryland and Delaware, said the idea of focusing on the four who carried the paralytic came from a sermon her husband, Freddy, preached while pastoring at South Highland Church in Little Rock, Ark.
As a missionary, she would often be asked to speak during the month of December for the Lottie Moon offering emphasis.
“Again, being asked to speak for at a Lottie Moon emphasis event, I decided to use his idea of looking at the four friends and insert my own missionary story. It was a natural because of my connection with the paralytic,” she related.
Ultimately, that 30-minute talk at First Church, Benton, Ark., for their Missions Sunday expanded to a 45-minute talk she shared at a national WMU event. Then, it became what is now her newest book, “Active Compassion: A Calling to Care” (New Hope Publishers, $14.99).
In “Active Compassion,” Parker teaches Christians how to live with true kindness and empathy towards co-workers, family members, neighbors, and friends who may need to be “carried” to the feet of Jesus.
“There is not much we know about the paralytic in this passage but we do know if it had not been for his four friends he never would have been in the presence of Jesus, known the blessing of friends, known the joy of complete healing. And the crowd would not have seen a miracle that day,” she said.
For the paralytic, not only was his earthly life radically changed, his eternity was changed, Parker added, noting that even though the passage has only 12 short verses, it encompasses many insights that can inspire Christians to become difference makers in today’s world.
Parker said there are many people Christians pass every day that may need someone to have compassion on them. “So many of us want to make a difference in the world, and as believers we can take that one step farther and make a difference in eternity,” she said.
Parker believes a life of “Active Compassion” is not a mindset or a discipline.
“It is a lifestyle that takes others to the feet of Jesus as we go through life at school, at home, at work, in community or in the world. And as the world watches they too will say, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ and God will be glorified.”
She pointed to the end of the story of the paralytic, “They were all amazed because they had never seen anything like this.”
“That is what the people in our sphere of influence will be able to say when we live out a life of Active Compassion,” she said.
Parker also believes that “Active Compassion” fits perfectly into the Great Commission found in Matt. 29:19-20.
“So often we think of the Great Commission as being a call for missionaries, but actually it is a mandate for every believer to make disciples as we go through the journey of life,” she stressed. “As others hear our God stories, hear the message of salvation, watch us live out a life with peace and joy that surpasses all understanding then they are getting a glimpse of the miracle of God. “
To encourage such interaction, each chapter of “Active Compassion” contains prompts for acting out compassion as well as interactive questions.
“It is my prayer that God will use the words, stories, and scriptures to challenge each of us to live lives of Active Compassion so that many be taken to the feet of Jesus,” Parker said.
To learn more about the book, which is also available in an electronic format, visit New Hope Publishers at www.newhopedigital.com or contact Parker at email@example.com.