By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md.—Following seven years of faithful service, Freddy and Gayla Parker have resigned from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware effective December 31. Freddy has served as BCM/D missionary for Acts 1:8 and church ministry relations. Gayla has served a dual role as executive director of the BCM/D Women’s Missionary Union and as missions innovation specialist with the national WMU. She has also served BCM/D as missionary of missions education and customization.
Ironically, the couple is returning home to pastor the very church where they met. Freddy grew up attending Lifeway Church in Little Rock, Ark. Gayla was invited to attend the church as a teen, and it was there she made a commitment to follow Christ. She was in her last year of high school, and Freddy was graduating college.
“We’re coming full circle,” Gayla said.
Freddy left to study at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and two years later returned to Little Rock and married Gayla. They moved to Kentucky then to Alabama, where Freddy pastored his first church.
At the encouragement of an IMB missionary, Freddy began praying about international missions and felt God’s draw. God led them to choose the Philippines.
Their oldest son, Allen, was eight; Nathan was five and their youngest son, Jesse, was 18-months old.
They ministered there for 14 years. In that time, they planted 13 churches within the indigenous B-laan people groups in southern Mindano and started an association of 23 churches. The couple also ministered to a small Philippine Muslim group, teaching life skills and values education using chronological Bible stories to share biblical values.
Due to health issues in Freddy’s family, the couple returned to Arkansas where Freddy pastored a church, and Gayla began working with the Arkansas WMU.
In 2006, Freddy and Gayla came to Maryland to serve the BCM/D. Gayla smiled as she told how BCM/D Executive Director David Lee called WMU Executive Director Wanda Lee, asking if she would consider partnering with the BCM/D. David Lee told Wanda Lee he was looking for someone who had lived overseas and “thinks differently” and perhaps was married to a man who would be interested in serving with the BCM/D. She immediately thought of Freddy and Gayla.
“I’ve really enjoyed our time here, helping people be aware of how they can be a part of what God is doing world-wide,” Freddy said.
Freddy said he also working with boys in the Royal Ambassadors, and boys’ camps, and watching boys mature both physically and spiritually.
Gayla said she too enjoyed watching young women grow and mature. She, like Freddy, saw girls who were campers grow to be camp counselors.
Her most visible role has been leading the WMU. “It has been a lot of fun to work with women, putting a new face to WMU and seeing WMU, Women’s Ministry and Ministers’ Wives come together and see themselves as not separate teams but as one holistic team. Gayla said part of that change has been through “Breathless,” a women’s conference that helped change how women perceive WMU.
“It was exciting to see the new WMU groups that have come out of that as women began to realize that is what WMU is. The basic idea of WMU is for women to be involved through praying, giving, and going locally, nationally and internationally.”
Gayla also noted that the partnership between the national WMU and BCM/D was the first of a convention partnering with the national WMU, but it probably will not be the last. Having someone on the field to help determine what programs and materials “work” and which don’t is valuable, especially in a non-Bible belt area.
In reflecting on the past years in the Baltimore area, Gayla said that this is a challenging area of the country to minister.
“I’ve been blessed to watch dedicated believers as they try to reach an area that is incredibly lost and diverse…and have tried to live out their faith. Often times they are in very small churches making very small salaries in an area that requires more dollars than most any place else to live. When you’re not in this region, you don’t realize the sacrifice by the men and women living and serving here. I’ve been blessed by their dedication.”
Freddy and Gayla both said the friendships they’ve developed while serving alongside churches have been incredibly special.
“God has used them to bless our lives, all the way from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore,” he said.
The couple is excited to begin their ministry in Little Rock. Interestingly, Little Rock is now more diverse with a growing population of South East Asians, and the Parkers are looking forward to developing an international ministry.