It would do us all a whole lot of good to pause in our busy lives and thank God for those who have gone before us. You know, the trail blazers—people upon whose shoulders we stand. The Word calls them a “great cloud of witnesses,” the men and women God has used to touch our lives and impact eternity.
As I write this article, one of those great servants of the Most High God is being buried. Less than three years ago, he became a personal friend and prayer partner and great encourager to me. He turned 90 about the time I became his pastor. He had recently lost Lucy, the love of his life and wife of 65 years, when he moved to a retirement center in Sevierville and started attending First Baptist Church. Andrew Wilson Parker went home to be with the Lord at age 93.
Nearly every week, he and I would talk on the phone. Every five or six weeks, I would have the privilege of going to his small apartment where he would have a cup of coffee ready for our visit. At my prodding, he would tell of the work that God used him to do during a ministry that spanned over half a century. What incredible stories he told. He was a church planter before church planting was cool. He planted churches in Illinois, Montana, Nebraska, and Tennessee. He poured his life into Kingdom work. Wilson was an alum of Carson-Newman College.
The first church he started was Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee over 50 years ago. Current pastor, Mike Boyd, is just the third pastor. Bro. Wilson Parker started it with a handful of people. In a few short years it grew to over 500, and he knew that his time there was finished. He went on as a missionary of the North American Mission Board (then Home Mission Board) to do work in pioneer areas. At retirement he came home to Tennessee. It would be a very difficult, if not impossible, task to begin to calculate the impact of the ministry that Bro. Wilson Parker had as he was mightily used of God. His first church remains to this day one of the most vibrant works in the state. Thousands of people have come to know Christ through the ministry of Wallace Memorial. In the last 10 years alone, this church has given over 2.5 million dollars through the Cooperative Program. What this church gave through CP helped provide me with a seminary education at NOBTS. What this church gives supports our friends serving right now as missionaries with the IMB. What this church has given has blessed millions of people around the world, and that work continues. God used my friend, Wilson Parker, to start all of it.
That is just one man doing one thing: being radically obedient to the Master and making a world of difference in the process. Wilson, thank you for blessing my life. Thank you for taking the time to encourage me. Thank you for leaving a trail worth taking. Heavenly Father, please raise up thousands more like Andrew Wilson Parker.