Dear Friends and Family,
We wanted to share an exciting chapter in our lives: We are moving to Africa! We know. It sounds a little extreme. But as we share our story here, we hope you will also share in our excitement as we move forward on what we see as a God-ordained adventure. He has opened every shut door and shined the light down a new path for our lives.
It all began at the Harrison SDA church when a member invited Jamie to attend a 15-day mission trip in 2006. He would install the plumbing at the new home of a doctor at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad, Africa. The experience was more then he could have imagined — although he didn’t get to finish the job. Not only was the culture different, but so was the plumbing material. Two years later, Jamie had another opportunity to finish the work he started, and he also helped install solar panels to make the hospital function more efficiently with a better source of electricity.
When Jamie got back from each trip, I could tell something had changed, something inviting that I could not explain. The young, overseeing doctor, James Appel, had expressed to Jamie how badly they could use his talents around the hospital campus. Planting a seed, Dr. Appel told Jamie that it takes more than a nurse and a doctor to run a hospital, and Jamie began praying for God to send him and his family to Africa, if it was God’s will. At the time I knew that it was not my will. I was angry about the very idea, and I let him know. I had seen the pictures of this third world continent, and I knew it could get up to 120 degrees. “Are you crazy?” I asked. There was no way I was going to move, and for those of you who know me, changing my mind is nothing short of a miracle.
But God can do anything if we give Him the opportunity.
The year 2008 was a dark and difficult one. I had lost my father to cancer the year before. We had financial challenges that just about broke us. I was angry. I was struggling spiritually, and I felt abandoned by the Lord.
Dr. Appel called Jamie in October. A shipping container was leaving the Orlando area at Christmas time, and Jamie would have room to ship his tools to Africa for free if there was any hope of us moving. Jamie began praying in earnest. He wanted to give his desperately-needed tools to the hospital whether we were moving or not. Anyone who knows Jamie knows he loves his tools just as much as the next guy.
After weeks of prayer and Jamie's queries about what I thought, we didn't think it felt right. It came down to money. We didn’t even have the extra $200 it would take to drive the tools to Florida. Would God really put that strain on us, I asked? We broke the news to Dr. Appel the week the container was to be shipped and left it at that. But God had something else planned. Dr. Appel called and reported the shipment date had been extended. More importantly, a family in Collegedale, Tennessee, 20 minutes from our house, planned to donate a Toyota Landcruiser. He told us to call them, and we did. They brought the vehicle to our front door that night, and we stuffed it so full of Jamie’s tools that the car was squatting down.
Meanwhile, Dr. Appel found a flight from Florida to pick up the tool-filled truck and load it onto the shipping container. As Dr. Appel left our driveway, Jamie waved goodbye to his tools. He looked at me and said, “Well, if God doesn’t want us in Africa, He sure wanted my tools.”
Dr. Appel and his wife Sarah visited us in early January to answer questions and encourage us to make the commitment. Even if we wanted to go, we had almost 8 acres to sell as well as our home which rested on another 3 acres — and we had no money available to prepare the home and property for sale. We had been praying for the land to sell for more than two years, and the economy was growing worse. And, I argued, if we moved, it would need to be during the summer so that school would not be interrupted for the kids.
I felt pretty safe from the Dark Continent.
But Dr. Appel suggested that if we took action and moved forward as if we were heading to Africa, everything would fall into place. So, I bought a $20 tape in order for our family to begin learning French. We started studying the language. And I began cleaning out drawers and corners of my home, as if the house had already been sold. Almost overnight, I no longer resisted the move. I cannot explain it other than to say that my mind had been completely changed, as if God was waiting for me to say, "Okay, let's go."
On March 3, God sent us a very enthusiastic couple with cash ready to buy land “last week.” We couldn't believe it when we closed on the property March 13. Did God really sell the land, I asked? The bank would not release the money from the sale until March 20. In the meantime, we continued to move forward. We prepared checks to pay off debt once we had the money. We set a date, Sunday, March 29, for addressing several needs at the home. Our youth group would help us build a retaining wall that day, and seven of Jamie’s friends would repair the water-damaged roof on our home. And we'd paint the house inside and out.
God had other plans.
The day after the money was released to us (Saturday, March 21), I spoke with my mother by phone. She caught wind that there was a possibility that we may move. Not a good conversation! I hadn’t wanted to tell her anything because I didn’t know for sure and didn’t want to upset her for no reason.
By the time Monday came around, I began questioning my sanity about the move. As I changed the sheets on my bed after picking up Cory from school, I said a little prayer. “Lord, what in the world am I doing? My own mother thinks its crazy. Sending my family to Africa? I need You to make this move crystal clear to me! You are big enough that You Lord can do this for me. I need You to do this!” I ended my conversation by saying, “Well, I guess if you sell the house, that will have to be it.”
Jamie called 30 minutes later. “I don’t want to freak you out, but someone from Jackson, Tennessee, about 3 to 4 hours away, is coming to look at the house tomorrow."
His warning not to freak didn't work. All I did was freak out. We had so much to do before I thought anyone could see the house, and we did the best we could. The next day after work, a group of people were examining our property, and by the end of their 2-hour visit, they made an offer and were ready to hand us a $5,000 earnest check. And, they were a cash buyer.
We prayed about it, checked on a few things and by the time we had our answers, they all supported the sale. So the next day, we took the offer.
The miracles continued. We soon found out we would be closing April 7. Meanwhile, the offer included permission to stay in our home rent free until June 1. Both Jamie and I had chosen that date without sharing it to each other. The new owner said he wanted the house just as it was. We didn’t have to do a thing other than move out in two months and cancel everyone planning to attend the work day Sunday. Both properties were sold within a month of each other, closing to closing.
You would think these experiences would be enough to break me, but I am very stubborn. I cried for the first 24 hours after the deal was made. Jamie had to pat my back as I sobbed myself to sleep. I woke the next morning still very upset. I was going to Africa, and now that everything was sold, it was all too real.
And then, I found yet another excuse to fight the trip. I knew we could have got another $2,000 out of the deal, and I complained until I was blue in the face. The next day, I went into an online account that I had visited a few weeks before and discovered the account had $2,000 more than it should have. I checked and rechecked. It didn't make sense. The amount was exactly $2,000 to the penny. As I shook my head, Jamie said, “We are just going to make a list of all your concerns and watch God check them all off for you, Tammy. Don’t you get it? He wants us to go."
I could share many more miracles, but the final point would be the same. Today, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is what we're supposed to do. I've never been on a mission trip. Jamie's only been on two short ones. I don’t know exactly why God wants us to go. But we are going.
We have sold everything. We bought our one way tickets. And we leave June 29. We are very excited. We are very scared. And we are very nervous. We just got confirmation that Jamie’s tools arrived at the hospital. As maintenance person for the whole campus, he will have his hands full with an endless list of projects. Jamie also will lead in the building of a new clinic in Moundou, two hours away. I have been asked to consider working at the school, which holds 300 children, grades 1-6. I have a desire to work with the children in the hospital as well. Our ultimate job is to do everything we can to wins souls for Jesus.
We would love to hear from each of you in one way or another. We should have internet service sometime after we arrive and will be sure to send word that we are safe as soon as possible.
We are now on Facebook under Jamie Parker or Tammy Gray Parker. We also have e-mail at Parkers4Bere@gmail.com and a blog at Parkers4Bere.blogspot.com. I fear that life will be very lonely at first while we learn French, so please consider keeping in touch. The familiar words and pictures from home likely will help get us through the rough spots. I would also encourage you to read the hospital blog at BereAdventistHospital.blogspot.com.
I am enclosing one of our pledge cards. We are serving independently and indefinitely, and we will need help. Our goal is to raise $1,000 a month. Our family of four can survive on $500 a month, but if we ever want to come back home to visit, the tickets will cost up to $10,000 or more. Even a pledge of $10 a month or a one time pledge of any amount will be a big help in more ways than you can imagine.
Pray and consider the possibility of being a part of our mission in Bere. Our church in Harrison, Tennessee, will manage any money that arrives earmarked for us. Make all checks payable to Harrison SDA Church and specify in the memo are of your check “For: The Bere Project.” The money will go straight to our account and the church will send out tax deduction letters at the end of the year. The address is at the bottom of the pledge card as: Harrison SDA Church, P.O. Box 969, Harrison, TN. 37341.
We hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for your friendship and love. Pray for our safety and for our work and influence in Chad.
The Parker Family
Jamie, Tammy, Cory and Brichelle
Our New Mailing Address:
Adventiste de Bere
BP 52 Kelo
Republique du TChad
The best way to ship anything is the flat rate box sent from the Post Office. You can ship up to 20lbs with a flat rate of $41.95 for a small box and $53.95 for a large box.