A radio star is born…

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Those of you who keep up to date with our meanderings will know that Chris is in the UK at the moment. He is busy catching up with our families and friends and those who generously support us with prayer, love and finance. One of the Churches Chris visited last week was West Auckland Community Church, an awesome Vineyard Church tucked away in the dales, who support us in prayer, with finances and by keeping the visibility of our blog high in their internet community. West, as it is affectionately known by us, host a community radio station (yes, they are that cool) called Breakout Radio and they invited Chris to update them on what we have been up to in the past two years. You can find a recording of the interview here. Hope you enjoy it! I am flying to the UK shortly to join Chris and Kim as we celebrate the wedding of our son James to the lovely Emma. Good times indeed. Be blessed. God loves you ❤

 

It feels like home to me…

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Well, it’s been a bit of a strange year so far for the Parkers in Iceland. We arrived in Iceland in early January 2012, to be greeted by one of the coldest, snowiest winters to hit Iceland since 1984. Snow started falling in Iceland in Oct/Nov and forgot to stop until the end of May. Although those poor souls who had bravely pulled on a snowsuit every day for almost nearly seven months were getting a mite tired of the ever present white stuff, Chris and I were thrilled. We had missed Iceland and we especially missed the white stuff. Sad, I know. I am pleased to report however, that the blessed white stuff is back with a vengeance and as you can see from the photo taken just a couple of days ago, even the sheep were taken by surprise.

As you know from the last blog post, we returned to England to itinerate in the NorthEast of England. We managed to visit 20 Churches, the majority of whom we had a good working relationship with already and 2/3 we hadn’t had previous contact with. Five Churches decided to support us financially for at least the next twelve months. A select group of family and friends have decided to support us with a monthly gift for at least the next twelve months. We know the financial situation of our friends and we know that they are not giving out of abundance, they are rather, giving sacrifically. We are thankful for every one of them for their financial gift and for the way they have supported our vision for Iceland. Thank you one and all. We are also thankful for every Church donation we received and for every Church that has decided to support us into the future. Thank you so much for investing in us and in the Icelandic Church.

When we first moved back to the UK, the idea was to itinerate and try to raise the finances necessary to cover Chris’ salary for at least twelve months. Because only 5 of the 20 Churches in our region decided to support us financially over the longer term, we were left with a big gap in our finances. Others (aka sensible people) may have taken this as a sign to give up. But not Chris and I. Instead we choose to remember something we believed God had spoken into our hearts many, many moons ago. So that you understand the significance of what Chris believes God said to him, you need to know something about this lovely man of God who I am blessed to call my husband.

When Chris first became a Christian way back in 1992, he believed God spoke into his heart about how he would be trained up for ministry. Those of you who know Chris, know he is dyslexic. Chris’ dyslexia was compounded by the fact that he had attended more schools than most people have hot dinners (Chris’ father was an NCO with the Army). Unfortunately, this meant that no one person/teacher took responsibility for Chris’ education and as a result, when Chris emerged from the education system at 16, his general level of education was low (mainly because he was frequently sent out to work with the gardener or whoever else was around at the time) and his literacy skills were very poor. In fact, when Chris and I married in 1981, he was unable to write a cheque as he couldn’t spell well enough to fill in the amounts. Not to worry though, I wrote enough cheques for both of us 🙂

Several months after Chris became a Christian, he started to feel pretty down. He desperately wanted to preach, teach, lead ministry and get involved with various projects in the Church and start a few of his own. But, knowing his literacy skills were poor, he despaired that he would ever amount to anything. One day, as he sat quietly mulling things over with God, Chris felt God say (and here I take the liberty of paraphrasing as I wasn’t actually there), ‘Stop feeling as though you can’t do anything. I am going to teach you everything you need to know.’ The words were a gentle salve to Chris’ hurting heart, filling him with hope and, as you can imagine, quite a lot of questions. Just how would God accomplish this?

Over the years, God has proved Himself faithful in so many ways and when Chris needed to learn a particular skill, God sent a special man or woman to equip Chris with everything he needed. More than that, in every project Chris started or contributed to, God surrounded him with an endless supply of helpers and encouragers. Those of you who know Chris personally, will know he started, or contributed to multiple projects in England, Romania, The Gambia and Iceland and in each of those projects, God has used Chris’ unique skills to bless many hundreds of children, young people and adults. Over the years, Chris has developed and grown into a gifted preacher, communicator and mentor. He has though, never forgotten the day that God told him to stop fretting.

Because we have seen the outworking of this promise on an almost daily basis, we had no reason to believe that if God had asked us to go to Iceland, He wouldn’t sort out the things we couldn’t. So, Chris returned to Iceland and simply got on with the job of making the vision God gave him a reality. Within days of arriving back in Iceland in July, Chris discovered that the Church in Kirkjulækjarkot (Church by the river) had been planning ways to raise financial support for us as a family. Chris was invited to a meeting at the Church and was informed that the Pastor (Jóhannes Hinriksson) had decided to give up his salary at the Church so Chris could be appointed as a part-time Assistant Pastor. Jóhannes was about to take up a new job that would leave him with less time to run the Church on a day-to-day basis. So, he really needed someone on the ground. The Church Council was unanimous in their decision to appoint Chris to the post. Chris has been in post for approximately five weeks and he couldn’t be happier. Because the work at Kot will take up approximately two/three days a week, Chris has plenty of time to get on with developing the vision of the mission movement. As you know, Chris was appointed as an Elder to the Church in Selfoss earlier in the year. He will continue in that role, supporting the Church in Selfoss for the forseeable future.

There are a number of reasons for sharing this information with you. First, we want to be transparent in the things that we do, so that you know what our needs are and so that you can rejoice with us in the many blessings we receive.  Second, it is good to give God the glory when we see His plan working out in our lives. Too often, His intervention in our lives goes unrecognised. Lastly, we hope that in sharing something of our lives that you will be blessed and encouraged to keep going. Be encouraged that if God has asked you to do something, then even if things seem a bit bleak at the moment, His plan will come to pass. Still your fretting heart and know that He will sort out the things we cannot.

“For the eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (NLT) Chronicles 16:9.

Enjoy the video below, it captures perfectly the sense of peace and strength we experience when resting in the centre of God’s Will…it feels like home to me.

Molly aged 5, “Why is God sending Pastor Chris to Iceland?”

Molly, who knew the difference between Brie and Babybel when she was just two years old, was puzzled. She loved God and she really liked Pastor Chris and she just couldn’t work out why God would send Pastor Chris to Iceland. Molly however, wasn’t the only one to ask the question. Many, many people asked us, why on earth are you planning to go to Iceland? All praised the fantastic work Chris had done in the village of Evenwood with and through the Church and felt sad (some bereft) at the thought of us leaving to go back to Iceland. In an effort to convince us to stay, more than one person pointed out the work still do to in Evenwood and beyond. Friends, good friends who we love and who love us, earnestly begged us to reconsider, one dear friend actually said, ‘How can you turn your back on your own people?” And another, a good friend and colleague of Chris – who happens to be a non-Christian, pointed out that there were plenty of sinners in Britain, so we really didn’t need to go abroad to find souls to save 🙂 Given the concerns and disappointment voiced by so many people, Chris and I thought it best to use this blog post to explain why we decided to go back to Iceland at this time. So, put the kettle on and then cosy up on the sofa, you may be here for some time. When Chris and I arrived back in England after a sojourn of five years in Iceland, it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that we were a tadge surprised. You see, we thought we were on our way to Syracuse in New York State. No, before you ask, we didn’t board the wrong plane. I won’t however go into that just yet, as that is a whole other story worthy of a blog post of its own. Suffice to say, we arrived in England, slightly bewildered and fully expecting to be on our travels again after a two-week stay in the NorthEast celebrating Kim’s 18th birthday. However for a multitude of reasons we ended up staying in England. Chris worked for the Church as a volunteer for one year and I started work at Durham University as a Research Associate. After about a year, we heard that Evenwood Assembly were looking to recruit a Pastor. Although it wasn’t something that had occurred to us before, we decided to go to the village of Evenwood and have a look around and to see if we felt God speak to us about the post. So, one sunny afternoon, we drove to Evenwood for a look around and to meet some of the locals. We walked around the village, chatted to some local people and walked around the outside of the Church building. We both felt an immediate connection with the village and decided to spend time praying about whether Chris should apply for the post. Some time later, Chris contacted the spokesperson for the Church and arranged a meeting. The rest is, so to speak, history. Although we were very pleased to be offered the post as Pastor and Mrs, we nevertheless felt that we could only commit to the work for five years. Five years was not a random number we plucked out of the air. Nor, did we sit down together and work out how long we should stay. Rather, we just ‘knew’ on a spiritual level, that things would change after five years. Although we had no idea what that change would be. Our time at Evenwood was a blessed one. We were blessed by the people of the Church and their families and by the people we came to know so well in the village and surrounding areas. Despite knowing that things would change after five years, we spent every moment focussed on the here and now and took every opportunity available to us to grow the Church and to be a blessing to the local people. We were undoubtedly happy and blessed to be in England. And yet, our deep and abiding love for Iceland and her people, never left us. We would look at a picture of an Icelandic sunset or a photo of one of the villages we had worked in and our hearts were immediately homesick. I once walked behind an Icelandic couple in Heathrow airport, just to hear them speak Icelandic (I know, very sad) and we both read the Icelandic news every day. On occasions we knew more about what was going on in Iceland, than our friends who lived there. IKEA became the place we went to when we needed to talk through our life in England and what we felt God wanted us to do in the future. For almost five years we heard nothing from God in terms of what the future held. Instead, God blessed us by filling our hearts and minds with ideas on making the Church more ‘visible’ in the local community. We worked with the Church tirelessly to share our experience and knowledge on how to ‘professionalise’ aspects of the Church and to bring it up to date with UK legislation. In the work God gave us to do, we were blessed with eager co-workers and supporters in the congregation and beyond. For five years we lived as though tomorrow with its many decisions, was a long way off in the future. On August 31st 2011 however, we woke to a feeling of ‘today is the day’ we would understand what the future would hold, albeit in part. We went out for a walk in Hamsterly Forest and talked and talked. By the end of the walk (and talk) we had decided it was time to go back to Iceland. The first people we told were our children. The second people we told were the people of the Church in Evenwood. Rarely, have we broken news to people we love with a sadder heart than we did on that Sunday evening. Although our hearts felt a peace about the decision we had made, nevertheless, prior to the meeting Chris (unbeknownst to me) asked God for external confirmation that this indeed was the right decision and the right time. During the meeting, one of Church leaders stood up and basically said. “I know you have been wrestling with a difficult decision. I want you to know that the decision you are about to make is the right one. Moreover, if you do not go ahead and make the decision, you will no longer be in my (God’s) will”. Well, I nearly fell of my chair and Chris and I exchanged looks of surprise. No longer in God’s will! Did God really just say that to us? Chris got up to preach and when he had finished, he broke the news to the congregation. After the meeting, another leader in the Church confirmed that they too had been about to get up and say exactly the same thing. It seems that God really wanted to confirm to our hearts that we were on the right track. So to answer Molly’s question and the question on the lips of our friends and fellow workers….we decided to go back to Iceland at this time because we believe that God asked us to. We believe that He has work for us to do that will bring blessing to Iceland and her people and will also bring blessing into our lives. And yes, we know that there is still much work to be done in Evenwood and beyond, but we believe that God has not called us to do it, we believe that He will, in His infinite wisdom, call others to the work. But ultimately we are prepared to spend the rest of our lives in Iceland (if asked to do so) because we want to remain at the centre of God’s will, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10.