Parker Foster, of Boiling Springs, was among the hundreds of South Carolina students whose hearts were shaped through participating on mission trips during their spring breaks.
While the junior secondary math major at North Greenville University previously had been on five mission trips with her church, this was the first time she had been part of a Baptist Campus Ministry team. Her BCM team served in Guatemala in March, helping construct a home for an 85-year-old woman, ministering to children in a village, and partnering with a mission organization called “Suffer the Children.”
A member of North Spartanburg First Baptist since age 6, she currently is serving in the church’s youth ministry, co-leading a small group of 9th grade girls on Sunday nights. Parker also volunteers as a chaplain for her dorm and is manager of the school’s math lab.
Parker’s father is a deacon and also a member of the church’s media team. Her mother is an employee of Spartanburg Christian Academy, a school connected with the church, and she sings in the choir and occasionally substitutes as pianist. Together, they teach a Sunday school class called “God’s Special Lambs.”
The North Spartanburg congregation, her family, and being part of a BCM group have all helped cultivate her servant spirit.
“Joshua Gilmore [NGU’s campus minister] has a huge heart for missions, but also has an even bigger heart to encourage college students to go and do missions,” Parker said. “He so clearly explained that these long summers and spring breaks do not last forever, and I must take this time and use it for the Lord,” she said.
The testimonies of God’s activity in and through NGU’s BCM participants go far beyond spring break missionary opportunities, Gilmore explained. “[S]tudent-led ministry teams travel to lead Disciple Now weekends, lead musical worship, and soften hearts through theatrical performances that communicate the gospel message,” he added. “Students don’t just volunteer at their church, they intern. Students don’t just attend a Christian camp, they take a job working on the summer staff. Students don’t just go on a short-term mission, they live on mission.”
“I am so grateful for Joshua sharing this opportunity with me and encouraging me to take this leap of faith,” said Parker, who shared with The Courier some reflections on what the mission trip to Guatemala meant to her:
GUATEMALA DAY 1
We drove to a village on the side of a mountain on Sunday afternoon and had time with the youth in the village. We cooked hotdogs over a fire with the youth and sat around the fire and answered all of their funny questions (but we also got to ask them questions and learned so much about their culture). Then we slept in the church in the village on cots, but [we] didn’t get much sleep because it was freezing cold and all the animals were awake and wanted to talk … to their friends. But I wouldn’t trade it because the pure joy I had while holding this baby, rocking it to sleep, and dancing with other kids while still holding the baby is something so special!
Also, the opportunity to meet a lady with a story of complete sacrifice made the restless night so worth it. She just accepted Christ this past December, but cannot walk to church because of her bad knees. This woman’s daughter has a terrible eye infection and is having surgery in a few months, and her son also had a fever when we met them.
However, the true testimony is this woman took in a young girl to live with her because this young girl’s parents are addicted to alcohol. Today, this woman reminded me of the beauty of taking in children that need a home and showing them Christ’s love! So, yeah, the scary ride up the mountain and little bit of sleep was all worth it.
GUATEMALA DAY 2
We arrived at the village just in time to help serve the children lunch after visiting the national cemetery and a trash dump. My heart was broken after seeing people pick through trash, but the Lord was quick to help me see joy in the small voices and tears of children. After feeding the kids, singing songs, telling Bible stories, and painting their nails, we had the opportunity to go door-to-door and talk to the people living in the village and tell them about Christ.
While walking the streets, we ran into these small girls carrying their water jugs on their heads, and they let me try it out. Those [jugs] are a lot heavier than you think. I quickly had to surrender and give it back to the girls because I kept letting water fall out of the jug, and I didn’t want to waste their water. … I was amazed at their ability to carry these heavy jugs down a steep hill and not spill any water out of the jug!
But then as I was looking through my pictures, I realized this mother [was] in the background with a baby on her back carrying a water jug. I was quickly humbled by her strength to carry her baby on her back and then carry a heavy water jug on her head back up the hill. I hope to one day be that strong in Christ and know that I can make it up the hill because He carries my load for me and not because I am physically strong on my own.
GUATEMALA DAY 3
Today was way out of my control zone. I love to have a schedule and stick to the plan, but today was so eye-opening. I realized that it is better to allow God to be in control of the plan and not be so adamant about sticking to a schedule.
This morning we arrived at a village on top of a mountain … . The plan was to begin building a house for an elderly lady, but we quickly realized the girls were not needed because of such little space. We decided to go door-to-door handing out rice to all of the moms in the village. I was excited to see where the Lord would lead us, but not having a plan kind of scared me. It is so beautiful to see the Lord use other children to teach us, and this morning He definitely used one boy to guide us to all of the houses with women living in them.
When we were about to run out of rice and head back, this young boy leading us guided us to one more house — the house of an 89-year-old woman who has terrible arthritis all over her body, bad cataracts in both eyes, and many broken bones that were not healed properly. [O]ne of our guys who is an EMT [went] to this lady’s house and looked over her injuries, but the house … was so dark he needed someone to hold a light.
This is where allowing the Lord to guide your schedule brings such a blessing. I have such a heart for service and doing the small things that help the big things go smoothly, so holding a flashlight for at least 30 minutes was the perfect job for this planner who loves to serve.
I was able to watch as our friend taped together her fingers that never healed correctly, look into her eyes to see the cataracts, and even watch him and one of my greatest friends, Allison Yeater, wash this woman’s feet. It was a beautiful, not planned, morning and I loved every single second of it.
GUATEMALA DAY 4
These two smiles capture what today was for me: JOY! This precious 13-year-old girl brought so much joy into my life with every giggle, laugh, hug, squeeze around the neck, jump, and smile. She immediately had a special place in my heart because she reminded me so much of my brother. Through my brother, I have learned that God uses everyone in unique ways and no person is lesser than or looked down upon because we are all His children created in His image.
Yesterday I met this girl for the first time and fell in love, but today I also got to meet her grandma. It was such a blessing to get to show her how much I loved her granddaughter and see her face light up with gladness. The Lord has definitely given me a big heart for special needs children and I am so grateful.
Father, thank You for creating us all in unique and different ways that can honor and glorify You!
— Todd Deaton is managing editor of the Baptist Courier.