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John Parks preaches in Chula. Photo: BPNews

“Living on borrowed time,” man preaches in spite of health

Although John Parks has battled a heart attack, cancer and COVID-19 over the past dozen years, God had a plan for his life. “God isn’t done with me yet,” he says. “I’m definitely living on borrowed time. I only have so much time and so much I believe God wants me to do.”

One assignment from God is in the small town where he spent his teenage years. For the past five years, Parks has worked with Calvary Baptist, his home church in Chillicothe, to engage the 200 or so people of Chula, located about 12 miles to the northeast, with the good news about Jesus.

Parks, who was recently interviewed by The Pathway, is a retired railroad worker and Navy sailor. He currently makes sure everything runs smoothly for Calvary’s ministry in Chula. He coordinates pastors and musicians for the weekly worship service. He also serves as a volunteer lay preacher, teaching the Bible every few weeks in Chula worship services. In addition, he helps coordinate the Thursday night meal and Bible studies held in the school.

Calvary started worship services at the public school in Chula during the fall of 2022. In September 2023, the church began meeting at a building that once held Chula Baptist Church, which closed in 2020. Most weeks, 20 to 25 people attend.

“It’s a miracle he’s still with us,” said Jon Davis, who has served as Calvary’s senior pastor since 2016. “When John presents the message, it’s usually more of a devotional thought, but that works great for this context. In a rural context, the key is he’s connecting with people. They love him, and he loves them.”

While preaching was new to Parks, he had experience teaching Sunday School and speaking in churches with Gideons International.

“The thing I like about preaching is that I have a questioning mind,” said Parks, who has worked as a school bus driver in retirement. “I’m not content with just reading the word. I want to look into what was happening at the time. I don’t just do a cursory view of the scriptures. I’m not reading it like you would a novel. I’m looking at it more deeply. I think it has helped my spiritual growth.”

Lay preachers such as Parks are an important part of Calvary’s strategy to reignite a gospel witness in Chula. With Calvary’s attendance of 120 to 130 people per week and a three-person ministry staff, the lay preaching schedule helps ensure the Chula ministry doesn’t take away from Calvary’s work in Chillicothe.

“My intent would be that over the next couple of years they get solidified,” Davis said. “Chula has a core group of 20 to 25 people there now on Sunday morning. Once they call a pastor and he’s able to intentionally do ministry with our mission support, I think I think you’ll see some more good things happen in Chula.”

Alan Goforth | Metro Voice


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