By HOLLY McCRAY
Ed Parker, new executive director of Camp & Retreat Ministries, met lots of Oklahoma pastors in his first day on the job.
Newly arrived from New Hampshire, he was introduced Sept. 23 at the annual Bishop’s Retreat for all clergy. Then trips to the Conference’s three camping centers added to the cross-country miles he’d just driven.
But one week on the road quickly loses ground to the total distance hiked, backpacked, kayaked, etc., by this outdoorsman. And he values highly the mile markers God’s placed along the trail of his life.
Rev. Parker "brings a unique blend of ministry, business, and camp experience," according to Craig Stinson, director of Connectional Ministries. That expertise includes strategic planning, fundraising, and financial management.
"God uses all of our experiences to equip us for further ministry," Parker said.
For him, Elijah’s wilderness encounter with God is a biblical metaphor for camping as ministry.
On the run from an angry queen, that ancient prophet hid in a cave. A cacophony of wind, earthquake, and fire was followed by silence. In that quiet, Elijah heard from God. And he was revived. (1 Kings 19)
Storms, wildfires, and shaking earth are familiar to Oklahomans. But there also is chaos of heart.
Opportunities to get away into nature and its stillness can be a catalyst for growing in faith, said Parker. "To me, that’s what camping ministry is."
He has been involved with church camps since childhood. The Parkers – Ed, wife Lynnda, children Emily and Austin — enjoy family camping vacations. And Rev. Parker previously has led church camp and retreat facilities.
He served as president and CEO of The New England Fellowship of Evangelicals, which includes Rumney Bible Conference center and the White Mountain Camps. He led at Camp Loughridge, in Tulsa, and directed camps for New York City’s Bowery Mission.
Nationally, he has conducted youth and leadership training for the Southern Baptist Convention. His innovative consultant work includes Angel Tree Camping for Prison Fellowship, Passage for Promise Keepers, and the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe mentoring program.
Parker has 12 years of ministry experience as a pastor. He earned a B.A. in business administration, holds a Master of Divinity degree, and has done doctoral study.
The past four years, he directed the State of New Hampshire’s Access to Recovery, a $12 million initiative.
Parker said he has been a change agent for organizations, and he always has felt a calling to transform lives.
He grew up immersed in small-church life in New Hampshire and was baptized at age 14. The youth group totaled about a dozen teens. Including Parker, eight of them have become pastors and missionaries.
"Who gets the credit for that? God does," Parker said.
The new Camps leader is exploring this ministry as it relates to local-church life. He wants the mountaintop moments such as Elijah experienced to continue when campers return home.
"Real transformation comes through the heavy lifting at local churches," Parker said. "We are also about resourcing the local church."
He concluded, "I am here to serve you through genuine, authentic ministry that really connects."
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