Robert and Nicole Parker both grew up in families with long histories with the Salvation Army, but neither originally planned to serve others through the organization.
Parker’s decision came after a tough, life-changing experience.
“I was actually a firefighter in Lakeland, Florida and just had a crisis moment when my mother passed away …” Parker said. “God really began to speak to me during that time when Salvation Army officers were ministering to me and reveled to me that there was more that He wanted from my life.”
Mrs. Parker’s call to serve came while she was attending college as pre-med student.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and the Lord directed me to say that I was not to go in that direction …” Mrs. Parker said. “I had to seek the Lord for exactly where that (direction) was and knowing that the Salvation Army has always been my church home, the Lord opened doors for me …”
Parker, 35, and Mrs. Parker, 33, both captains in the Salvation Army, were recently appointed as the new commanding officers of the Salvation Army in Tyler. Majors Ben and Doris Lawrence previously held the posts and have received new appointments with the organization’s Arkansas and Oklahoma Division.
Parker and Mrs. Parker have served in The Salvation Army for 11 and 8 years respectively and came to Tyler after most recently leading The Salvation Army in Lubbock. Additionally, they’ve had previous appointments in Fort Myers, Florida, Atlanta (Lakewood), Georgia and Athens, Georgia. They also served as divisional youth leaders at the Salvation Army’s Arkansas and Oklahoma Division.
The Parkers are both fifth generation Salvationists - Parker’s grandparents Pete and Ruth Costas even served as corps officers in Tyler in the ’80s. The pair is joined by their daughters Riley, 8, and Lily, 6, who both play an active role in the ministry.
As commanding officers, the Parkers oversee all of the work of the Salvation Army of Tyler - a task they say they want to handle with a personal approach.
“We are very hands on people,” Parker said. “The success of all our programs really kind of centers on relationships.”
Parker added that they hope to build on the success of the organization and create new goals after determining what the biggest needs are in the community. He said he hopes anyone who comes to the The Salvation Army in Tyler can leave with more hope than when they came.
“A lot of times, people will come to us with no hope, no possessions and no plan,” Parker said. “We’re able to provide instantly to some of those basic human needs. We are able to also minister not only to people’s basic human needs but provide opportunities for people’s spiritual needs as well.”
Mrs. Parker added that she hopes the work they are able to do both honors God and strengthens those who come to The Salvation Army in need of help.
“We are serving the Lord in whatever we do,” Mrs. Parker said. “Whether we’re giving a hot meal or we are giving a night’s stay or whether we are opening God’s word and helping people with direction of their life.
“They see the shield and they know that there is hope and refuge behind that shield,” she added.