Elmarie and Scott are periodically in the United States and available to speak to congregations as their schedule permits. Email them to extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.
About Elmarie and Scott’s ministry
Scott Parker serves with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) as a writer in residence. He uses written storytelling to communicate the experiences and views of the Middle East Church and peoples with Presbyterian constituents in the United States and MECC partners in both Europe and the United States. In addition, Scott has been asked by the MECC to lead their efforts in responding to children traumatized by unrest and war in Iraq and Syria who now seek refuge in Lebanon. Out of this invitation has come “Strong Kids, Strong Emotions,” a play-based program that seeks to develop emotional and spiritual resiliency in Iraqi and Syrian children refugeed in the Beirut area.
Elmarie Parker serves as regional liaison to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The heartbeat of her work is to help deepen and strengthen the relational ties between the church in her region and the church in the United States and to develop the practical ministries that are birthed from these relationships. More specifically, she facilitates Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) support for partner programs and activities and implements partnership strategy. Elmarie assists in strengthening healthy, effective and appropriate relationships among entities of the PC(USA) and those of partner denominations and organizations in the region. This often takes shape through PC(USA) group solidarity and learning visits to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq facilitated by Elmarie. Additionally, Elmarie supports other PC(USA) associates serving in this region through communications, information sharing, mentoring/guiding, encouraging and reflection.
In recent years, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have become known to most Americans as countries dominated by political and religious conflict, war and violence. However, few know that a small but faithful Christian community is trying to bring hope and healing to the Middle East. The PC (USA) celebrates more than 150 years of involvement in the region and maintains close ties with its partner churches, some of which were founded by PC(USA) missionaries. Turmoil and violence have driven many Christians from the region in recent years, but a number remain and strive to be faithful witnesses in a place where the Christian tradition dates back to the apostolic era. In the midst of the current violence engulfing much of Syria and Iraq, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the National Evangelical churches in Iraq, along with other PC(USA) partners in the region, are working to aid thousands of displaced families of all religious creeds. Their work ranges from providing basic life necessities such as food, water, clothing, fuel, rent and basic medications; to helping families rebuild their homes and start their lives again; to providing education to students whose schools have been lost or destroyed; to striving to develop a civil society built around the principles of international law, human rights and democracy.
About Elmarie and Scott Parker
Both Scott and Elmarie served as parish pastors prior to this call, starting in California and then serving in Florida and Ohio. Scott received his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Elmarie also graduated from Fuller with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Science in marital and family therapy.
The Parkers began their current work in July 2013, moving to Beirut, Lebanon, at the beginning of Advent in December 2013. This is a call that takes up all the threads of their previous ministries and personal experiences and weaves them more deeply into Christ’s work in the world.
For Elmarie, it was visiting with the Presbyterian Church in Basrah, Iraq, in 2011 that planted the seeds for this call. “I remember returning from my first trip to Iraq having been captured by the heart-courage of these Presbyterian congregations. Amidst the tremendous pressures they have faced since 2003, they have initiated community outreach ministries rather than going into hiding. Non-Christian neighbors are now asking that Presbyterian preschools be expanded into primary schools. Presbyterians facilitate a radio ministry proclaiming Christ’s message of peace and a prison visitation ministry that gives hope to female inmates. Seeing the faithfulness of the church in these Middle Eastern countries has inspired me to stand with them and to do all I can to help deepen and strengthen the ties between them and Presbyterians in the U.S.”
Just months before beginning his appointment, Scott visited a refugee camp in Lebanon populated by people who fled Syria’s civil war. He met a family who spent the winter in a thin tent, a woman whose father was killed when a bomb leveled a church and whose brother was tortured when he refused to renounce his faith, and a pastor on vacation preparing to return to his church despite daily death threats.
While he had heard stories of hardship before arriving, the visit and the relationships he established gave him a new perspective on the situation. Scott came to know some of those who fled the war as people with “real names and real stories and real lives” that in some ways paralleled his own.
Both Scott and Elmarie believe the opportunity to work with church partners in these countries of the Middle East and in the United States matches well with their sense of call and their ministerial gifts. “It feels like the Lord has been preparing me for this work my whole life,” Elmarie says. “It’s my privilege to help facilitate the PC(USA)’s continuing ability to stand in solidarity and active partnership with our sisters and brothers through meaningful and encouraging presence and shared action.”
“I believe that there’s a convergence between the current needs and opportunities being opened by God’s Spirit in the Middle East and my own skills and gifts,” Scott says, “I believe that the future of the church in the United States depends upon learning from and engaging with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.”
Having finished their first four-year term and now nearly two years into their second four-year term of service, the Parkers see even more why it matters for the Church in the Middle East to continue its witness and ministry. “We have been serving here in the midst of the violence in Syria growing worse and in the midst of the self-proclaimed Islamic State expanding its reach into Northern Iraq. Again and again, we have seen all parts of the Christian family in these countries living Christ’s way of peace and transforming love toward all those in need; praying regularly for those who are carrying out the violence; offering forgiveness to the perpetrators; and inviting dialogue and partnership with the moderate Muslim community who also seeks to build societies founded on humanitarian values, international law, and the principles of democracy. Because of this, lives are being changed at the grassroots level and structures of education and government are being influenced. It is a privilege to stand with the Christian community here and to encourage international support of their vision, call and work.”
Scott and Elmarie have been married for 23 years. Together, they enjoy spending time with their nephews and niece, taking road trips, trying new foods, playing games, watching good movies and listening to a variety of music. They have also enjoyed the company of feline fur kids since 2004. Born in Florida, Elmarie spent her toddler years in South Africa, and the remainder of her growing-up years on a Christmas tree farm in the rugged hills of Silverton, Oregon. Her family still lives in Silverton. Scott was born and raised in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska, where the majority of his family continues to live.