Elmarie and Scott will be in the U.S. this summer (2017) to visit congregations. Email them to learn about their schedule and invite them to visit your ministry.
About Elmarie and Scott’s ministry
The regional liaison position for Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq is filled by Elmarie Parker. The heartbeat of her work is to help deepen and strengthen the relational ties between Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) church partners in her region and Presbyterian constituents in the United States. More specifically, she facilitates Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) support for partner programs, relationships and activities, and implements the PC(USA)’s international partnership strategy. She facilitates and seeks to strengthen healthy, effective and appropriate relationships among entities of the PC(USA) and those of partner denominations and organizations in the region. Additionally, Elmarie supports PC(USA) co-workers serving in this region in communications, information sharing, mentoring/guiding, encouraging, and reflection. Scott uses the medium of written storytelling to work with regional church partners in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq to communicate their experiences and views with U.S. Presbyterians.
In recent years Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq have become known to most Americans as countries dominated by political and religious conflict and 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 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 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 strategic involvement in developing civil society built around the principles of international law, human rights, and democracy.
About Elmarie and Scott Parker
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 is weaving 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. They have initiated community outreach ministries rather than go into hiding amidst the tremendous pressures they have faced since 2003. 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 the fighting in neighboring Syria. He met a family that 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 the stories of hardship before arriving, the visit and the relationships he established gave him a new perspective on the situation. He 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, “and 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.”
Two years into their work, the Parkers see even more why it matters for the Church in the Middle East to continue in its witness and work of ministry. “We have been serving here while the violence in Syria is growing worse and the self-proclaimed Islamic State continues to expand its reach into Syria and 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 all who seek to build societies founded on values of human dignity, peace, and mutual respect. Because of this, lives are being changed at the grass roots 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.”
Both Scott and Elmarie are Presbyterian teaching elders and members of Eastminster Presbytery. Prior to entering international service, Elmarie served as pastor of Wickliffe Presbyterian Church in Austintown, Ohio. Scott was a hospital chaplain in Columbus, Ohio, before accepting his international appointment. He has also been pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Columbiana, Ohio, and he and Elmarie served a new church development in Melbourne, Florida, before moving to Ohio.
Elmarie earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and two master’s degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a master’s degree from Fuller Seminary.
Together, Elmarie and Scott enjoy time with their nephews and niece, road trips, trying new foods, playing games, good movies and a variety of music. They have also enjoyed the company of feline fur kids since 2004. Since moving to Beirut two Lebanese cats have joined their household. 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. Scott was born and raised in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska.