VERONA – House to house, Aldo Parker visits families in Verona not only to introduce himself, but also to introduce his church and the ultimate source of hope and forgiveness, Jesus Christ.
“That’s the way we reach new people,” said Parker, pastor of Centro de Alabanza (translated Praise Center) here. “We visit with them and if we learn about or see a need, we pray for them and see how we can help them.”
As the only Hispanic pastor in Lawrence County, Parker, who is bi-vocational, wishes he could do more to reach the great need not only in Lawrence County, but throughout southwest Missouri. Verona, with 600+ population, is 50 percent Hispanic/Latino. Other nearby towns and cities with high Hispanic/Latino populations include: Monett with 20 percent of its 9,000+ population, Purdy with 26 percent of its 1,000+ population, and Carthage with 25 percent of its 14,300+ population. The harvest is great and the workers are few; Parker feels the reality of that truth every day.
But he also knows that God has brought him on a journey to pastor Centro de Alabanza and he is willing to do whatever it takes to bring more people to Jesus.
“I go and express the love of God to as many as I can because you never know when God will touch their hearts,” Parker said.
Parker was born and raised in Guatemala, and first came to Missouri as a young man. In 2000, God called him to be a youth pastor and Sunday School teacher at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin. The church was starting a Hispanic mission from the ground floor and they asked Parker to join them. Soon he had other opportunities to reach the Hispanic and Latino population for Christ both locally with Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho, and later with the Missouri Baptist Convention. Then in 2008, at the height of his ministry, he got very sick.
“I went to the doctor and they diagnosed me with cancer,” Parker said. “The doctors, they told me they didn’t think I would live longer than six months or one year. So I had to make the most difficult decision of my life. I made the decision to go back to my country, Guatemala, to be with my mom before I die. I was single at the time. She was my family. But the Lord decided to work a miracle and I am still here. I’m a cancer survivor.”
He married his wife, Iris, in 2011 and then he was contacted by the former pastor at Centro de Alabanza to prayerfully consider coming back to Missouri to lead their congregation in Verona.
“The pastor and I had known each other for a long time because I had helped him with evangelism and going house by house to meet people,” Parker said. “I did not have plans to come back except to visit my adopted father in Neosho, but the pastor said he had been praying about it a lot and he believed the only one who could do the job was me.”
So with an open door in Verona and a progressively more dangerous environment in Guatemala, Parker, his wife and his two adopted children headed back to the United States to start their new calling.
And God blessed their obedience with a miracle.
“My wife is a cancer survivor, too, and the doctor said that we would not be able to have a child on our own, which is one reason we had decided to adopt,” Parker said. “We had still been praying for a miracle, and then in 2016 the Lord gave us our son, Aldo Warren Parker.”
The Parkers have no doubt that they are right where they are meant to be, leading people to love God the way they do. Planning into the future, Parker said the church wants to reach more families with the love of Christ. They are currently saving money toward building a larger building that will have fellowship and classroom space.
“Though we have our own small building, right now whenever we want to have a big activity we use First Baptist Church Verona’s building,” he said. “We’re thankful to work together with them to reach our community, but I know we can reach more kids and their families if we had our own larger space to do more things. But you never know what God can do. He’s a God of miracles and He will lead the way.”