MANATEE -- It’s an accepted part of life for a Salvation Army pastor and family that they may be quickly transferred if a need comes up in their region.
Salvation Army congregations also must learn to cope with frequent turn-over.
But judging by the flow of tears, Sunday’s final day for Major Bob Parker and his wife, Auxiliary Captain Kathy Parker in Bradenton, was anything but ordinary or easily accepted.
The Parkers, who arrived in June, 2009 and got to serve in Bradenton a scant two years, have deeply touched hearts and, in return have been deeply touched by hearts in Bradenton, said Jerry Koontz, president of the Manatee County United Way.
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“We are losing two beautiful and wonderful people,” Koontz said during the Parkers’ final service at the church on State Road 70 in Oneco Sunday. “We had all hoped they would be with us longer.”
The Parkers’ new assignment is in Birmingham, Ala.
Roughly 200 came to say goodbye to the Parkers and many of those also stayed for a “hugging” and light refreshment party in the over-flow room afterward where a surprise “The Lord is Faithful” cake delighted the Parkers,
The love began to flow about an hour before the service when organist Lillian Kostamo began playing songs the Parkers love and that carried a message.
Among them were “God Will Take Care of You,” “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go,” “Anywhere With Jesus” and “Trusting Jesus.”
“Pastor Bob and Captain Kathy are very caring,” said Kostamo who has served about a half dozen husband and wife teams since 1989. “Everyone they meet is the same to them. She is a sweetheart and he is a delight.”
While the music was playing, 19-year-old Bobby Lawrence came into Major Parker’s office and hugged the Parkers.
For the last two years, the Parkers have allowed Lawrence to keep his ‘Army’ uniform in their office because he has a habit of leaving it at home when he needs it for services.
“They are great people,” Lawrence said, his voice filled with emotion.
Church member Naomi Szajnowski had been working on a surprise gift for Major Parker for a full year, ever since she heard him say last Father’s Day how men love tool belts, but he didn’t have one.
When a family member bought a new tool belt during the year, Szajnowski saved the old one to present it to the pastor this Father’s Day, which was also his last day at the church.
He was beaming as he tried it on.
Marianna Wecke’s 14-year-old son, David, loves playing the trumpet and coronet. Even though the Weckes are not members of the church, the Parkers allowed David to play in the Army band.
“I was amazed they didn’t care that I wasn’t a member,” Wecke said. “It’s all about having a heart for people, which they do.”
The Parkers cried when they tried to talk about their feelings concerning Bradenton.
“We always had to be very careful with what we asked for here because we would be overwhelmed by the response,” Major Parker said, recalling that he once received massive amounts of diapers when he requested them.
“When I think of Bradenton, I will think of the words, caring, give and responsive,” Major Parker said.
Kathy Parker’s farewell will probably not be forgotten by those who were there Sunday.
With tears coming down her cheeks she touched her heart and, before the congregation said, “Right here, you will always go with us. You are our family.”
During the last two weeks, she has been singing, “My Lord Knows the Way Through The Wilderness, All I Have To Do Is Follow” over and over to herself, she said.
“Birmingham is not the wilderness and I am sure we will find great things there,” Kathy Parker said. “But our hearts are here with you.”
The incoming family with the tough act to follow are the Major Ethan and Sue Frizzell and their assistant, Lt. Jamie Ward.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.