Fan Into FlameGuest Editorial: Roger Parlour

(Roger and his wife Kama are good friends and exemplary disciples, who serve as shepherds in our sister church in Chicago. This is Roger’s account about Bombay, India – presently known as Mumbai. KM)

“But you, O Lord, are exalted forever. For surely your enemies, O Lord, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’” Psalm 92:8-15 

Roger Parlour pictured with his wife - Kama, daughter - Brittany and his son - Joel.
Roger Parlour pictured with his wife – Kama, daughter – Brittany and his son – Joel.

Several weeks ago, while my 21 year old son Joel was rummaging through some old cassette tapes that I keep in the attic, he came upon a message simply entitled, “The Bombay Report.” Since the Chicago Church is presently very involved in the support of our dear brother and sister Raja and Debbie Rajan in Chennai, India, this tape caught his eye. He called me several days later and told me it was imperative that I listen to it. I agreed, but never did. A month later, I was having a discipling time with one of my best friends, Chris Broom. He pulled out a portable tape player and insisted that I listen to it and tell him what I thought. I turned on the tape player and immediately a young, excited, fired-up disciple came on and proceeded to give an update on the ministry and work going on in Bombay, India in 1987. Initially, I didn’t recognize the young preacher who was speaking. After a few minutes I thought I recognized his voice, but I couldn’t put a name to it. At the 10:06 minute mark in the tape, he mentioned the names of his wife and son – Kama and Joel – and I was shocked! The speaker was me! That young, fired-up, zealous, reckless, unhindered man of God was me… over 20 years earlier! A flood of memories rushed through me of the month I had spent in Bombay back in 1987. It was during a campaign, where people from all over the world came into the city of Bombay to do nothing but eat, drink and sleep evangelism for one month – to help that young church move forward powerfully!

Jorge & Lety Lopez celebrate their baptism with disciples from the Latin Ministry!
Jorge & Lety Lopez celebrate their baptism with disciples from the Latin Ministry!

It was one of the most exciting times in my life! Kama and I had just had our first child a month earlier and the opportunity came to go to India. India missions had been on my heart ever since I was converted in 1980 in a campus ministry on the University of Montana in Bozeman. One of our elders had traveled to India and developed connections with missionaries there. He had gotten me really interested in the work, and we often spoke of traveling there together. I remember sending flyers, care packages and letters to help people I knew were less fortunate than myself. Through the “World Bible School,” I had studied with many people there via mail. I remember the letters that would come back from those with whom I was building long distant relationships. They would repeat over and over the gratitude and desire they had to study God’s Word and to know Him. In many ways, I gave part of my heart to India. I remember the excitement of hearing the missionary reports from those who were living there.

Erin Chapman is welcomed by the Sisters of Encouragement!
Erin Chapman is welcomed by the Sisters of Encouragement!

Then in 1986 came the proclamation from Boston – Bombay was to be planted with 12 radical disciples who were willing to go with just one suitcase each – the infamous “one suitcase challenge!” My heart raced as I thought about the excitement of being free from worldly possessions and going to India – one of the poorest of nations – with hardly anything but God’s Word and a vision to win that nation for Christ. I was so inspired! A few months later, I was on a 16 hour flight to India – a dream come true! I’ll never forget getting off the plane and the smell of heat, animals and the multitudes – a smell I would never forget. That month, I hit the ground running and didn’t slow down until the last few days of my visit. It was then that Jim Blough, the leader of the Bombay Mission Team, and I went into the mountains of the interior of India and I was able to spend time reflecting on the journey God had sent me on. That month was life-changing, eye-opening and awe-inspiring!

Chris repeated his question, “What do you think about this?” My first response was sadness. My heart sank. Not because of that time in my life or of anything that had taken place. But I was sad, because I missed that young, reckless man whose zeal was so obvious. It’s not that I hadn’t done anything recently. Less than two years ago, I had again moved my family to help plant another church – the Chicago International Christian Church – stepped out on faith in some specific situations, helped some men get baptized, and started to raise up a young man to lead a Bible Talk. I had done some fairly memorable things as of late. Where then was this gloom coming from? After some meditation and further conversations with different people it came to me – it was the absence of passion in my walk with the Lord! Over the years obedience had not been one of my weaknesses. Many times I have had to wrestle with being obedient, but when the rubber meets the road I love God and want to do God’s will in my life – often because I’ve experienced the results of not being the obedient child. I am the dutiful servant. I’ve learned to be obedient from my study of God’s Word and discipling. I’m mature enough and have been around enough to know what’s right. What I realized was that a lot of the passion behind what I do was missing. Somewhere between the 1987 “Bombay Report” and 2009, my passion had significantly dwindled. Not to say I haven’t been excited at times or been zealous – but much of the passion of a close, personal, tearful walk with my God had smoldered to a flicker. This was my wake-up call! I needed to “fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6)

David proclaimed, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree.” Palms are lush trees that in many historical cultures were symbols for such ideas as victory, peace and fertility – the same virtues our lives as Christians need to exemplify. David said they would “flourish” – grow vigorously – like a disciple, passionate in his or her relationship with God, grows in their faith and righteousness. David said, “The righteous… will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.” Some cedars are hundreds of years old, tenaciously anchored in the rocky mountains surrounding Lebanon. Again David paints a vivid picture of the passionate man or woman of God – tenacious in contending for the faith – unyielding to the world around them and to the “flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16) For those of us who have been in the “courts of our God” for some time and are not planning on going anywhere soon, we will flourish as long as the fire is still burning. “[We] will still bear fruit in old age, [we] will stay fresh and green,” and we will proclaim loudly, “He is our Rock!” However, over the past two decades, Kama and I are heart-broken over the many that have extinguished the Spirit’s fire in their own lives. Be mindful, that as with all fires, the Spirit’s fire must constantly be rekindled. Fuel must be added through an unyielding respect for, vigorous study of, and intensive passion for God’s Word. Our prayer lives must go beyond a mundane, structured set of requests to our Maker. We must have David’s heart to be close to God, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God… My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 42:1; Psalm 63:1) And when that heart isn’t present, we must pray Psalm 139“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” A change of heart will only come after a change of mind. Passion comes with a decision to be passionate. Only when decisions are made will change be forged.

I write this on my 49th birthday, and I’m feeling every year of it! What a trip it’s been! I realized on my 36th birthday, that I had been a disciple in the kingdom of God for longer than I’d been in the world – a true landmark in my life. I realized what a privilege that was to have walked with my God for the majority of my life! Even though everyone is a special “dearly loved child” in God’s eyes, few can say that they’ve been in the kingdom longer than in the world. Hopefully through God’s new movement, there will be many more disciples able to make this claim. That will mean two things: that the saved are staying saved, and that the following generations are being reached with the gospel – able to carry the baton after us “old dinosaurs” are taken to glory! That was my 36th. This is my 49th year, and I realize 50 is around the corner and glory is closer than ever!

Since that evening with Chris listening to that fiery young buck, this old buck has made some decisions. Since then I have lost about 15 pounds, wept before my God, had some energetic study in the book of Romans, and have worked at sharing my faith daily. I’ve tried to love and serve my wife in new and different ways, and have been in weekly Bible studies. Perfect? No. But the decision has been made. My heart is changing. The fire is being rekindled!

As I reflect today on my life, I think about all the mistakes I’ve made and all the folly I’ve been involved with. As I prayed this morning in tears, I was so grateful for the grace of God for bringing me this far. I am grateful for what my eyes have seen – the gospel going to so many of the nations of the world, seeing lives changed, marriages rescued, and children given a hope for their future. I am so grateful for my beautiful wife, who could have been disgusted so many times and left – with good reason! Studying the Bible with men who have been on the brink of this tragedy, I realize that could have been me – and probably should have been me. But as Paul said God’s grace has rescued me time after time. And I think of my kids and how grateful I am for the direction their lives have taken – again in spite of me and my sins of anger, selfishness and pride. I think of their love for God, His kingdom, and the lost, as well as for people in general. I am so proud of them. In 2009 alone, Brittany – my now 19 year old daughter – baptized four young women, and Joel has been personally fruitful three times! In all this, I truly sense what David felt when he wrote, “You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me.” At this crucial hour in God’s young movement, our congregations are preparing for missions contributions in April. I want to challenge every disciple in every one of our churches to reflect on your lives and all that God has done for you. Then together, let’s “fan into flame the gift of God” by giving “even beyond [our] ability,” thus igniting a bonfire, who’s light can be seen in all the nations! (2 Corinthians 8:3)