Searching for TreasureFocus on the Family recently talked with Terry and Paula Parker about their stewardship adventure.
“Family beach trips were the highlight of our summers when thte children were little. With imagination, Terry would fill our family’s ‘pirate chest’ with small treasures and hide it in the sand. A map with clues would guide our three children to find the treasure. It was a delight to see them work together and make their discovery,” shared Paula. This summer memory is a metaphor for their family’s journey.
Terry and Paula’s stewardship adventure began while in their 20s. After passing the bar at a young age, Terry’s pastor encouraged him to be faithful with his first earnings, and so he pledged to give no less than 10 percent of his earnings to the Lord’s work.
“I met Paula while I was leading a youth retreat. She was a Jantzen model while finishing college. My heart skipped a beat! Soon, we were married. We lived with my parents while saving for the electricity deposit,” exclaimed Terry.
“I was making $500 a month practicing law at a firm in Atlanta and decided to borrow $5,000 to invest in a restaurant venture. The promoter took the money, so our $5,000 came to nothing, only a debt to repay,” Terry shared. “The lesson of a borrower becoming slave to the lender was an early and valuable lesson.”
After Terry formed a successful law firm in Atlanta, he and Paula found a financial advisor. In Terry’s words, “He helped us make better decisions and provided us with counsel from a biblical worldview.” Three concepts that guided their decisions included:
Eliminate unnecessary debt: Years earlier, I’d borrowed half a million dollars to buy savings and loan stock. To eliminate this unnecessary debt, I sold my stock to the other shareholders and paid off the debt. Within a few years, the stock value would go to zero.
Spend less than you make: We were members of a golf club and rarely used the membership. When I looked at the cost per use, I knew this was an expense to eliminate.
Invest in God’s work: Starting at 10 percent, we set our goal to increase our giving each year.
In 1982, the White House asked Terry to consider an appointment to the Court of Appeals. He turned the position down, as he and Paula felt God was leading in another direction. Within the same year, Terry would start the National Christian Foundation (NCF) with friends Ron Blue and Larry Burkett. “I had no idea at that time that God would use NCF to guide billions of dollars into charitable work around the world,” Terry said.
Twelve years later, in 1994, Terry and Paula faced another milestone. “My mother died, one of our daughters was pregnant, our son was struggling and Terry was traveling a lot. We were stressed and stretched. Someone invited us to a vision conference. At the conference we decided Terry should give up his law practice and together we would devote our time to NCF,” Paula shared.
The hardest of times came in 2010. “When our granddaughter Katie became sick, I read books to her,” Terry said. “But they always fell short in relevance to her situation. Being a storyteller, I began creating tales about Robert P. Rabbit, a valiant rabbit that watched over children who were weak. These adventures ignited Katie’s imagination and in her final days, she began to insist on hearing these stories. In the years since Katie departed from this present life, I’ve written these down so that other children can read the stories that encouraged her. I’ve completed the first two books using the name Granddad as author.”
“Katie taught each of us so much. She was mature beyond her years; fragile but strong, weak but never complaining, always joyful and always giving. She is a treasure of our family,” shared Paula.
Paula, a natural optimizer, has been Terry’s assistant for 20 years. Together, Terry and Paula, at each juncture of the journey, have searched for the treasures of life, seeking how they can optimize what they have been given, and taking the path in front of them, the good and the difficult, for God’s glory.