“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.” —Augustine of Hippo.
Brooks Parker, a junior business management major from Little Rock, grew up on three continents. His parents were teachers and church-planters in Africa and India for a large portion of his childhood.
Parker reflected on his first of many adventures outside the United States, this one beginning when he was just five years old in Nairobi, Kenya.
There are some memories that persist in our minds, despite the passage of time. On a wildlife preservation safari, one of many that his family went on, Parker witnessed an extraordinary event that has stayed with him ever since that day.
“Once we were passing a watering hole with zebras circled all around. We stopped for a moment and were watching them. All of the sudden, I kid you not, a giant crocodile came out of the water and dragged a zebra into the watering hole by its head,” Parker said. “It is one of the things in my life that I will never forget. It would be impossible for me to forget that. I mean, that croc was chowing down. There was water and limbs flying everywhere. It was one of the greatest things I have ever seen.”
In addition to the safaris, another feature he enjoyed about Africa was the food. His favorite dish was ugali and sukuma wiki, a popular dish in Kenya. Sukuma wiki is comparable to collard greens, and ugali is “a dish made of maize flour, millet flour, or Sorghum flour cooked in boiling liquid to a porridge-or dough-like consistency.”
“You pair it and eat it together with your hands, and it is amazing, so good. It was my favorite thing to eat,” Parker said.
Parker said he remembers Africa “to be a non-stop adventure.”
During that period, his parents’ work in Nairobi included teaching at a Bible school and ministering at local churches.
After about two years, when their time in Kenya came to a close, the Parkers returned and remained in the States for nearly a year before moving to India. In that interim period, Parker was already looking to the future.
“I never thought it was home. I remember as a kid never expecting us to be somewhere for an extended period of time,” Parker said. “I mean, I made the most of it and made friends…but I was always ready for the next adventure. I thought, ‘OK, what’s next?’”
Well, India was next. Bangalore, Karnataka, to be specific. And Parker’s first memory of it was quite shocking.
In their home, he went to take a shower, but when he touched the handle, he was electrocuted so severely that the force of the shock slammed his body into the bathroom wall.
“That was my first memory of India,” Parker said. “Getting the daylights shocked out of me.”
Aside from that electric first day, he looks fondly back on his time there.
“India was a whole lot of fun,” Parker said.
Brimming with a curious and venturesome personality, Parker enjoyed investigating his new home.
“I would go outside and play, but I would look for abandoned buildings to explore, like unfinished houses that had been abandoned. I would crawl in there and explore the place,” Parker said. “Super dangerous though, I should not have been doing those things, but I went with a friend.”
With another one of his friends, Parker had a unique cultural experience.
“I remember one time I went to sleep over at a friend’s. For breakfast, we had what happened to be my favorite cereal over in India,” Parker said. “They poured the cereal into a bowl, then took it out back and milked a goat over the bowl. I sat there in disbelief, complete shock.” (Of course, not in the way that he was shocked on his first day.)
Even though he only attended school in India for grades four and five, Parker says he still keeps in touch with his friends.
“I still talk with a lot of them on Facebook,” he said.
One of Parker’s close companions walked not on two legs, but four.
“I will never forget this day. My dad told me and Haleigh [his sister], ‘I’m going out to get you a surprise, and I’ll be back.’ …And Dad comes home with this little chocolate lab puppy…and man that was a good day,” Parker said. “That was a really good day…we named him Jack.”
The Parkers would return to the States semi-regularly to visit, but one time the United States Embassy asked them to leave for the forseeable future for various safety reasons. All of their belongings, including Jack, were left behind.
“At the time, I didn’t know that we weren’t going back to Bangalore,” Parker said.
His parents then had to decide if they would send Jack back to the States along with their possessions. Fortunately, they decided in the affirmative.
“I think seeing Jack again was really great because it made leaving suddenly not as bad,” Parker said.
Leaving India meant the Parkers also had to leave the church they had planted, Dominion Harvest Church; however, Brooks’ parents took trips back for several years afterward to coordinate with the campus pastors. Today, DHC is still thriving, now with seven campuses.
Parker says growing up abroad taught him to be content and sincerely grateful in life.
“I’m much more thankful for what I have. Really thankful for what I have,” Parker said. “Every time I go overseas, I’m reminded of where I came from and how I grew up, and I’m so very thankful. …it was hard for me to complain about anything when right down the street there’s someone with no place to live.”
Parker had not gone abroad since his time in India, and so after several years in the States, he desperately wanted to travel again.
Fortunately, an opportunity soon arose for him to go on a trip to Hong Kong with Real Life Student Ministies through New Life Church, his home church.
At this time in his life, Parker had been involved in high school ministry leadership with NLC and was a leader on this trip.
In Hong Kong, Parker experienced another one of those exceptional moments that he will never forget.
“Beach day was awesome. I was messing around with the kids, dunking them in the water and having a great time. I jokingly said to one of our students, ‘I’m about to baptize you.’ He said, ‘I’ve never been baptized before.’ I asked him, ‘Well, do you want to be baptized?’ After he said yes, I called some of the other leaders on our trip into the water and we baptized him right there in the China Sea. It was such a beautiful moment. Then, another student came forward and said she wanted to be baptized as well. So, we baptized two students for the first time that day. It probably was one of my favorite memories of the trip.”
The bulk of the trip consisted of Parker’s group teaching students and children Bible stories, leading worship with them and having craft time.
“Hong Kong was really great, the people are really great,” Parker said.
Parker has already seen so much of the world–including travelling through Amsterdam, Seoul, Singapore and Sri Lanka on trips back from Africa and India–but currently, he has his sights set on Europe. He will go on the European Study Tour this summer and is currently taking the required class in preparation for that trip.
“It has been a lifetime dream of mine to tour Europe,” Parker said.
As a result of his upbringing, travelling isn’t a just hobby for Parker—it’s a necessity. It is central to his personality.
“…it’s very important, and I make it a priority to travel, just because it’s my favorite thing.”
Naturally, Parker advocates travelling for others as well.
“It’s really important to go places you’ve never been and see things and experience things you wouldn’t have had you not stepped out of your comfort zone,” Parker said. “It’s important to meet people who think differently than you. …your worldview is not as developed as it could be if you just stay in one place your whole life. It’s just not. …I’m really grateful that I grew up the way that I did, and I would do it all over again.”
By: Barrett Gay, editor-in-chief