It is with great sadness but also joy that I write to you about the passing of long-time Ranch leader Jim Parker. After battling dementia over the past few years, he finished his race around noon on September 19th, with people he dearly loved surrounding him as his spirit left this earth and entered heaven. There are many things we don’t know about heaven, but I imagine many, many people running up to greet him, gratefully telling him he’s the reason they’re there, he’s the one that pointed them to the great love of the Savior, Jesus.
I believe “JP” was one of the richest of men. He had an abundance of the greatest wealth there is: love. He loved freely and generously. He never ran out of love; his connection with the Lord allowed him to be a fire hose, and everyone who came near him experienced this great love. Not surprisingly, Jim was very loved in return; as he would say, that’s the way God’s plan works.
Jim’s love filled all parts of his life. He was faithfully devoted to his wife, Marion. A few years ago—well into their sixth decade of marriage--Jim told me his love for her was still growing. He was a kind and gentle father to his girls, and he was ready to make difficult career and personal choices in order to care for them. While tender toward them, he was also ferociously protective. In their house ministry in Livermore in the 1970’s, when he faced knives, guns, unhinged people, and criminals as he ministered to everyone he came across, Jim defended his family with power and courage.
His loving father’s heart also influenced how he led at Christian Encounter. Once Jim told me about a girl he had to dismiss from the Ranch many years ago. As he was walking her down the driveway to a waiting car, she turned and told him she’d never had a father; if she did, she would want it to be Jim. As he told me this story, he cried. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.
These are evidences of a very special man, but Jim would quickly point us back to Jesus as the source of this special love. His love for God and others had the natural outworking of making him humble. He chose the lesser paths; he wasn’t oriented to fame or fortune, but instead to nurturing and shepherding souls as a loving mentor and pastor.
As JP taught everyone around him, life with Jesus is good. As he lived this out, he shaped so many of the lives he encountered. He also taught those people to shape others, and like ripples on a pond, Jim’s life work will keep spreading. May we all live with Jim’s singular focus on the things that really matter, and may we never forget there’s no end to the goodness that comes with following Jesus. And the best really is yet to come. For JP, he’s already there.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2pm, at Compass Community Church in Grass Valley, CA. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Christian Encounter to continue the lifesaving work that was so close to Jim's heart.