Written by Gaye Fowler
This month I celebrate the birth of Ethel Nunley Parker who was born in 1903, in a small rural town in Texas. Ethel was the eldest of four children.
Ethel was 8 years old, when her family moved to Bakersfield, California to work in the oil fields. This is where Ethel received her first exposure to church. Her grandmother, Lucy, was a foot-washing - Hard-Shell Baptist. She took Ethel to Sunday School and church.
Times were hard in California and things were not going well with her parents. In 1914, when Ethel was 11 years old, Ethel’s father decided to return to Texas. Ethel’s mother refused to go with him. They divorced. It was decided that they would split the four children. Ethel and her brother, J.T., came back to Texas with their dad. Obie, and Tommy stayed in California with their mother. Less than two months after Ethel left California, her brother Obie died.
Ethel’s father, Alpine, remarried in 1916. He married Allie Hall in Benjamin, Texas. To this union, were added two sisters and a brother for Ethel. They were a very close family.
Allie was a Christian woman. She taught children in Sunday School in the small Baptist Church where they lived. She never made Ethel go to church, but through the way she lived, Ethel was greatly influenced. The rest of Ethel’s life she considered Allie to be her mother.
Ethel’s father was a very good and caring man, but was not a Christian. For years he would take Allie to church, but he would stay in the car. One night while sitting in the car, the Holy Spirit touched his heart. He immediately left his car and ran down the aisle of the church and gave his heart to Jesus.
Not long after Ethel’s father was saved, Ethel, an adult by now, gave her life to Jesus also.
1922, Ethel married Omar Parker. They had two children, Nadene and Joe.
Ethel had always wanted to play the piano. So she took in laundry in order to pay for piano lessons for Nadene. It wasn’t long before Nadene was the church pianist and Ethel’s sister, Wanda was leading the singing.
Ethel and Omar moved to Brownwood and became members of the First Baptist Church in Early, Texas where Nadene and her husband were members. Ethel continued to serve the Lord the rest of her life. She taught children in Sunday School, Bible Drill, and even went with the youth on a ski trip.
Ethel used every opportunity to witness about her Savior. She and Omar had a café. She witnessed there. She witnessed to nurses and doctors when she was in the hospital. She witnessed to the sick and the needy as she cared for them.
When Ethel was 90 years old and coming to the end of her life, she was still teaching adults how to read and write, using her Bible.
Before she died September 25, 1993, she asked her nephew, Mike, to do her service. She told him not to talk about her life, but to preach a good sermon. “There will be those there that never set foot in church”, she told him
.Ethel was never famous, but was well-known in her community and church where she lived and served her Lord and Savior.
This month, September 1993, I stop to remember her death and to celebrate her life.
On her death-bed she said “My mother didn’t choose me”. No one knew how much she had suffered for nearly 80 years believing she was unloved and unwanted by her mother. After all she was the only daughter that her mother ever had.
“Why didn’t she choose me to stay?” she had asked herself many times.
She only saw her natural mother twice after the family was separated. Both times were after Ethel’s daughter Nadene had children. There had been no contact all those years.
Ethel may not have been chosen by her mother, but God chose her and made her a vessel for His service.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
then the Lord will take me up.
Teach me thy way,
O Lord, and lead me in a straight path.
Psalm 27: 10, 11a
God has chosen all of us. If we will give him our life, he will use us as a vessel in His service.
I have chosen thee and not cast thee away.
Ethel’s admitted weakness was that she struggled in learning to lean on God. She kept this poem on her refrigerator door that said:
"Good morning God! You are ushering in another day, Untouched and freshly new.
Well here I come to ask you, God if You will re-new me too.
Forgive the many errors that I made yesterday,
And let me try again dear God, to walk close in thy way.
But Father, I am well aware; I can't make it on my own,
So take my hand and hold it tight for I cannot walk alone."
She had scribbled these words on the back of an old Sunday School poster. The edges were ragged and worn, yellowed from age, and her writing had slowly faded through the years. It was still on her refrigerator when she died.
Ethel’s sister, Wanda, best described her in this poem that she wrote about Ethel.
She's Mom – Mother- Meme, She's Grandmother and Sister too
Mother-in-law and Teacher, This list names just a few.
We've looked to her for courage, For strength to carry on,
She's helped to guide us in the right, When everything seemed wrong.
There's never been a night too dark, Or the hour 'just too late',
Whenever she was needed, She did not hesitate.
We could continue on and on, And never really say
All the extra special things, She did day after day.
In flashing lights or headlines bold, We may never see her name,
But in love it’s written on our hearts, And she's famous, just the same.
Like little children taught to read, Old folks cared for, too.
She's diapered, cooked, cleaned and fed, And spanked quite a few.
On Sunday morn, year after year, With Bible open wide,
She taught about God's wondrous love, His Son and how He died.
There's so much more that we could say, But now let’s lift our voice and sing,
A tribute to this one we love, Let’s make the heavens ring.
There's no way to tell her, How much her love has meant.
I know God had a reason, For she was 'Heaven sent'.
She opened up her home, her heart, And everyone could see,
That "as she had done it unto the Least of these, She had done it unto me".
Ethel Nunley Parker was my grandmother
and Kristi’s great grandmother.
My mother (Nadene), me (Gaye), Grandmother (Ethel)
Her Grandmother Lucy, and her natural mother, Elizabeth
Gaye Fowler is a rising author, committed Christian and she's my mom! She's an awesome "Ma" to thirteen grandkids. She makes brownies like nobody's business. A cancer survivor, she believes in the power of prayer. She enjoys genealogy and spending time with her grandkids. Look for her first book coming soon, "Jardi's Journey".