When Wanda Parker was a child, her mother taught migrant children. She fondly recalls her mother telling stories of the children with whom she worked. Her heart was touched.
From her earliest years, Wanda believed in the God of the impossible.
During her senior year in college, she made the decision to join VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), the domestic Peace Corps. Less than a year later, she was living in a migrant labor camp in Texas and was visiting a court hearing when a judge unexpectedly gave her guardianship of two juvenile delinquents who had derailed a freight train. Because the two boys were the children of migrants, their intelligence had never been tested. Wanda was able to get a full battery of tests for them which showed both boys were border-line mentally retarded. They had no idea what they were doing when they derailed the train.
Wanda was able to get them into a school for mentally retarded children. To this day, her greatest sorrow is knowing that she had improved their earthly life, but she never told them about Jesus. Could it be she gave them the world only to lose their souls?
After VISTA, Wanda married co-VISTA Volunteer, Joe Parker. He became a Boys Club Director and they served in inner city and barrio communities of Southern California. In one of the Boy’s Clubs, one of the kids was James, whose mother was a prostitute. As a young boy, one of her boyfriends threw James across the car, slicing his face from the top of his forehead to the bottom of his chin, leaving a deep scar. James was full of anger and would go into a rage at the slightest provocation. For two years, he was in and out of the Parker home. When Joseph, their first child, was born, James carried him all over the club and doted on him. He knew that Joe and Wanda cared about him. Then Joe was transferred to another club and the Parkers lost track of James. Several years later Joe was attending meetings in the neighborhood where James had grown up. Who should be in attendance but James? He was now a Juvenile Probation Officer. He told Joe, “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for you.”
One adult can make a difference!
The vision of KidTrek was growing in Wanda’s heart and mind.
However, three children in three years also placed a different burden on Wanda’s heart. Feeling overwhelmed she cried out to the Lord, “Oh Jesus please show us how to raise these children so they will walk with you forever. We don’t know how to do this, please teach us.”
The Lord allowed the Parkers to have experiences that would answer that prayer.
Joe was on staff with Open Doors with Brother Andrew when their children were in early elementary school. As part of Joe’s ministry, they were part of a team sent to take Bibles into China. While in Hong Kong, they met a family who had only recently escaped from China.
The mother of the family told them the story of her family while her eldest surviving son translated for her. In the mid-1960’s during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guard had come to their home and wrenched their four children from the home. The Red Guard had set up a bench in front of their home and made the four children, ages 11, 10, 6 and 3, sit on the bench. They called all the neighbors to come watch what was about to take place.
Then the soldiers went from child to child asking if he loved Jesus. When the child responded, “Yes, I love Jesus,” the soldier would hit the child in the face, knocking him to the ground. The soldiers went to each child several times, but the oldest, Steven, got beaten over and over because he refused to renounce Jesus.
Finally the soldiers turned from the children to attack the parents. Stephen crawled into their home and lay down on his mat. Daniel, the 10-year-old followed him in and knelt beside him.
“Don’t tell mama but I’m dying Daniel I’m dying.” The 11–year-old declared.
Just then Mama came and knelt beside her son her head had been shaved. “Mama, mama, I’m dying. Mama, I’m dying. Mama, you have to forgive them. Mama, you have to forgive them.” Then lifting his hand toward heaven, he cried out, “I see Jesus, Mama. I see Jesus.” And he was gone.
Wanda looked at this woman who had just told them the story of her eleven year old son whom she had watched be beaten to death and there was a peace on her face. “Mama, how do you raise a child so that at the age of 11, he will not renounce Jesus, though he be beaten to death?” Wanda quietly asked.
She looked Wanda in the eye and she said, “There are three things you must do.”
“From the time your child is born, you must teach him that he must never renounce Jesus nor another Christian. Your life might be dependent on that other believer.”
“Secondly, you must pray sacrificially for your children. That means you are praying so much for your children that you are giving up things you want to do for yourself because you are praying for your children.”
Wanda will never forget the little chuckle she gave before she continued, “Thirdly, and this is hardest for you in the West. You must let your children suffer. They will never grow strong if they don’t suffer. If there is nothing natural that causes suffering in their life, then create a reason for them to suffer.”
Wanda was so excited when she got home. These sounded like such good sound principles to follow. Wanda could hardly wait to share these principles with her friends. The first person with whom she shared was a close friend and Sally wept as Wanda shared Mama’s story.
When Wanda was finished, her friend looked at her and said, “But Wanda, if my children suffer, then I will suffer and I don’t want to suffer.
It was one of those “ah-ha” moments of life. How much of our parenting, how much of our nurturing of children is about what makes me feel good rather than what the child really needs?
This made me realize that as adults we must constantly look at what each child’s real need is. We must be careful to not do what makes us feel good, nor what makes him feel good today, but is harmful for his future.
WANDA HAD BEEN TAUGHT AN IMPORTANT TRUTH OF CHILD NURTURING THAT WOULD BE APPLIED THROUGHOUT THE MINISTRIES SHE WOULD LEAD IN THE FUTURE.
The Parkers were living in Portland, OR in 1979 when Joe began urging Wanda to return to work. She was enjoying her life as a stay-at-home mom and did not want to work outside the home. One day when she returned from a Bible Study Joe handed her the classifieds and suggested she check-out a couple of possible jobs. One was for a kindergarten teacher in a day care center; Wanda begrudgingly called and made an appointment for an interview. At the end of the interview Wanda asked the director when she would be making a decision. “I already have, can you begin Monday,” was the response. “Uh, uh, no! I need time to think about it,” was Wanda’s reaction.
That weekend the Parker family attended a Jesus Festival in WA across the river from Portland. The first night the speaker challenged the audience, “Is God asking you to do something and you are refusing to do it?” Wanda remembers struggling with that question as they drove home. Finally through self-talk she made herself feel good, “It isn’t God asking me to take this job, its Joe.”
The next day they returned to the festival, Joe and Wanda stood and watched while their children went into the petting zoo. A couple the Parkers had never met before was standing next to them when the husband turned to Wanda and said, “Do you work with children?” Surprised she stuttered, “Uh, no, but.” She stopped herself from continuing and asked, “Why are you asking me this?” The man looked at her and gently said, “I believe the Lord has given me a Word for you.” Wanda was startled; she was not use to such talk. The man continued, “The Lord wants you to know that He has a large ministry for you with children one day, but he isn’t able to give you that large ministry unless you are willing to take the small ministry He has for you today.” Wanda started crying, Joe started crying and the poor man asked, “What have I said?”
Could KidTrek be the large ministry that God promised?
The Parker family returned to Southern California.
Wanda served as Children’s Pastor in three large Southern California Churches. God had something different for her to learn at each ministry.
While sitting in her office one afternoon, she envisioned an entire building filled with needy children. Not long after that, she was approached by Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) to develop just such a program nationally.
It was 1992 and the Los Angeles riots had spurred Dr. John Perkins to approach CCC with a vision of his own – a reproducible after-school program for at-risk kids. He challenged Campus Crusade to develop a program that adults could be trained to reproduce in their own church across the country. Knowing Wanda’s past work with at-risk kids, they asked her to develop such a program for them. This was the opportunity to live out the vision that had been growing in her mind and heart since childhood.
In 1998, Wanda and Joseph Parker (her son), were invited to sit on a panel in England convened by Viva Network. The purpose of the panel was to develop a curriculum to train those who are called to work with at-risk kids. Today the curriculum is taught in Christian universities around the world.
In 2001, CCC decided to change their vision. Joe challenged Wanda to advance her vision from the Lord. Asking the Lord about this, Wanda inquired if this was truly His vision. She believed she heard Him say,
- “Wanda, this is my vision and no one can change it.”
- “To make a difference in the lives of at-risk kids, it is going to take praying and fasting, but not fasting from food. It is going to take adults who are willing to fast from the things they want to do for themselves because they are pouring into the lives of kids.”
Not sure if what she heard was truly from the Lord or just what she wanted to hear, she asked the Lord for confirmation. The following week, a center director came into her office and told Wanda of driving through South Central Los Angeles where she saw children running in and out amongst gang members dealing drugs. The director said she cried out to Jesus and asked what it would take to change this. She continued, “Wanda, the Lord told me it was going to take prayer and fasting but not fasting from food.” This director knew nothing of what Wanda believed the Lord had told her.
In March 2001, Joe and Wanda took a step of faith and resigned from CCC and launched KidTrek.
The initial KidTrek staff was: Wanda Parker, Executive Director; Joseph Parker, Director of Field Operations; Jim Hatch, Director of Training; Mildred Fisher, Director of Families Ministries; and Sheryl Moffatt, North Central Regional Facilitator.
Since 2001, the Lord has not allowed a distant look into the future. But He has been faithful! Some highlights of the KidTrek Faith Walk are:
- In 2001, we submitted a grant request for five computers and four printers. Amazingly, it was approved, but the funds didn’t come. We waited three months, a critical time when training materials and curriculum needed to be developed. When funding arrived the price of computers and printers were substantially lowered and we were able to upgrade from what we had originally planned to buy.
- KidTrek started with the name, KidHope. After a year, we learned that there were two other ministries using that name. While we were in the process of looking for a new name, we received a letter from the lawyer of one of these ministries telling us to “cease and desist” from using the KidHope name. Director of Field Operations, Joseph Parker, suggested the name KidTrek. KidTrek fits with our mission, “walking with kids through life.” Though it was being used at that time by Southern Baptists, there was indication that they were not going to use it in the future. Wanda asked if we could use the name. A letter came back telling us KidHope could change its name to KidTrek with the blessing of the Southern Baptists.
- We trademarked KidTrek, but a letter arrived from Trek Bicycles telling us to “cease and desist” from using the KidTrek name. We sent them the letter from the Southern Baptists and Trek Bicycles backed down.
- In the beginning, we were charging only $300 for the eight-day Basic Training. In doing so, we incurred a large debt. We were at the point of not knowing what to do when a training participant unexpectedly wrote a check that wiped out the entire debt.
- In 2004, we received two grants to fund the launching of our website. One proposal was sent to a private foundation that only gives to ministries of whom they request a proposal. It was God’s providence that we learned of the foundation. Though they knew nothing of us and had not requested a proposal from us, we submitted a proposal covered in much prayer. We were called and asked how we procured their information; Joe Parker explained. We were found with favor and they granted our request.
- In 2004, Wanda Parker spoke at Urban Youth Workers Conference. In attendance was Justin Miller, Coordinator of programming for Steadfast Companies’ After-School Programs. Justin was excited by what he heard from Wanda. He contacted KidTrek and an exciting partnership was formed.
- In April 2005, Viva Network invited Wanda to present a “Best Practice” paper at their Cutting Edge Conference in England. She was told that Viva Network considers KidTrek to be a ministry that is raising the standard of ministry to at-risk kids. The best practice paper is about the KidTrek concept of Secondary-Nurturers – “walking through life with kids.”
- In February 2007 Joseph was officially name KidTrek’s President/CEO After graduation from BIOLA University in 1992 Joseph served as a children’s and youth pastor in Palm Springs, CA for three years. He later worked in a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles where part of his duties included an after-school program located in a nearby church in Skid Row. Six years later Joseph got married to his beautiful wife Kelly; for the next two years they continued to serve and minister in Skid Row while Joseph worked as KidTrek’s Director of Field Operations. Due to a lack of financial resources at that time Joseph soon found a job working for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps’ After School Program. He immediately became responsible for managing over 100 employees and nearly 1,000 middle school students everyday. Three years later Joseph was promoted to Program Manager of Training and Academic Enrichment for all 22 LACC schools.
- At this time Wanda became Director of Program Development. This allowed her to concentrate on training and curriculum development
- In 2009 we were in the midst of prayer and considerations for the direction the Lord wanted us to go. There was concern that churches were losing their own church children while giving quality ministry to community children. We were praying over concentrating more on churches overall Children’s Ministry.
- The economy had hit bottom, we had done well for the first year, but in 2009 in three months a good portion of our funding stopped. Joseph had to find another job – the Lord provided in a month, he was hired as Children’s Pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, CA.
- Believing this was God directing our steps Wanda began writing Sunday Plus Curriculum and providing on-line training.
Sunday Plus Curriculum is a Gospel centered, whole-istic (spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, social), individualistic and intentional curriculum geared to get the entire church involved in the discipleship of children.
Deuteronomy 6 is a passage used in the development of all KidTrek ministries.
- It is a call to the whole church “O Israel.”
- It calls for modeling not just teaching – “you shall love …
- It gives specific instructions for walking through life with children – You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
- A challenge to not become complacent
Why the name Sunday Plus?
Children’s Ministry has to be more than just what happens on Sunday – it has to reach into every aspect of the children’s lives. Disciplers are challenged to lay out a discipleship plan for each child they serve. Because each child is created uniquely each plan will look different. Disciplers walk-through-life with five kids.
KIDTREK EQUIPS THE CHURCH TO WALK THROUGH LIFE WITH KIDS BY PROVIDING TRAINING AND CURRICULUM
Our goal is to see kids become
Christ-changed, hope-filled, productive adults.
- The KidTrek vision is being lived out as the Lord continues to guide us through each step.