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A family and a corps

By Major Sue Dewan

Twenty-nine years ago Larry Parker died. Several months later his wife, Paula, gave birth to their daughter Carrie. Paula raised Carrie alone. Paula babysat for her so that she could work, one job, sometimes two, all so that she could provide the best for her only child.

As time passed, Carrie matured through adolescence, and she and her mother slowly grew apart. Paula continued to work hard to provide, struggling, but managing to keep their little family off welfare and out of "the system."

Somewhere, something went terribly wrong. Carrie had never been involved in drugs when she lived at home, but when she ventured out to live on her own, she got involved with the worst of them all ... heroin. As if this were not terrible enough, by this time Carrie had two beautiful sons, Tyrell and Marcel. Carrie's life went straight downhill. Tyrell, in particular, spent his young years in an environment surrounded by drugs and the things that his mother did to get those drugs. Carrie went to prison after spending a year in the county jail. Paula stepped in to raise the two boys.

Paula worked hard over the next few years to make sure Tyrell and Marcel had a stable home life. Other members of the family offered to take one or the other of the children, but not both together. Paula didn't want that for them. With their mother in prison, Tyrell and Marcel needed each other.

Paula worked nights so that she could be home with the boys during part of the day. But the boys had a safe place to sleep each night because of a friend at The Salvation Army. Because of that friend, the boys also attended Sunday school every week at The Salvation Army. In addition, Tyrell became a part of The Salvation Army After School Klub and the new outreach program at the Cumberland Corps. Tyrell has a safe and fun place to go and get help with his homework every day after school.

Last year, just before Christmas, Carrie was released from prison on parole. She is receiving help from several really good programs to help her stay off drugs, and she is doing very well in that regard. As of this writing, Carrie has been drug free for just over one year.

Because of the strong foundation that Carrie's sons had developed at The Salvation Army, Carrie began to spend a lot of her time at the corps. The boys were still in her Paula's custody, and Carrie began to reintroduce herself into their lives in a place that was comfortable for them.




Carrie Parker has two families. 

In addition to her three children and her mother,

she has been blessed by the women of the Cumberland, Md.,Corps,

who have become a loving and stabilizing influence in Carrie's life.




 As time went on, the women at the corps "took Carrie in" and made her a part of the fellowship. Carrie began to respond to their love. Though she was still struggling with getting her life in order, she began to volunteer at the corps and, a little later, began to attend Sunday school and Sunday worship.

While volunteering during Christmas, Carrie developed a relationship with Community Care Ministries Secretary Mary Hart. Mary, because of her strong faith, was able to show Carrie that God is at work in everyday life. Carrie began to understand that God actually does answer prayer because she herself saw several of Mary's prayers answered in a very real and mighty way.

Carrie encountered a serious obstacle when she discovered that some earlier poor choices had led to an unexpected pregnancy. She was miserable. But she prayed about it, asking, "Why God? Why now? I've just started to get things together." Then she realized that God was sending her a message about the choices that she had been making and that He would take the circumstances and make something good out of something bad. Because she was pregnant she had to start making even better choices for herself, the baby and her boys. Just staying off drugs wasn't enough.

Now, looking back, Carrie sees that point as a new beginning. Her daughter, Aniyah Danae, was born Nov. 28, 2006. Carrie chose the name "Aniyah" because it means "angel sent from above." That's how Carrie views her new daughter, as a God-given opportunity to start over.

Aside from Mary Hart, the most influential person in Carrie's life has been Melody Merrill. Melody teaches the Sunday school class that Carrie attends and, being close to the whole family, has been able to hold Carrie accountable from Sunday to Sunday. Melody offers support - sometimes tender and sometimes not-so-tender. Melody is that same friend that helped Paula with Tyrell and Marcel those few years ago, and now she is helping Carrie too. Because of the history she has had with this family, it is a visible, wonderful work in progress, and God's hand is evident throughout it all.

"We've seen such spiritual growth and maturity in Carrie's life," Merrill said. "It's no longer all about her, but it's about her relationship with God and with others around her, like her children and the corps family here in Cumberland. What we love is that Carrie is not puffing herself up - she knows she's doing much better and that she can't do this on her own. She needs the Lord and is realizing what a difference He can make in her life."

By the way, the relationships Melody Merrill formed with these two women didn't happen in any dramatic way. They happened to be next-door neighbors. Melody saw a family that needed the love of Jesus, and she offered it.

Paula and Carrie have never been to Home League, that most traditional of women's ministries in The Salvation Army. But the women in ministry at The Salvation Army have had a tremendous impact on both of their lives and, through them, on the lives of three precious children.

"The ladies in this corps have given me hope," Parker said. "They are wonderful role models for me and I feel that I am part of a great spiritual family. They encourage me and are helping me in my Christian faith."



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