The Faith of a Child: Renee Parker's Story
Renee Parker learned the importance of faith as a child, and that is what compels her to ensure other children have the same opportunity. You will find Renee serving most Sundays in the graceKIDS! hallway at the Winter Garden campus, teaching preschoolers three basic truths: “God made me, God loves me, and Jesus wants to be my forever friend.” Renee knows personally the difference this foundation can make.
“My own childhood is not something I talk about very often,” Renee admits, “It’s the story that shaped me, but not something I like to discuss. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Before Renee’s thirteenth birthday, she would see her mother, her father, and grandmother pass away. “The church was so important to me. It gave me the hope that I needed for my life. It kept me feeling that I was safe and life would somehow be ok.”
Renee and her twin sister were the youngest of four siblings. Her parents separated when she was very young, and then shortly after that, her mother became sick. The four kids and her mom moved in with her grandmother, and it was during this time that Renee’s faith began to grow. “Both my mother and grandmother had a very deep faith in Jesus. It was important to them that we attend church and learn about God and the Bible. On Saturdays, we attended children’s mass and then church on Sunday with the adults.” The truth she learned and the faith she saw lived out gave her the support she would need in the years to come.
But before Renee’s thirteenth birthday, she would see her mother, her father and grandmother pass away. Her siblings moved in with an aunt and uncle, but during her senior year in high school, her aunt also died. The continued loss could have easily shaken her, but Renee’s faith sustained her through all of the difficulties.
“The church was so important to me,” Renee says. “It gave me the hope that I needed for my life. I cannot remember a time that I didn’t believe that God was real, that God loved me and that He had a plan for my life. It was this belief that kept me feeling that I was safe, and life would somehow be ok.”
Today, Renee makes it a priority to teach others the truth she has relied on her entire life. This commitment started with her own twin daughters. “I wanted to pass the faith that was given to me on to them. I wanted their faith to be as strong as my own and now, at 18, both of my girls are developing in their own relationship with Christ. I’ve seen them lead others and even challenge and encourage me. Now there are three of us handing down our faith.”
Grace Winter Garden has been an important part of this story. The family moved to Orlando for a job at Disney. Shortly after the Winter Garden campus launched, her director told her about Grace and invited her to attend.
“The church was refreshing. My teenage daughters were excited to attend and I saw them grow,” she remembers.
“At Grace, every sermon touches me and means something to me personally. Relationships are in important part of the church — both my relationship with Christ and with others. I’ve gotten to know the pastors and the campus has become like family.”
In addition to her own daughters, Renee feels called to serve the kids and families of Grace Winter Garden. “I’ve always believed children live what they learn — this is why it is so important for us to teach them truth when they are young.”
It is this passion that drives Renee to serve. “You know, I honestly don’t see serving as a sacrifice. It is just me obeying God and being where He wants me to be for this season. I know that He will sustain me to do what He’s called me to do,” she reflects. “When a child reacts to what we are teaching and shows that he is learning about God — that is priceless.”
Renee also utilizes the free Grace app to listen to sermons throughout the week when she is serving in graceKIDS! and misses the message, and is constantly encouraged by the staff and people of Grace. “I always feel supported and appreciated by the church, and that makes all the difference.”
What God was building in Renee, even as a young child, has established her life as a follower of Christ, and is helping her lead others. She has whole heartedly embraced God’s plan, and is not only taking her own next steps toward Christ, but is committed to seeing others do the same.
“I’m excited to see what God has for Grace Winter Garden,” Renee says. “Being part of God’s work here is a privilege. I couldn’t be more grateful that He would take my own experiences and use them to help others know Him.”
This story, written by Executive Pastor Rick Garrett, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.