Sonny Parsons, who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, pastors GCI’s congregations in Big Sandy, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas.
Sonny has a long history of community service. “I always enjoyed serving others. While in high school as an Eagle Scout I helped start one of the first camps for mentally challenged children in Mississippi and served for seven summers with the program. While working as a school administrator and educator, I served for 20 years in the summers as waterfront director or counselor at a Boy Scout camp. As an adult, I attended the National Boy Scout Camping School and served on the faculty in the aquatic section. For the past 25 years I have served with the Big Sandy Volunteer Fire Department as a firefighter and paramedic. I also have served as captain of Emergency Medical Services.”
Sonny credits his parents with giving him a heart for serving others. “They instilled in me a commitment to always treat others like you would like to be treated and help care for those less fortunate. As a child I always wanted to obey God and ‘do what was right.’”
In 1964, while a premed student at Mississippi State University (MSU), Sonny was part of a group of 15-20 students who started listening to The World Tomorrow broadcast. “Many of those students became WCG ministers or Ambassador College faculty.”
Sonny met his wife Jane in high school. “She was a sophomore and I was a junior. We dated for five years and married in 1964 during my senior year at MSU. We have been married for nearly 49 years.” While a married senior at MSU, Jane earned her what Sonny calls a PHT (“Putting Hubby Through”) degree! “Earlier, she had earned a business college degree and now worked to help me finish school. When we first started dating, she passed me a note that was signed with the letters MTYLTT which stands for More Than Yesterday Less Than Tomorrow. She had those letters engraved inside my wedding ring. They speak of our love for each other and our love for God that should be more than yesterday but less than tomorrow. In our wedding service, Jane had a song sung from the book of Ruth with the words, “Where ever thou goest, I will go.” Little did she know that I would drag her all over this earth. But she has always been there by my side.”
Sonny and Jane have had two children: Todd, who died in 2006, and Amy who has served as a flight medic and now is a supervisor with Mother Francis Hospital and Champion EMS. Todd had two girls, Amanda and Alison who live in California. Amy has three children: Treston, who just completed four years in the Air Force; Tory, who is in nursing school; and Tyler, who is finishing her second year in college. They also have one great grandchild, Hadyn, who is Amanda’s daughter.
Sonny has always felt that being prepared and seeking counsel is important. “Upon finishing college, I wrote the Letter Answering Department in Pasadena and asked what field they would recommend. Given my background, they recommended teaching and suggested I read Proverbs 3:5-6. With that passage of Scripture in mind, I prayed. The answer came unexpectedly when a man I had never met asked if I would like to teach school and be his assistant principal! I learned then to take the promise in that passage quite seriously.”
Sonny says that, “trusting God in that way has helped prepare me for life. As Director of YES (Youth Employment Services) with the Jackson, Mississippi public school system, I was asked to develop a career development program for seven school districts. I used godly principles in doing so. I told this to the National Director of Career Education in Washington when he asked why the program was so successful. I was then named as a consultant to the US Office of Education and the project was chosen as a National Exemplary Program in Career Development in the US for young people. Only seven were chosen from the nation, and a book was written about it. This helped prepare me for the development of MPEC, (Mail Processing Extension Center) at Ambassador during the 80s and 90s.”
While working at Ambassador in Big Sandy, Sonny was asked to enter vocational ministry. “Richard Rice, the director of the US ministry, asked Jane and me to move to the San Antonio area where we pastored churches in San Antonio, Uvalde, Corpus Christi and Victoria for seven years. We then asked to return to Big Sandy since our children and grandchildren lived there. In 2002, we were assigned to pastor the Big Sandy and Texarkana churches. We’ve been doing so for almost 12 years.” Sonny says that his most memorable moment as a pastor was baptizing three of his grandchildren.
As part of his pastoral ministry, Sonny has been actively involved in the community. “I love serving others, and have had the opportunity to serve as Big Sandy’s Mayor, the President of the Ministerial Alliance and member of the boards of the Community Development Corporation, the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.”
Sonny has earned five academic degrees: an AA and BA in Theology, a BA in Sociology, and MEd and EdS degrees in School Administration.
Sonny says that one of his greatest joys in ministry is “seeing transformation take place in people’s lives as they believe in and accept Jesus Christ and realize that they are under grace.” He loves that GCI has helped him understand “the awesomeness of Trinitarian theology.” Sonny says that his passion is to “become more and more like Jesus.” Other passions include family and “developing lasting friendships and relationships.”
Asked when he feels closest to God, Sonny replied, “When in prayer or when I see his hand at work in events or when I witness lives being transformed.”