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Philip Albert Parker family.

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Parker, Philip Albert (1915–2001)

By Suak Khaw Ngin, and Annika Cambigue

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Suak Khaw Ngin was born in Chin State, Myanmar; he has been a pastor, teacher, principal, departmental director, and a seminary professor. He holds a BA in Religion from the Myanmar Union Adventist Seminary and a MA in Education from the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Philippines. He was ordained to the ministry in 2003. Together with his wife, Pau Za Dim, a son and three daughters, he lives in Myaungmya.

Annika Cambigue lives in Dayton, Ohio, United States of America. She is currently pursuing bachelor’s degrees in English and communication at Union College in Nebraska.

First Published: September 9, 2021

Philip Albert Parker, along with his wife, Irene, served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a missionary in Myanmar for 21 years.

Early Life, Education, and Marriage

Born September 26, 1915, in Parker, Florida, United States of America, to Osgood Cook Parker and Rosa Adalyn Parker,1 Philip Albert Parker was the youngest of six children. His mother died when he was six weeks old. Because his father never remarried, Philip’s older siblings helped raise him, especially his sister Eunice, who was assigned the task of taking care of the new baby. The Parker children had to work hard to keep the family financially secure. From the age of 6, Parker joined his older siblings in the fields picking crops. Despite helping to support his family, he graduated from high school in Bradenton, Florida, in the early 1930s. His father died around that time.

Shortly before Parker finished high school, a traveling evangelist who passed through Bradenton introduced him to Adventism. Baptized shortly afterward, Philip was encouraged to continue his education at Southern Junior College (now Southern Adventist University) in Tennessee.

Parker started as a pre-medicine major, but had to drop it, because of financial reasons. Still, he graduated in 1938.2 Then he enrolled at Atlantic Union College to become a pastor. That winter, he met another student, Irene Ruth Mudgett. Married on August 29, 1939, they had three children together: David, Linda, and Dennis.3 In 1944 Parker graduated from Atlantic Union College with a degree in theology.4

Ministry

When the first few missionary families re-entered Myanmar in 1946 after World War II to rebuild the Adventist church structure, the Parkers were asked to report to Maymyo (also known as Pyinoolwin) to pastor the few believers located there, to care for the property of the mission, and to study Burmese.5 At the time, they had two children, David and Linda. Parker learned to speak basic enough Burmese to converse at the market. After one year, on October 4, 1947, he organized the Pyinoolwin Seventh-day Adventist Church with 19 members.6 While the family was living in Maymyo, Myanmar gained its independence from the United Kingdom, plummeting the country into political upheaval. When insurgents seized the region of Maymyo, Irene and the children evacuated to India. Philip chose to stay behind to care for the mission property and to see to the needs of the church. During this time, he would drape an American flag over the front of his jeep to allow him safe passage through the city.7 He used this privilege to help the needy people of the city. The Parker family was reunited after the Myanmar government regained control of the region.

Philip Parker was ordained to the ministry in 1948.8 The Parkers had their third child, Dennis, while in Myanmar. Receiving a call to go to Myaungmya as president of the Ayeyarwaddy Mission in 1950, Philip served there until 1951 when the family went to the United States on furlough.9 Upon their return in 1952, he became the pastor of the main church in Yangon.10 While there, he held evangelistic meetings at Gandhi Hall.11 Irene Parker taught in the Adventist school there. The Parkers remained in Yangon until 1955, when Philip accepted the position of president of the Central and Upper Myanmar Region Union, headquartered in Mandalay.12 He held that role for many years (1955-1957;13 1957-1958;14 1961-196215). Philip Parker served from 1955 until 1966, except the two years the family spent on furlough in 1957-1958 and 1963-1964.16 During his time in office, he began rural evangelism and conducted extended evangelistic meetings at the Mandalay Railway Club. Afterward, he brought the present mission land (corner of 69/27 Street) in Mandalay and constructed a beautiful church building in 1955. Under his leadership, the denomination entered the Chin and Kachin States during 1953 and the 1960s respectively.17 In 1963 and 1965, leadership appointed him as union departmental secretaries for home missionary and Sabbath School.18 Irene served many roles in the union: secretary-treasurer and departmental secretary for the Sabbath School, missionary volunteer, and education departments.19

In the mid-1960s, the Myanmar government began expelling all foreigners from the country. Because the Parkers had entered the country while under British control, they had indefinite stay permits. It meant that the process of revoking their visas took more time for them than for other foreign missionaries. After the Parker’s third and final furlough, they returned to Yangon and focused on tying up loose ends at the union and transferring leadership to local pastors who would be able to stay in the country. He led the Central and Upper Myanmar missions until forced to return to the States in 1966.20 Philip Parker was the last Protestant missionary to leave Myanmar.21

Back in the United States, Parker received job offers at the conference level in multiple conferences, but he turned them down, saying he preferred the close relationships that a pastor could build. To him, the most important role of a pastor was that of a “shepherd” to the believers.22 His passion was giving Bible studies and conducting baptisms. He accepted a call to pastor the North Miami Beach Church in Florida. Serving there for five years, he then pastored the Seventh-day Adventist church in Clearwater, Florida, where he worked for five years. Then the Parkers moved to Fort Myers, where Philip pastored several churches. Parker worked in Fort Myers until his retirement.

Later Life

The Parkers moved to Inverness, Florida. While living there, the local Adventist congregation asked him to partially come out of retirement and serve as pastor, which he did. The couple were active in the Inverness church until they relocated to North Carolina in August 2000.23 Philip Parker passed away in his sleep on November 13, 2001, in Hendersonville, North Carolina at age 86.24

Legacy

Philip Parker worked for the Seventh-day Adventist church for 40 years, 21 of which he and his wife, Irene, spent in the mission field. He greatly loved Myanmar and its people. Because of his efforts, the Central and Upper Myanmar Mission was able to buy the mission property in Mandalay. A primary school opened there with Irene as the principal. The churches at Taungngu and Mandalay were built during Parker’s time. In every church he served in, he gave many Bible studies and performed many baptisms.

Sources

Burma Union Committee Minutes, 1955, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965. Southern Asia-Pacific Division Archives, Silang, Cavite, the Philippines.

Wilson, J. O. “Moving on Maymyo,” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1947.

Yee, P. The Story of Seventh-day Adventists in Myanmar. Unpublished manuscript, a copy in the author’s private collection.

Notes

  1. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Linda Cambigue, “Philip A. Parker, Life Sketch,” unpublished manuscript, November 15, 2001, in the author’s private collection.

  5. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  6. J. O. Wilson, “Moving on Maymyo,” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1947, 6.

  7. Pe Yee, The Story of Seventh-day Adventists in Myanmar (unpublished manuscript, n. d.), 333.

  8. Burma Union Committee Minutes, Action No. 1948-2617.

  9. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  10. Ibid.

  11. Burma Union Committee Minutes, Action No. 1950-3173.

  12. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  13. Burma Union Committee Minutes, Action No. 55-44.

  14. Ibid., Action No. 57-76.

  15. Ibid., Action No. 61-45.

  16. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  17. Pe Yee, 418.

  18. Burma Union Committee Minutes, Action No. 63-6; 65-7.

  19. Ibid., Action No. 55-45.

  20. Pe Yee, 421, 422.

  21. Linda Cambigue (formerly Linda Parker), interview by Annika Cambigue, Kingsport, Tennessee, December 24, 2021.

  22. Ibid.

  23. Ibid.

  24. Ibid.

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Ngin, Suak Khaw, Annika Cambigue. "Parker, Philip Albert (1915–2001)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 09, 2021. Accessed January 31, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHZ6.

Ngin, Suak Khaw, Annika Cambigue. "Parker, Philip Albert (1915–2001)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 09, 2021. Date of access January 31, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHZ6.

Ngin, Suak Khaw, Annika Cambigue (2021, September 09). Parker, Philip Albert (1915–2001). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 31, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHZ6.