Oklahoma Elects New Community Service Directors

April 10, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY – Melshara Parks, an introverted grandma, and Marlowe Parks, a nature lover (prayer walks!), are the new co-directors of the Oklahoma Conference Community Services department. They recently shared how God led them to this role. Both of them grew up involved in local community service in New York City, where Melshara worked in soup kitchens and together they gave Bible studies at an HIV shelter. They also distributed sack lunches to people who were unsheltered. Many years later, Melshara attended a community service training at Lone Star Camp and was impressed with the amazing work in community service that was being done in the North America Division. Marlowe recalls that “the opportunity was presented before us as a couple” to work in community services for the conference and “I was motivated to pursue this opportunity because of its practical nature in helping those in need.”

Through their many years of unofficial community service, Melshara has learned “to make it a point not to judge people by their outward appearance. Everyone has a story. Just because someone is in a certain situation in life, that does not mean that he or she necessarily made bad decisions. Our trials, traumas, genetics and environment sometimes dictate circumstances. You do not have to experience that individual’s situation to show empathy. Anyone can be in any situation. We are to never take anything for granted.”

Similarly, Marlowe said his strength is compassion: “I even find myself daydreaming of people being happy. I enjoy seeing contentment in people. I love bringing people together in peace. Another strength is drive. I am a driven person when it comes to challenges that I believe must be met. I think this complements Melshara in that she is a great organizer. She is a planning person who does things to make the best possible impression upon people.”

Marlowe and Melshara have a shared vision for Oklahoma’s Community Services: “to get all of our churches in Oklahoma on board and active in community service,” said Melshara. “One thing that I noticed almost when I first stepped foot in Oklahoma City (OKC) over a year ago was the amount of homeless people here. They are in need. A lot of these people are not on drugs or alcohol. Many have fallen on bad times and wound up homeless. There are children with their parents who are homeless. There are people who had good jobs and were let go for whatever reason. All it takes is one paycheck, and many of us could be in the same situation. Again, everyone has a story.” She added, “The Tulsa Community Service Center is making an impact in Tulsa and we need something like that in Oklahoma City.”

Marlowe agreed, stating that “Our shared vision is to see all of our churches in Oklahoma active in community service in some way that will benefit their particular communities where their churches serve. To align this goal and objective, we will plan community service activities that will be united efforts of churches in small regions of Oklahoma.” His years of experience serving others have taught him that “People motivate people. When folks come together and see what blessings their comradery accomplishes with God, then they may be motivated to do more. Also, it may ignite a confidence in them that they can do something on their own for their communities.”

Melshara shared her thoughts about community service as being practical. “How else can you reach people who are non-Christian/other denominations? When you show genuine, no judgmental, practical love, you are working like Jesus did. All work for Jesus can’t be done alone. We need all hands on board to reach milestones and accomplish any goals. We would like to replicate what we have at the Tulsa Community Service Center here in OKC where we can have a fully operating food pantry and provide tutoring, and other classes and workshops that will be beneficial for the community. We are still at the grassroots with this. God will provide the people and resources to make this happen.”

Marlowe’s short-term vision is to “have local groups and leaders, who are also combined into a conference-wide group. Leaders and members can receive diverse honors for the work they allowed God to do through them. Large, united events may be done to inspire all to do their local small events.”

Marlowe and Melshara have worked in ministry for many years as conference pastor, office assistant, conference clerk and more. “We take our time and strategically plan things to be as efficient as possible. We know we need other people as we all can bring ideas and strengths to the table as the body of Christ,” Melshara said. Marlowe agreed that ministering through community service will bring to those we all serve in every respect church community, and to the workers who are the hands and feet of Jesus.

By Caroline Fisher