‘Overcoming in God’s love’ – Parker leads life of ministry
By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
When Dr. Micah Parker talks, people listen. He speaks from the heart. He’s charming. He’s funny. And his talks often spark great spiritual and emotional responses from the audiences fortunate enough to hear him.
Says Parker, “It’s very common for the audience to cry. Everyone has gone through something difficult in their life.”
It’s not easy to imagine a situation more difficult than the one faced by a 26-year-old Parker, then an assistant men’s basketball coach at Concordia, where he graduated from in 1991.
Both Parker and his then wife Corrine were working on their PhDs while living in Seward. They were two days shy of their fifth wedding anniversary when tragedy struck on Aug. 30, 1995.
“(Corrine) passed away one morning – just died,” Parker said. “She was very healthy. She picked up a virus and passed away in Esther Dorm (on campus). I was 26. I thought I had my whole life planned out. God showed me otherwise. It was a very tough thing to go through. I learned how much God loves me even when I’m angry with Him. I look back at it and can see how God had prepared me to work through something like that.”
Incredibly, Corrine had run seven miles and lifted weights two days before her death. She had been an All-American runner at Concordia and was planning to participate in the Boston Marathon with Micah the next year.
The virus that attacked her heart killed her swiftly and changed everything. Almost 20 years later, close friend and current Concordia Director of Athletics Devin Smith gets choked up recalling that day. Smith shared an office with Parker and both lived on campus at the time.
“We spent a lot of late nights watching Seinfeld just to laugh,” Smith said. “He worked out all the time. We’d play late night one-on-one, full-court basketball. I was working on my master’s and doing all kinds of things. He was working on his doctorate and doing all kinds of things. He spent a lot of nights sleeping at my place because he got to a point where he couldn’t even sleep in his dorm.”
Through his strong faith and support system, Parker would pick himself back up. Not long after, he agreed to a 10-minute speech at a Concordia chapel service, giving him another chance to talk and work through his grief. It wasn’t hard to tell that Parker was a gifted speaker. In 1998 he founded Trustguy Ministries and now leads an average of 40 events per year.
“I didn’t plan to do all that,” Parker said. “The chaplain asked me to speak and I continued to get asked to do it. Seeing the impact that it has is a real blessing. I like to bring my kids so that they can see what that feels like. I use a lot of humor and teach people how to trust God on how to behave and how not to behave.”
Parker now travels the country with the blessing of his second wife, Amy (whom he’s been married to for 16 years), giving his powerful but light-hearted speeches. The aforementioned children of Micah and Amy are Emma, Jonah and Gracie Joy.
And Parker’s career? A wild success. He spent 12 years coaching basketball at Concordia – eight as an assistant men’s coach and four as the head women’s coach. He then moved on to be Director of Basketball Operations for one year at the University of Nebraska (women) prior to four seasons as the top assistant for the Drake University women’s basketball program. He’s now been Director of Athletics at California Baptist University for five years.
A track and cross country runner as a Bulldog, and admittedly just an average high school hoopster from Grand Island, Parker acclimated himself quickly to basketball coaching.
He started out helping on staff late in his undergraduate career at Concordia under longtime men’s basketball coach Grant Schmidt. Parker got a break when given the opportunity to hold down the role of junior varsity coach and suddenly found himself a fixture on the sideline alongside Schmidt. Parker later began a run of dominance for Bulldog women’s basketball.
“I had some really good mentors and role models at Concordia,” Parker said. “That’s where I developed my work ethic. At one time I was teaching, coaching and serving as a resident coordinator while getting my doctorate. You had to be extremely good at time management.”
Some of Parker’s greatest memories of coaching at Concordia include winning 31-straight games as men’s junior varsity coach and upsetting No. 1-ranked Northwestern on the road as head women’s basketball coach.
“Winning at No. 1 Northwestern was a great thrill,” Parker said. “They were down one and had the ball out of bounds. We had a timeout and I told our team exactly what play they were going to run. One of our kids really listened and blocked their All-American at the buzzer. It was so much fun.”
While many people positively impacted Parker during his time at Concordia, there’s no doubt many also benefited greatly from their interactions with him. Just ask current Bulldog men’s basketball coach Ben Limback, a 1999 Concordia grad.
“Coach Parker has had a tremendous impact on my life and is still one of my mentors,” Limback said. “He was the JV coach my freshman year as well as assistant varsity coach and I could tell then he had a unique drive for excellence. He taught me a lot about self-discipline, goal setting and the mental approach to the game of basketball. Coach Parker was also a major influence on my desire to pursue a master’s in sport psychology. Above all, I have always respected his outlook on life and his passion for sharing his faith in Jesus Christ.”
The word ‘mentor’ also comes to mind for Smith, who is just a year younger than Parker. The two remain in frequent contact despite the hectic demands of running an athletic department while still making time for family.
“He mentored me through his actions in dealing with tragedy and how he turned his relationship fully to Christ,” Smith said. “He was angry. He went through the whole grieving process. He is one of the most significant mentors you can have.”
Many instances seem to indicate that God wanted Parker in places where a strong Christian mentor was needed. Parker once spoke at a summer camp in which two boys drowned. And shortly after he became AD at California Baptist, one of the school’s head coaches died in a car accident that also left several student-athletes injured.
If anyone can understand the sorrow those affected by these tragedies dealt with, it’s Parker.
“It’s either really bad luck or God has wanted me in those spots to be able to help people,” Parker said. “Through everything I’ve experienced, I can see how God helps us work through the most difficult things.”
Parker has seen about the worst this world has to offer and yet, he’s prevailed in a big way. He heads an athletic department at California Baptist that has moved to NCAA Division II, has regularly won national championships and ranks as one of the top Christian athletic programs in the nation, all while promoting the mission: “honor Christ through excellence in athletics.” More important than career successes, he’s inspired many with his engaging speaking abilities.
Instead of drowning in his sorrows of that painful late August day in 1995, he grew stronger and closer to God. The words Corrine wrote on the memo board in his office, just days before she passed, are framed in his current office and served as inspiration during the saddest of times. Here’s what she wrote:
“When the Lord allows a wicked man to suffer, he sometimes lets a Godly man experience the same trial – so that he can show how to overcome in God’s love.”
For more information on Parker’s speaking engagements, visit his website: trustguyministries.com.
2 June 2014
Dr. Micah Parker spent 12 years coaching basketball at Concordia, where he graduated from in 1991. Parker served as an assistant men's coach for eight years before taking over as head coach of the women's program for four seasons (1998-2002).