Friday, August 24, 2012
Reaching For the Sky with the Good News
Craig and Janet Parshall share about their life together and the strange way they got together
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS) -- Craig and Janet Parshall are a unique couple who are “reaching for the sky” with the Good News of Jesus Christ, but in very different ways.
Janet has also been the recipient of the National Religious Broadcasters On-Air Radio personality award in 2008 and 2011 and in 1988, she was elected to the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of NRB.
This delightful couple live in Virginia and have four children and six grandchildren, and I was able to catch up with them during NRB 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee, to interview them for my “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com) and discover more about their long life together.
After beginning the interview, I asked them how they were able to fit so much work in into their busy life, and Craig generously said, “Thank you Dan. You’re a dear friend and a real professional when it comes to journalism, so we just couldn’t wait to sit down and talk to you.”
I then turned to Janet, who kindly has me on her show each month to talk about what is going on around the world regarding the persecuted church, and I ask her to recount the unusual story of how how they first met.
“This will take the entire show so brace yourselves,” she began with a laugh. “So I’ll give you the shortened version. I’m from the Midwest I’m from Wisconsin and I accepted the Lord at Sunday school when I was six years of age and later I dedicated my life at church camp when I was fourteen.
“I was raised in a Christian household and knew the ‘Word’ because Christian radio was on all the time and so I was smart enough because I’d been listening to my pastor and my Sunday school teachers to not have anything to do with unsaved kids when it came to dating.
Janet went on to say, “Well, we ended up having a couple of classes together and he knew likewise that I was a Christian kid and I think I presented a kind of a challenge to him. So he wanted to start talking to me so I said, ‘Listen, we’re not going to date, but if you want to talk we’ll do that.
“So, literally, Dan, we would sit on the front step of my house and he he would talk and I soon discovered that God had given him the gift of wisdom. So he would talk about Jean-Paul Sartre and Nietzsche and existentialism and nihilism and all this stuff that would go right over my head.
“I knew the ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ [from Campus Crusade], but I didn’t think I could combat him. And it became clear to me that he has a great brain and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to argue him to the foot of the cross, but I wanted him to see that there’s form order and logic in the Gospel.”
She said that they were both 17 at the time and she decided to give Craig a copy of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.
“I am not embellishing any of this. This was the sixties and he thought that if somebody could give him empirical data, then it’s got to be true.
“He didn’t know that my best buddies were missionary kids. We had a mission school in town and I would spend my Friday nights on the floor of the school listening to stories about the occult and shamanism and darkness and learning that before the ‘light of the world’ came in and transformed a tribe in a remote part of the world.”
So Janet said that she suggested that Craig pay a visit to New Tribes Mission (http://usa.ntm.org) which is working with the world's 6,500 people groups, 2,500 of which are still unreached. New Tribes helps local churches train, coordinate and send missionaries to these tribes.
“Then, unbeknownst to me,” she continued, “one Saturday morning he gets in his little beat-up car and drives up there, opens the door of the school and says to a poor mission student, ‘I want to talk to somebody about communicating with the dead’. This student, his eyes now as big as saucers, ‘I’ll get the head of the mission school’.
“So he went on got him and this dear man, who’d just put his head down to take a nap after a long night, agreed to talk to Craig and there, in the lobby of the school, listened to what Craig was saying and answered every question that he had. When he was done he said, ‘Now it is my turn. I have a question for you. Where are you going to go when you die?’
“So right there, he got down on his knees in the lobby of the school and accepted the Lord as his Savior. And he got in his car and drove off. The head of the school then got on the phone and called me and said, ‘Janet keep your mouth closed. If this is true, he’s gonna tell you on his own so don’t badger him.
“So I’m sitting on the front step and I’m waiting for Craig to show up and he arrives and his eyes are lit up and I so I asked him, ‘What happened?’ and he said, ‘I got saved’. From that time on, that dear missionary began to disciple him and to make a long story short we started dating because now I had the ‘green light’ and we got married at the end of our junior year of college and now in May of this year we celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary.”
I then asked Craig why he had been so interested in speaking to the dead.
“Well, frankly, it was because I was looking for the meaning of life,” he replied. “That sounds a little ironic doesn’t it? But people do really crazy things when they’re trying to fill the God shaped void that everyone has. In fact remember what Ecclesiastes says God has placed eternity in our hearts so, when we don’t have God filling that space, we’re yearning and trying to fill it with lots of other things.
“But I did have some legitimate questions and I was doing a lot of pursuit of supernatural and the reality of God. I toyed with the idea that maybe there really is no God and my existentialism faze and then I realized you know Jean-Paul Sartre interestingly is a guy who didn’t believe in God – and atheist -- and yet he fought in the French Resistance against the Nazis.
Now on what moral standard Jean-Paul did you base your willingness to risk your life for others? So he believed in practice with the transcendent truth we all do. So I thought this isn’t consistent so I started looking into the supernatural and the closer I got the closer the Lord drew me. And Janet and a number of other people were planting those valuable seeds of the Gospel and so I drove up my old jalopy and Bob Kaminsky, the head of New Tribes missions at the time did the rest.”
I then asked Craig what it was that attracted him to Janet.
“She was tremendously winsome," he told me. "In fact, you can tell her enthusiasm that you all see now and the thing that draws people to her radio show her love for people all of that was evident back then. I had a reputation as kind of a bad kid in school and she was gracious and had a great sense of humor a winning attitude about the Gospel and those things attracted me to her, plus the fact that she’s just a good looking girl and I thought, ‘Here’s a challenge for me.’ That challenge ended up to be the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Now with such busy lives, I wondered how the couple were able to make time for each other.
“It is God first then our marriage, then everything else,” he added.
I then asked Janet she had invited me onto her show to talk about persecuted Christians, and she said, “Well, you know, it’s interesting, because sitting in front of a microphone for a lot of years I have to tell you that when I made an intentional decision to talk about the persecuted church.
She replied, “I did it knowing that my listenership could drop and one of two things would happen. So what I wanted to do was to start talking more about the persecuted church because a couple of things would happen as a result. Number one, you’d have to do a whole lot of personal introspection whereby you are in tapping into that ‘me centric’ listener and say, ‘Ok, you’re Asia Bibi [the Pakistani Christian mother-of-five) who has been given the opportunity to recant her faith and, by doing so, you know that you could be let out of this solitary confinement and be back with your husband and children. So the question to the listener is: ‘Would you do it” and so these stories that you bring are just the kind I heard as a child growing up in church; stories of missionaries that made my heart race.
“And maybe that’s where my love globally comes for the Gospel because I grew up in a missions oriented church so I tend to think that way. But these stories make people do two things in response: A, what would I do if I were in those sets of circumstances? and B, Lord, I need to pray for those in authority and I need to pray for those who’ve been led away in chains and Lord I need to thank you for the religious liberty I so freely enjoy in this country. So this sort of lackadaisical I’ve always had religious liberty approach is not one we can afford to take. That is one of the reasons Craig works with the National Religious Broadcasters.”
“So the persecuted church is a wakeup call for the American church to say don’t practice Americanized Christianity; understand it’s the whole truth the whole gospel to the whole world and your heart needs to break for our brothers and sisters who made the same decision you did and found themselves imprisoned or have lost their lives as a result.”
Was there one thing that sort of turned you around and got you involved with this particular topic?
“I have to tell you what happened was when the stories started coming to me and I started realizing that even if that persecuted Christian didn’t look like me or spoke a different language from me, he still recognized his sin, recognized his need for a Savior and asked the Lord into his life,” she said. “I’m going to be spending eternity with that brother or that sister. God has given me a national platform to be able to tell people to wake up and do everything you can especially as most of your work is going to be done on your knees, but sometimes you’re going to get up and use the voice that God has given you.”
So I think it wasn’t a seminal moment it was a compilation of all these stories building up until my heart just overflowed.”
I concluded the interview by asking Janet what was the biggest lesson she had as a broadcaster over all these years?
“I think that the biggest lesson is that being a talk show host is really about being a good listener,” she replied. “It isn’t a matter of coming with a bunch of pre-crafted questions, but it’s a matter of really listening to what people have to say; and everybody has a story.
“Talk radio is simply about opening the door and giving somebody an opportunity to tell their story by being an active listener and hopefully in that process because I invite both believers and non-believers on the show that when they’re done I’ve had a sense that they sensed his presence more than my questions.”
To learn more about National Religious Broadcasters, please go to: www.nrb.org and for Janet’s radio show, go to: www.inthemarketwithjanetparshall.org.
I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
To listen to the complete radio interview, please go to: http://www.assist-ministries.com/FrontPageRadio/FPR09.02.12CraigandJaneParshallMono.mp3
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