Kenan Parker, 15, stepped into the baptismal pool of Iglesia Bautista Zacamil in San Salvador, El Salvador in front of about 200 church members. Kenan, who was born and raised in Miami, FL, stood out among the crowd of tanned skin and dark hair with his distinctly American features, but his words bridged the divide.
“I think of El Salvador as my second home,” he said, as a Salvadorian translator made each of his words accessible to the Spanish-speaking audience. “I waited a year to get baptized here and it was the best decision I’ve ever made because you all are my family.”
The crowd erupted into cheers as Kenan wiped the tears from his eyes.
His story of faith begins when he was just five years old, with two integral characters: his father, Scott Parker, and his grandmother. Kenan first came to faith after a conversation with his dad about Jesus and sin. His curiosity for Jesus that day ended with a prayer, devoting his young life to Christ in the back of his father’s car. Scott, who is a youth pastor at Christ Fellowship, taught Kenan to depend on God in all situations, and show Christ’s love through service to others.
His grandmother taught him selflessness.
“She really impacted me a lot,” Kenan said. “She never felt the need to help herself. Anything she had, she would give to others.”
At the age of 12, Kenan’s grandmother fell ill and was sent to the hospital. The day before she passed away, Kenan made a promise to his grandmother.
“The last words she ever said to me were, ‘I want you to live your life for Christ,’” he said. “I was holding her hand and crying, and I gave her a look as if to say, ‘Yes, of course! Whatever you want!’
“When I walked out of the hospital room, I felt this tingling sensation I had never felt before,” Kenan said. “It impacted me so much. I felt God’s love and compassion after she told me to do that.”
To fulfill his promise to his grandmother, Kenan and his father set off for the first time to San Salvador during their spring break in 2014. As he interacted with students in the local schools, and evangelized in the impoverished neighborhoods, Kenan’s eyes were opened to the reality of the world outside the United States and how fortunate he was to have what he had.
Upon returning from his trip, Kenan decided that he wanted to be baptized in San Salvador where he felt his walk with Christ really began to flourish. A year later, on March 2015, Kenan stood in front of the congregation and shared his testimony right after being baptized by his father in front of the people that had changed his life.
“When I went under the water, I saw my life flash in front of me; getting saved, my grandma dying, coming to El Salvador, all the key moments,” Kenan said. “Under there, I felt like my old life was dead, and as I came up and saw the church lights, it was like I was alive.
“When I came out of the water, I saw a lot of older ladies smiling at me and I imagined them all as my grandmother,” Kenan said. “All I could do was cry because of the happiness and the weight lifted off my shoulders.”
As Kenan looks towards his future, he prays for the opportunity to serve in San Salvador every spring break. The experience has inspired him to pursue a career as a missional physician, where he sees himself taking two months of every year visiting different countries to provide medical care and supplies.
“You can’t really explain a mission trip because they’re different for everyone, but the best way to describe it is life changing,” Kenan said. “When I came back, my view on people and life and everything you can think of changed. I do what I have to do for God, and if I can help one family out of it, then it’s significant.”
By Jeannie Rodriguez
CF Stories is a collection that displays God at work in the lives of people at Christ Fellowship in Miami, FL. Each of us are a part of a bigger picture that shows God moving in our city, and these stories aim to give a name and a voice to many of the 100,000 they are reaching in our city and around the world. First published on the CF Blog.