Thursday 12 July 2001
From Shipwreck to the Abundant Life
UPDATE: We are still at it! As of Oct 2009 Nanyana’s music career is still flying, Jason Reichert, her hubby, was Lead Guitar and Drumist for SPEECH of Arrested Development and Tinsley Ellis Blues Guitarist. The new album “My Rock Your World” is finished and up for sale at www.nanyana.com .
Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about our families. Our most fervent prayers are that our family members and friends would join us in following Jesus. However, for most of us, that prospect probably seems highly unlikely. Even our impossible prayer list seems “impossible.”
Dreams-no matter how impossible they seem–do come true. In fact, God likes nothing better than to do more than we can ask or imagine. Just ask Nanyana Summer. When the aspiring young rock-and-roll singer started studying the Bible, her conversations with her father, Ed Parton would often end in arguments. After all, Ed had spent many years hiding behind a clerical collar. He was deeply skeptical about what his daughter was learning as well as her growing excitement about the Atlanta Church of Christ.
The path that Nanyana’s father Ed had chosen in 1973, as an 18-year-old from Johnson City, Tennessee, had eventually led him to be hardened toward religion in general. Fresh out of high school, Ed joined the Army in order to avoid the draft. When enlisting, Ed picked chaplain assistant, which meant that he would be working far from the front lines, or so he thought. After basic training, Ed was stationed in Thailand where he met a beautiful young Thai woman named Suwatana. She along with other young women from the village would come visit the chapel to see the Catholic Priest, because of their curiosity about that funny “religion.”
Within two years, Ed and Suwatana were married in Tennessee and then were stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky, where Gabriel, their first child, was born. Two years later, the family moved to Landstul, Germany, where Nanyana-which means “face like a flower” in Thai–was born. For the next five years, like most military families, the Parton family traveled from place to place, going wherever Ed was assigned, before finally ending up in Jonesboro, Georgia, and Fort McPherson, where they remained for three years.
Ed and Suwatana soon divorced, and Ed drifted from one military tour to the next, until he retired from the Army and decided to move to back to Thailand. After over 10 years of rarely seeing his two children, he thought he would stop in Atlanta to visit them before he left.
By the time Nanyana entered her twenties she thought she had life figured out. She’d had a big dose of religion from her Dad and used to enjoy listening to him talk about different religions. She considered herself a “good girl,” but like most of her friends, she was heavily into the partying that accompanied the music scene that she sought to be part of.
” I decided at a very young age what I wanted to be,” said Nanyana at the Southeast Single’s Retreat. ” I wanted to be a professional model, an actor and I wanted to be a rock star. As a kid, we all at some point say, “I wanna be a movie star.” Unlike most people who pursue more responsible lives, and become bankers and doctors, I pursued being a rock star and I took the Hard Road.” Nanyana became involved with a man who was “very mean and very independent”. She became very dependent on him. She started going to school to impress him. She was devastated when he left her. It was at school and at her place of work that she was met by disciples.
At first, she resisted invitations to go to Church and to study the Bible. Facing hard times, she would often pray and cry out to God, and finally decided to surrender her life to him. Nanyana was attending Georgia Perimeter College where classmate and Atlanta campus ministry member Kristine Del Rosario persistently invited her to church. Eventually, she decided to attend church with the disciples and she started studying the Bible.
Nanyana started sharing what she was learning with her father but Ed warned her to be careful of what she was getting into, telling her, “It’s a cult, honey, run!” The man who had always had a fascination with religion and finding the truth, eventually visited the Atlanta church. He was totally taken by it, because he was amazed at the genuine love the members had for everyone and their commitment to follow Jesus, but he was not interested in studying the Bible. Like his daughter, Ed thought he had it all figured out when it came to God-even though he was heavily into using drugs and drinking at that time, trying to hide all of the trauma he had dealt with working as a chaplain assistant.
Eventually, Ed began to study the Bible with some men in Atlanta, but refused to address the hypocrisy in his life. Nanyana continued to study the Bible with the Arts and Entertainment Ministry and was baptized at the end of September 1999. During this time, her lengthy conversations with her Dad about the Bible ended because disagreements would often turn into arguments. Nonetheless, Ed couldn’t deny the powerful change he saw in his daughter’s life and was extremely proud of her, so he continued to come to church.
Nanyana was faithful that her Dad’s heart would soften so that he could become a disciple. Kye Flores persistently asked Ed to study the Bible, and continually challenged Ed about being a hypocrite. “Don’t talk about truth if you aren’t going to live truth.” Six months had passed before Ed decided to study the Bible again and get his life right with God.
Nanyana says, “It was really cool to see how God worked in my Dad’s life as he studied the Bible. It was like a dream and it really didn’t hit me until he was baptized.” Ed studied the Bible for one month with Kye, Tim and a few others, and was baptized into Christ with his daughter standing by his side. The biggest change that Nanyana has noticed about Ed is how he now “longs and yearns” to be a part of her life after being absent so long. “He is always there for me now, and we have a fabulous relationship.”
Suwatana, Nanyana’s mom, is happy for Ed and Nanyana and sometimes visits the church. Nanyana, of course, is faithful that her mom will eventually want to know the truth and that her brother Gabriel, who now lives with Ed, will ultimately become a disciple. In the mean time, Nanyana knows the joy of getting her father back in her life and getting a new brother in Christ–all in the same person.
At the conference, she joyfully related the fairy tale beginning to her family’s story, “So, basically, I went from being shipwrecked, ‘stranded on a desert island’, deserted, trying to survive, crying out to God, searching for the truth and seeking answers – to living a full, abundant life! An awesome life, which Jesus promises us. I’m still in school, I’m going to get my music degree, I am in a fabulous, fabulous band that really rocks! And the best thing about all of this, eight months after I became a disciple, I got to baptize my Dad!”
Nanyana, who is now the lead singer for a rock band that bears her name, is on the fast track of the local Atlanta music scene. God has smiled on this all disciple band: Jason Reichert-lead guitar, Todd Damian, -drums, Jean-Claude LeBlanc,-bass, and Chris Elvis,-keys. All the members have been tossed together from other bands, truly, by God’s direction. Knowing that their talents all come from Him, and all of them having a deep desire to do His will, makes them all the more aware that when God Smiles, destinies change.
Making disciples and reaching out to the entertainment and music community of Atlanta is a daunting task, made all the more difficult sometimes by the atmosphere of the clubs. But, Nanyana and the rest of the band, are faithful that with the help of the Arts and Entertainment Ministry and lots of prayer, many of these nameless lost will see Light and decide they want be a part of God’s Kingdom. With the leadership of Jarrod and Stacy Robinson, Larry and Jennifer Salberg, and Speech (of Arrested Development) and Yolanda Thomas, this mission to reach the sometimes unreachable, becomes more easy and focused. Nanyana and the band, along with Ed and the Arts and Entertainment Ministry look forward to the challenges God has set before them.