Hooked on Christ
About the Guest
Hank ParkerThe CBS Morning Show best described Hank Parker when introducing him as "the rod-n-reel answer to Michael Jordan, in popularity and talent!" Hank has enjoyed a storied professional bass fishing and outdoor television host career that continues to grow each season! His accomplishments on the professional bass fishing tournament trail support the fact he is one of America's greatest bass fishermen to ever compete. Hank's professional fishing career started in 1976 when he began fishing the Nati...more
Hank Parker looks back on his life and the difficulties that could have derailed him for good. Hear how God radically changed his father’s life and influenced him to change his own life after a family tragedy.
Hooked on Christ
Bob: Everybody in the little town where Hank Parker grew up knew that Hank’s dad, Mo, was the town drunk. But he still had friends who never gave up on him, including one friend who dropped by the house one Saturday afternoon. Here’s Mo Parker’s son, Hank.
Hank: He said, “Mo, I wanted to talk to you; but I see you’ve got Hank here with you. I‘m not going to bother your father/son time; but Mo, I want to leave you with one thought: “If you died today, where would you spend eternity?” My dad was about half drunk. I heard him say later that he had drunk the rest of the bottle of alcohol and opened another one and could not get drunk enough to get that thought off his mind.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear about the dramatic turnaround in Mo Parker’s life; and we’ll meet his son, Hank, today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So this is for real; right?—“the rod-and-reel answer to Michael Jordan,”—that’s what it says right here. That’s the guy we’ve got today?
Dennis: I’m just telling you, Bob—there is a big difference in fishing with a true professional fisherman and just being a good amateur.
Bob: Help our listeners understand, because some of them are not fishermen or fisherwomen. They’ve never been to a pond with a rod and a reel. They’re going, “So you want me to listen to a guest who is a pro fisherman.”
Dennis: Well, you’re going to hear a compelling story of how the God of the universe created a young man to use for His purposes. But he didn’t take the normal route to find that purpose. We are going to listen to Hank Parker’s story today. Welcome to the broadcast, Hank.
Hank: Well, it is certainly a privilege to be here.
Dennis: Yes; I thought Bob was actually going to ask you just about when you had me on your fishing show.
Bob: I was going to get there, because he came back bragging about—[Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, I was not bragging.
Bob: He said, “I could do that. I could be just like Hank Palmer.” That’s what he was telling us. [Laughter]
Dennis: No; I did not say that, Hank. I came back and I said, “There is a big difference between someone who has won the national championship of bass fishing twice and the rest of us who grew up on little lakes and streams around the country.”
Bob: We should explain you have a television show, where you go—you take people fishing on your show; right?
Hank: I had Dennis Rainey as a guest. How big is that? [Laughter] He did well.Let me tell you—he’s being modest.
Dennis: He took me to a fish hatchery. [Laughter]
Hank: Yes; we were fishing in a great place, no doubt.
Dennis: Hank, I have to ask you this—you had an ambition, as a boy, at the age of 15.
Hank: Yes; I didn’t have a lot of options. I was not an academic achiever—that is an absolute understatement. I don’t know—when I was just a kid, I went fishing and just fell in love with it. It just mesmerized me. It was bigger than life itself to me. I started reading about these guys, who were making a living bass fishing; and I said: “That is me. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Dennis: I want to go back to a statement you just kind of slipped by. [Laughter] You said you were not an academic achiever. There was something taking place in you—you didn’t understand until you became an adult, later on. Explain to our listeners what happened.
Hank: Yes; I had dyslexia. The little school system I was in—we were in a little small town of Maiden, North Carolina—about 2,400 people I think. I may be off some there—but a very, very small town—just a little school. I don’t know that any schools knew anything about dyslexia in 1958 or -9.
I just read everything backwards. The harder I tried, the worse it became. I felt like I was the dumbest guy in the world.
My mom would sit down with me at times and really try to get me to buckle down and do my homework. The more I tried to really get it right, the more I got it wrong. I just felt stupid.
Bob: Did you grow up with nobody believing in you?
Hank: Pretty much I did. I had a very dysfunctional home. My dad was a drunk. My mother later—by the time I was probably in the third grade—by that time, my mom had really started taking medication for [depression]—antidepressants. She’d stay in the bed all the time. So pretty much after the time I was probably fourth/fifth grade on, I was kind of on my own.
Dennis: —like into the wee hours of the night on your own.
Hank: Yes; I would do whatever. My mom and my dad separated. My dad was a drunk / my mom finally got tired of that—she left. At that time, it was no adult supervision or guidance; or I didn’t have to report to anyone.
Bob: And no spiritual direction in your life at that point?
Hank: No; we had gone to church when I was a kid. We went to a church that was not really a Bible-basic church. I never heard the gospel until I was 16 years old.
Dennis: You actually robbed vending machines to get cash to do what?
Hank: To get money for whatever—to be able to go to a movie or just to have money to buy food or anything else.
Dennis: I’ve got to ask you this question—I was really kind of praying about when to ask it: “Hank, what’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?”
Hank: I was speaking at a wild game dinner in Georgia—I am giving my testimony. I am a high school dropout—I never told that ever in public / my wife Martha did not even know that. I’m giving my testimony—the Holy Spirit says: “Tell them,”—I mean—
“You’ve come here—you’re the Michael Jordan / you’re the world champion—you’re somebody; but they all think you are self-achieved. Tell them who you really are. Tell them really where I’ve brought you from. You’re a high school dropout. You were mad at the world—you had a bad attitude. I gave you salvation, and grounded you, and gave you a life. I want you to tell that story.” I didn’t want to tell it.
I’m going to tell you—people came to me in droves, saying: “No one knows. I’ve never told anybody. I’ve got a great job. I’ve got a good income,”—or whatever is going on in their life—“but I, too, dropped out of school.” God opened the floodgates that night. Most every time I give my testimony or do a wild game dinner, I clarify, from the beginning: “I am nobody. I am nothing. I am the son of a drunk that God used.
Even though I had no education, He gave me hope.
I realized, if the King of kings / the Creator of this universe loved me enough to die for me, I’m a pretty special guy. All this time that I felt like a dummy and a failure, the Lord of lords gave His life for me. [Emotion in voice] So, I’m a pretty special guy. I started believing in myself, not because of me, but because of Him. I started thinking about: “Let’s don’t worry about the past. There is no future in the past. The past is history. You can’t go back and rewrite it. So what do we do now that we are where we are in our life? What do we do to improve our life?”
From that point on, I thought: “My dad used to tell me, ‘We all cannot be everything we want to be; but we can all be faithful, and we can all be honest.’ So let’s start with that. Let’s start with a basic foundation: “Here you are—a dishonest person.
“You’re the biggest liar that ever exists—you’re a crook / you have a horrible attitude. Let’s fix all of that. Let’s set our priorities straight. Let’s start living our life and trying to become the Christian that God would like us to be to be a faithful witness.” From that point forward, it all just fell into place. It was not as if I got some great revelation and I decided, “Okay; here’s my business plan for my life.” It was none of that at all—it was taking one day at a time with no earthly idea what I was doing.
It was just being led by my conscience, which I later learned was the Holy Spirit that we receive with salvation. I started changing my life. I didn’t set down with a plan: “Hey; I’m going to get saved and change my life.” The Bible says, “Old things are passed away. All things become new,”—that was total reality in my life.
Dennis: [Emotion in voice] Hank, I wept as you told that story; because we live in a culture that makes education sacred, like you’re worth more. That is exactly the opposite of how you felt. You said you felt like you were a dummy—you were worthless/ didn’t have value. I just thought: “Isn’t that really fascinating how God takes us to our lowest point and that’s where He redeems us? He takes us from that, and He can make you a new creature.”
Jesus Christ defeated death—He’s alive today. What He did for you, as a 16-year-old young man, he can do for a listener, right now, who is listening to you, going, “You know, I have my own set of pride problems, my own deficiencies, and my own past that’s lurking back there.” But people just need to hear what you just said, because He’s alive—He redeems people / He forgives people who have failed. It’s not some story out of some fantasy land. This is more real than this planet we’re living on.
Hank: I think, when you’re willing—and the Holy Spirit forced me to be willing / I didn’t volunteer—I was drafted to tell my story. [Laughter] I think once you put that robe of humility on, people will come to you that have all sorts of problems. I’ve heard lots and lots of problems. I’m sure there’s millions and millions of problems, but there’s one answer—that’s what’s cool.
Bob: So, a 16-year-old dyslexic dropout, son of an alcoholic father and a mom who is on antidepressants hears the gospel. What were the circumstances around which you heard the gospel?
Hank: My grandfather, on my mother’s side, was what we would call wealthy. He was lower middle class; but we were so dirt poor, he was very wealthy to us. My grandfather had sent my dad to rehab, after rehab, after rehab. My dad was named Mo.
I heard my grandfather say that ”Mo Parker will go to rehab, stay three weeks, be home two days, and be drunk again. He is absolutely hopeless. He’s going to live a drunk, and he’s going to die a drunk.”
My dad, when I was 16 years old—my mom and dad were separated—I was in our home with my dad when a guy came by to see us one Saturday. He said, “Mo, I wanted to talk to you; but I see you have Hank here with you. I’m not going to bother your father/son time; but Mo, I want to leave you with one thought: ‘If you died today, where would you spend eternity?’”
My dad was about half drunk. It was about 11:00 in the morning—my dad was about half drunk. I heard him say later that he had drunk the rest of the bottle of alcohol that he had in the house and opened another one and could not get drunk enough to get that thought off his mind. The next day was Sunday. He called the same man that came by our home and asked for a ride to church. He left our home about 11:00 one Sunday morning, a drunk.
He came back in, about 1:00 to 1:30, a saint. My dad started talking to me about Jesus, and giving me the gospel, and giving me a gospel tract every time I moved. He desperately wanted his boys—my brother and I—to be saved more than anything in the world. That was his whole desire in his life was that his two boys would be saved.
Bob: Do you remember that Sunday afternoon at 1:30 when your dad comes back in the house and says, “Something happened this morning”?
Hank: Well, yes; I do. I remember him saying, “Boys, I got saved.” I had no clue on the face of this earth what that meant. I thought: “Okay; he’s found religion. There have been times that he’s gone to these rehab centers and focus groups and he’s come home and stayed sober for a whole week. So maybe he’ll set the record this time. Maybe he’ll stay sober two or three weeks—he’s found religion.” I didn’t know what that meant. It took time for me watching him to see that this transformation, that was so unbelievable, was real.
He turned our whole little community upside down—hundreds of people. There was revival like you would not believe. I’m not saying it was all because of his salvation. There was a church—people would pull over on the side of the road and get saved in the parking lot. I mean, it was just crazy—I mean, not even on a worship day / it was just so dramatic. After a period of time, my mom came home. She cleaned up her life for a period of time. I mean, it was a whole different world. It was very obvious, in a short period of time: “This thing is for real. My dad is for real.”
I loved my dad—I thought it was great that he was saved, and it changed his life. He needed a dramatic salvation experience. I’m now beyond my breaking in stores. I’ve stepped it up—I’m now focused on fishing—so all of that bad stuff is in my rearview mirror / I’m now a good guy.
I don’t need a dramatic salvation experience, and it’s irritating me that my dad keeps insisting that I do. So, I had now got—in a very short period of time / probably six or seven months—I’m on defense now instead of rejoicing.
Dennis: He just kept coming after you.
Hank: He turned up the heat.
Dennis: He prayed for you—he prayed for you every day, and he told you he was doing that too.
Hank: Oh, yes; all the time, he would put gospel tracts in my socks. He would put them in my dry storage. He’d roll them up in my rain suit in my boat. He’d put them in my tackle box. He’d have them on the dash of my car. Any creative place you could find to put a gospel tract—he had one. [Laughter]
Dennis: So share with our listeners what it took to get your attention, because this is one amazing story.
Hank: My dad—he stayed consistent, and it broke all fellowship. I wouldn’t hang around him very long at all. We didn’t go fishing together any more—it just got too intense. I had gotten to the point that he drew that line in the sand and we could not have fellowship unless I would receive Christ.
So, we were pretty alienated. He was devastated by it—I didn’t realize how devastated—but he was devastated by the decision that both my brother and I had made that we just weren’t going to hang around our dad. We avoided him at all costs.
He went with a group of men from New Life Baptist Church in Lincolnton, North Carolina, to White City, Kansas, to build a youth home in 1975 over the 4th of July holiday. My dad got saved in 1970—so this is five years later. My dad loved to cut up—he had a sense of humor like you would not believe—he was one funny guy. When they got to White City, Kansas, all the deacons and all the men there from the church—my dad was always an entertainer—he wasn’t entertaining / he was in a different mood.
The preacher had stayed back home and preached on Sunday—so he didn’t get there until Monday. All the men told the preacher immediately—
—they said: “There’s something wrong with brother Mo. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never seen him in this mood. I don’t know if he’s sick / I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s wrong.” Well, my dad and his pastor had become best friends in the five years my dad had been saved—so they roomed together. That night, his pastor asked him, “Mo, what in the world is wrong with you?” He said, “You know, pastor, my boys have just—they ignore the gospel.” He said: “I’ve prayed for them. I’ve witnessed to then. I’ve given then gospel tracts. I’ve done everything I know to do.”
My dad was so smart with me—he would never argue with me. I can never remember my dad arguing. I’d always want to argue the Scripture, and he would let me talk. I would say certain things—he would say, “Well, son, let’s go back and see what the Bible says about that.” And he would refer to Scripture—so he had me arguing with God—so it was very uncomfortable.
He said: “I have tried every way / everything I know.” He said, “I don’t know what to do.” His pastor said, “Well, Mo, let’s just keep praying.”
So that night, before they turned the lights out, my dad said, “You know, pastor, I would gladly give my life if my boys would be saved.” That was the last thing he said that night. When they loaded up to come back, there were seven men in a van. There was an accident—one man was killed, and it was my dad. He had left a note in his Bible. The pastor was just reading the footnotes, and flipping through the Bible, and he found a note my dad had written—it said: “Pastor if you find this note before I am buried, I have one final request and it is—instead of you preaching a traditional funeral service at my funeral—that you would preach the gospel. I have two boys that are lost and that may be the last time, this side of eternity, they hear the gospel.”
I got saved at my dad’s funeral. [Emotion in voice] My brother did too. [Laughter] All has been different—the sky has never been so blue, the air has never smelt so fresh, and I never knew what it was like to be set free.
I’d never ever in my whole life measured up. I’d never been good enough for anything. All of a sudden, I’m free—I didn’t know what that was like—it was so incredible. It’s more incredible, 40 years later, than it was when it happened. Amazing what God can do!
Dennis: And to the person, who is listening right now, who goes, “That’s me!” Tell them what he needs to do—or her.
Hank: Bury it all—give it to Him—He’s there, waiting. No matter who you’ve been, how bad you’ve been, what you’ve been through—I said earlier there’s a million problems, but there’s one answer. I can’t believe, with all the bondage and the pit that I was in, in just a matter of opening my heart and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me to accept Jesus Christ—
—I cannot imagine how all of that bondage to chains was broken in just the blink of an eye. People said: “Well, you’re emotional. It was your father’s funeral. You’re making an irrational decision based on bereavement and circumstances. It won’t last.” That was in 1975, and it is greater today than it was then.
Dennis: And you use every opportunity you have to tell others about that Savior.
Hank: I’d like to say that, from the very moment I got saved, I hit the path and all I did was preach the gospel. But I lived a very selfish period of my life, and I did a lot of things.
About 15 years ago or so—I circled the wagons, and I realized what is truly important in this world. I’ve made friends / I’ve won world championships.
I’ve made lots of money that I never thought—beyond what I ever dreamt could happen in my life. The realization came to me, through a set of circumstances, that it’s not what you have—it’s not outside / it’s not circumstances—it’s in your heart / it’s the peace. I’ve served Jesus for a lot of years, kind of because I did it the way I thought you were supposed to do it. The last 15 years, I’ve served him out of pure love—I know how much He loves me. I’m telling you—there’s no hope outside of Jesus Christ. People say,” Well, this world’s corrupt / this worlds fallen down.” It doesn’t matter what condition the world’s in—it’s been this way—and that’s why Jesus came to the earth.
Dennis: We’re going to talk more about that; but he may be a world champion bass fisherman, Bob—he won that twice—but he’s more of an evangelist than anything else.
That was clear after spending a couple of days with Hank as we went fishing together a little over a year ago.
Bob: I hope our listeners get a chance to see the video. I know it’s running on the Outdoor Channel, off and on. If folks would like more information about Hank, and his fishing, and what he’s doing, we have a link to his website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can find out more about where you’re speaking in different locations and just about what you’re up to these days.
You know, as we’ve talked about the family dynamic and your dad’s impact in your life, I was thinking about dads I’ve talked to who have taken time to get together with their sons—and maybe other dads and sons—and all of them go through the Stepping Up® video series together. A lot of the dads I have talked to, who have done that, have come back and just said it was a great study to go through together—father and son—just being honest with each other / transparent with what’s going on in your life—
—the challenges you face, as a man—helping initiate your sons into adulthood / into manhood. I hope that we’ve got listeners who, this summer, will make that a priority—some father/son time—maybe with other fathers and sons—go through the Stepping Up video series.
There’s information about the series on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the videos and the workbooks from us; or if you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We have a team of folks who would love to answer any questions you have and help you get set up to have a father/son Stepping Up group during the summer months.
You know, listening to your story today, Hank, I’m reminded that all of us have deficits in our background—all of us look back with regret on some of the events of our lives. The good news of the gospel is that God provides forgiveness and redemption.
He transforms our lives so that we can be trophies of His grace. Our goal, here, at FamilyLife is to make sure that that message is loud and clear—to every mom/dad, husband/wife—everyone, who looks at their family situation and says, “There was a lot of brokenness here.”That’s God’s specialty—to step in and fix the brokenness through the power of the gospel.
You know, we are grateful for listeners who share our burden to see every home become a godly home. Those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with donations, we are so thankful for your participation in this ministry. As you give, you make it possible for more people to hear God’s good news about marriage and family every day. We’re pleased to partner with you in that ministry. You can donate, right now, to FamilyLife online at FamiyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLifeToday at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’ll talk more with Hank Parker. We’re going to hear about how the pursuit of becoming a world champion fisherman cost Hank something very special / something very valuable. We’ll hear about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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