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In Memory of Richard Parkins

Richard Parkins served as the Executive Director of AFRECS from 2009 to 2019. He played a key role in advocating for the Episcopal Church and in supporting peace and development initiatives in Sudan and South Sudan.

From Archbishop Justin Badi AramaRichard Parkins

Dear Philip Darrow, the President of AFRECS and all board members of AFRECS,

This letter comes from the entire Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, and myself, to express our sympathy and condolences to the immediate maternal family and all board members of AFRECS for the passing on of a man we know too well Dr. Richard Parkins.

Richard was a remarkable man.  Love for South Sudan and its people coloured his thoughts and activities.  On my first visit as the 5th Primate and Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan - the visit the late had been instrumental in planning and organising, I was honoured to pray with him while in the hospital bed in Washington, DC.

His last words to me speak volumes and cannot be missed to remember and reflect on. He asked me three times, although I tried to delay and deflect the answer, as I was concerned about his situation.  He said "Archbishop Justin how best can we serve you... what are your immediate priorities ... what appropriate way can we help you."

South Sudan to Richard is a precious and beautiful land; it is an opportunity and also a responsibility to support its people coming out of the conflict.  He demonstrated to us that we have to work hard, wherever we are and in whatever vocations we have, for this land to attain lasting peace and remain good for its people.

Richard's lie was guided by a sense of duty, faith and hope.  As St. Paul says to Timothy; Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  (1 Tim 6:12) Richard has faith in God, faith in his country of USA that it will do something good for brothers and sisters in South Sudan and Sudan.  He was called to be a friend for people of Sudans and made his confession through personal prayer, advocacy and financial support.  And indeed, we South Sudanese have seen and experienced the fruits of his work through reconciliation, forgiveness and healing programmes he and his colleagues have sponsored in South Sudan.

However, life is a mystery.  It begins in the past with God and it ends in the future with God.  God was and is the Creator and Sustainer of life.  Let us celebrate the life of Richard.  A man we loved and admired, a man who had done so much for our and for us and had made a great difference in our lives and communities.  So he has been taken away from us by death.  Again no one can die without God's approval because the life of those who died return back to God.

The death of a man we so dearly loved and care about is never easy.  It's also hard to lose such an hones and genuine person, even how young or old he would be, but as the scripture says "there is a time for everything" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).  Richard's time to be with the Lord has come.  To maternal family, know that Richard is with the Lord and will rise from the death one day.  Death will never rob us of eternal joy we shall have with God and one another.  There is hope beyond the grave.  That hope is an anchor of the soul for you and the entire family of Richard!  We will see Richard one day.  May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Yours faithfully,
The Most Rev. Justin Badi Arama
The Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan

From AFRECS President, Philip Darrow:

“What are your priorities? How best can we serve you?”  Those were among the last words Richard spoke to his friends from South Sudan, repeated three times at his bedside in Sibley Hospital, despite their demurrers.  The two visiting clergymen, including Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, had just finished saying pastoral prayers over Richard, which moved him to tears, but then he took a deep, labored breath and got back to the work he loved so much, caring for his friends from a land so far away.  It was a stunning moment, exemplifying his strength and grace.

I witnessed another such moment last year, at U.N. Protection of Civilians Camp 3 outside of Juba, South Sudan.  After sliding his way down a steep incline, slick from the splatter of fat raindrops, Richard stepped into the large tent serving as the camp’s school for its many orphans, a church initiative supported by AFRECS through Richard’s guidance.  Just off an 18-hour set of flights, Richard beamed as he shook off the rain and took up the crackly microphone, greeting the children as one part father figure and one part Santa Claus.  In that instant, all of those kids were his kids.

If I feared words would fail me in describing the depth of Richard’s devotion to his friends in the Sudans and to promoting peace among them, I had only to turn to the tributes that have poured in from clergy and colleagues.  Archbishop Hilary Garang Deng of the Sub-Province of Upper Nile, in sending his original artwork as testimony, simply depicted and quoted Psalm 1: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaves do not wither.” Others noted Richard’s remarkable and relentless sense of duty, deep faith and boundless hope as an advocate for peace and advancement in the Sudans, in the face of daunting circumstances. Still others remarked on his charm and wit, which he used so well to defuse uncomfortable situations and build trust.

“What are your priorities? How best can we serve you?”  For the past ten years, Richard has showed me how to live in grace, and now he has showed me how to die in grace.  For that, I will always be grateful.

Please click here to read more about Richard Parkins work with AFRECS and the Episcopal Church.