Helen Jean (Bond) Parks
Missionary, BA 1948
Helen Jean (Bond) Parks was born January 4, 1928, in Abilene, Texas, to W. D. and Lula Mae (Brunson) Bond. Helen Jean’s decision to attend Hardin-Simmons became a link in a long family association with the university. Her father was a 39-year member of the HSU English faculty, beginning just prior to World War I, and both he and Lula Mae were students at HSU. Since that time, all four of Helen Jean’s children and two of her seven grandchildren have graduated from Hardin-Simmons—she is still hoping to recruit the youngest three.
While attending Abilene High School, Helen Jean worked on the student newspaper and was later on the staff of the HSU Brand. She worked summers and part-time during her college years as a reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News with the intention of becoming a journalist. But her plans were interrupted her senior year at Hardin-Simmons when the Lord called her to vocational Christian service.
Helen Jean graduated magna cum laude from Hardin-Simmons in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in journalism. In addition to being on the Brand staff during her four years at HSU, she was a member of Alpha Chi , was selected to be included in Who’s Who Among American Students, was elected Senior Favorite, and was a member of the A Cappella Choir and the University Chorus.
After leaving HSU in 1948, Helen Jean attended Southwest Missouri State College in Springfield where she became Baptist campus minister for the three colleges in the city. She also later was employed as Baptist campus minister at Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas, and at Rice University and Baylor University College of Medicine at Houston. She also served as youth and music director at First Baptist Church in Henrietta, Texas.
Helen Jean attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, earning a Master of Religious Education degree in 1951. It was during her second year in seminary that Helen Jean somewhat reluctantly submitted to the Lord’s further call into foreign missions.
In 1952, Helen Jean married Keith Parks, whom she had originally met at the Texas State Baptist Student Union Convention, when Keith—a student at the University of North Texas—was the state BSU president and Helen Jean was a delegate from Hardin-Simmons. They became better acquainted later at Southwestern Seminary in classes and campus activities.
Shortly after the birth of their first son, Helen Jean and Keith were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board as missionaries to Indonesia in 1954. During their 14 years in Indonesia, while Keith served on the faculty of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Indonesia, Helen Jean worked in small churches training Indonesians as teachers, she taught music and religious education at the seminary, and led the Indonesian seminary choir, taking them on their first island-wide tour, and held conversational English classes with Muslim faculty wives of the Diponegoro State University. She did all this while raising four children. Helen Jean labeled herself “missionary homemaker,” taking pride in the fact that no one else could fill her role in the specific relationship God had given her with her husband and children. Making Jesus the center of her children’s lives was her primary mission.
When the Lord called Keith back to the U. S. in 1968, Helen Jean felt she had lost her country, her people, and her calling. But with their four children (ranging in ages from five to fourteen) in tow, Helen Jean gradually adapted to her new stateside role of education and support for world missions. Throughout Keith’s career, first as area director for Southeast Asia, then division director of mission support, and later as president of the Foreign (now International) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and then as global missions coordinator with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Helen Jean found herself uniquely related to the Mission Board as an unofficial representative. In her role, she spoke in churches, at student and various meetings, and led seminars throughout the United States on missions, prayer, and the Christian life. She visited countries around the world to learn, to meet local Christian leaders and people, and for mutual encouragement with missionary families. In 1983, she authored a valuable book on intercessory prayer for global missions titled Holding the Ropes.
In 1987, Helen Jean was awarded the HSU Distinguished Alumni Award, both for her outstanding accomplishments in missions and her devotion to the university. In 2007, she was honored by the Logsdon School of Theology with the Jesse C. Fletcher Award for Distinguished Service in Missions.
Helen Jean’s decision to follow God’s call into missions has exponentially increased His Kingdom as all four of her children have exemplified the teachings of Jesus and have been obedient to God’s call in their own lives. After eight years as a missionary in Cairo, Egypt, her oldest son, Randall, transitioned to government service and now serves as a business and professional consultant there. Her second son, Kent, of Plano, Texas, is CEO of Missions to Unreached People, presently headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Her daughter, Eloise, is associate pastor at Pilgrim Church in Duxbury, Massachusetts. And her youngest son, Stan, is professor and director of field education at Bethany International University in the Republic of Singapore.
We at Hardin-Simmons University join with her children and grandchildren as we “rise up and call her blessed.” It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Helen Jean (Bond) Parks into the HSU Hall of Leaders.