Most people in Southern Gospel have heard the ministry and the songs of Squire Parsons, Mr. Beulah Land. This is the story of one of his children who didn’t quite follow in the footsteps of his popular father. As he now sets off on his own ministry with his wife, he is making his own footprints.
Samuel Parsons, the youngest child of Squire and Linda Parsons, was saved at the age of 14. He knew the Lord was calling him to minister through music, but several people said to him, “those are mighty big shoes to fill.” Sam used that as an excuse to back away from the call. By age 17, Sam began to run around with the wrong crowd, in spite of pleas from his parents and his pastor.
Sam ran with gangs and started to use and sell drugs. His parents, his pastor and church family continued to pray for Sam. Sam says he could never figure out just how Pastor Sexton knew where to find him. His Pastor, Ralph Sexton, Jr. of Trinity Life Baptist lived next door to the Parsons, and was also the police chaplain. Pastor Sexton would get messages from members of the police force, who kept a watch out for Sam, in Asheville, North Carolina, and he would show up at the bar where Sam had been spotted, walk in and motion for Sam to come outside.
At 19, Sam was arrested for having two ounces of cocaine in his possession and was sentenced to three years in prison. As Sam looks back on that, he believes Father God was looking out for him, because Sam was involved with heavier drugs.
Sam continued to run from the Lord for a year and a half while he was in prison. One day out on the prison yard, he was in conversation with another prisoner and they were discussing selling weed in prison. A correctional officer came around the corner and he ran because he did not want to be busted again. The building he ran into was the prison chapel, but he didn’t know that. Sam said they were singing hymns, and it was like the Lord put His hand on Sam and he fell to his knees crying.
The prison chaplain stopped the service and asked everyone to leave. He told Sam, “I don’t know who you are, but I have seen you on the prison yard.” He told Sam he knew that God had a calling on his life and if he didn’t do what the Lord was asking of him, He was going to “take him out.” The prison chaplain told Sam he had been praying for him for a year and a half. At the time the chaplain was unaware that Squire Parsons was Sam’s dad.
Sam started to sing in the choir and started a band called Already Freed. The band was made up of several prisoners. Sam wrote several songs as did another member of the band, Rick Lundsford, and they were able to leave the prison and minister in churches.
After Sam’s release from prison, Squire asked Sam to fill in for a few weeks as the tenor singer for Squire’s group. The few weeks turned into 15 years. One day while getting ready for a concert, Sam told his dad he would really like a list of the songs they were going to do. His dad said, “I can make you a list, but don’t count on our going by it.” Sam said maybe they would sing one or two songs on the list, but Squire was following the list made by the Holy Spirit.
Squire Parsons has not always been a soloist. He has had a trio and also a quartet. Sam’s older brother, Seth, sang with them 1993 through 1998, and left to answer the call from the Lord to preach. Sam started with the group in 1997 and left earlier this year to launch The Parsons’ Ministry along with his wife, Leah.
Sam says that he and his dad talked earlier this year about his dad slowing down his schedule, and maybe looking at semi-retirement. Sam realized this was a great opportunity to step out in faith and minister with his wife, Leah.
Sam and Leah Rouse met five years ago at National Quartet Convention through a mutual friend, Misty Freeman Calloway. Sam heard Leah’s voice and was immediately interested in finding out to whom that voice belonged. He walked over to The Freeman’s table and he asked her if she would marry him. Leah said to herself, “I’m not going to marry a Southern Gospel singer!”
Leah lived in Nashville and Sam lived in Asheville, North Carolina, so for the next two weeks they talked on the phone day and night and really got to know each other. They became best friends and discovered they had lots in common.
Leah is the youngest daughter of Billie Jo and Rhonda Rouse. Both her dad and mom are music majors. Rhonda is a Jeffers, and her family still has shape note singing schools in Arkansas, as well as still publishing a shape note music book. Leah’s Uncle Marty wrote, “What a Meeting in the Air.” Her dad sang with The Dixie Echoes and The Bibletones in south Mississippi.
When Billie Jo and Rhonda got married they were full time music ministers; they have also served as youth and associate pastors. At two years of age, Leah was singing three-part harmony with her six- and seven-year-old sisters. Leah says she thinks she was singing before she was talking. They traveled in full time evangelism for seven years, with Billie Jo preaching and Rhonda playing the piano. Their ministry revolved around teaching and ministering to families to build strong Christian homes.
Sam had a similar life with his dad being in full time music ministry. Sam says his dad and granddad were also involved in shape note singing, and taught shape note singing schools in West Virginia.
Sam and Leah talked on the phone for two weeks constantly, and then started to date. Three months later they were engaged and then 10 months after the engagement they were married. They will be married three years this coming October. They have been blessed with a son, Samuel Israel, otherwise known as “Gummybear;” he turned one year old in May 2015.
As Squire and Sam prepared to start these new adventures in the Lord, his dad opened the door of the bus and said to Sam, “Are you ready?” And Sam said, “Ready for what?” And his dad replied, “To step into the miraculous; just be ready to see what God has ready for you.” Sam says he just threw it off, thinking that his dad was just trying to be supportive and encouraging. But the next day, Sam and Leah got a phone call from a church in Waco, Texas asking them to come minister. Sam called his dad and said, “We just got a date in Texas,” and his dad said, “You’re stepping out into the world of the miraculous; that’s the way it was with me.”
As they drove across Arkansas from Tennessee on their way to Texas, Sam was praying and trying not to stress because they only had one date, until he received a phone call telling them they had a Sunday morning date at First Baptist Church of Ft. Worth. Sam caught a glimpse of the miraculous. Then 30 minutes before church time that Sunday night, they got another phone call for them to minister again.
Sam shared his reflections concerning his rebellion. He says God has put on his heart to share his testimony of what the Lord allowed him to go through in his life, to make him into the man God wants him to be. He realizes God kept him from much more serious rebellion. Although Sam has scars, he calls them love scars because he knows God used His rod telling Sam, “You’re going too far.” We sometimes suffer consequences for our actions, but God never gives up on His children. Sam continues to share his testimony as part of his ministry, not only with the youth, but adults also. He says we all, both young and old, need to know that God still answers our prayers.
Sam says his dad used to tell him, “You are not listening to a word that I am saying but I am going to say them anyway,” and Sam would roll his eyes. He admits he was not listening to his dad’s words of wisdom at the time. But later God would bring back to Sam’s memory his dad’s words.
On the nights when Sam was still in rebellion and had been out to the bars, he would get home and find his mom and dad praying at his bedroom door. He would say to them, “Stop praying for me.” Sam admits at the time he loved to fight, and one night he came home with blood all over him. His dad asked what happened and Sam just said, “You should see the other guy.” He went to his room, and again his parents were outside his door crying and praying. It bothered him then, but now he is thankful for those prayers.
Sam now calls home often, just to tell his parents how much he loves them. As we sit talking with Sam and Leah, Sam was in tears because of all he put them through. Sam says it would have been easy for them to give up on him, but they never did. He wants his parents to know that what they did for him was not in vain. The song, “Hello Mama,” written by Squire Parsons before Sam was born, is now his testimony.
Our visits with this young couple as well as seeing them perform left us impressed with them. The love that they have for each other and the love they have for the Lord was evident on the stage as well as off. Our genre of music is blessed to have Sam and Leah Parsons and there is a need for more youth in Gospel music. Sam states that they are trying to convince leaders to allow the youth to attend Southern Gospel concerts held in the church, instead of having them leave to have youth fellowship. They often have teenagers come by their table and tell them that they have never heard any music like this and they love it.
Sam and Leah Parsons are available for ministry at your church. Their web site is www.theparsonsministries.com.
By Vivian Belknap
First published by SGN Scoops in July 2015. For the September issue of SGN Scoops magazine, click here.