A story of God’s sovereign direction and the power of testimony
By Hope Mayes
Who would have guessed the same couple that stood on major cruise ship stages every evening as headlining musicians would not only act as pastors to guests and crew on Sunday mornings, but after twenty years would land in Tennessee as pastors of a rural church?
Dennis and Bobbie Parillo have been used by God in a variety of settings all their lives. But no matter where God has placed them, He has always included their passion and talent for music. Few rural ministers can say they have retired from working as cruise ship pastors as well as music entertainment headliners.
“The opportunities every week to be in front of large crowds not only doing music but speaking was part of our training to bring us to this point. It prepped us for what we do now.”
In 2016, the Parillos sensed God asking them to retire from the music industry. When He moved them to Soddy Daisy, Tennessee to become the pastors of Refuge Assembly of God, they had no idea their background in performing music on cruise ships stages would transfer over as well as it did. The music industry prepared them for speaking to large audiences, and, unexpectedly, gave them a powerful testimony to share of how God’s sovereign hand protected them and helped them arise unscathed after coming shoulder to shoulder with the temptations that come along with the music industry. Even as they witnessed almost everyone around them fall into heavy drinking and drugs, Dennis and Bobbie are physical evidence that it is possible to refrain from and escape the pull of the worldly current. To this day, God has used them and their testimony to encourage people in their church and community who have dealt with similar issues.
“Being in the music industry for years, the Lord always kept us safe and out of that stuff even though people all around us were drinking heavily and using drugs. I saw from a very early age what it could do to people and it was not good.”
God has used Dennis and Bobbie and the power of this testimony to witness to members of their church and community in a variety of formats. One of those formats is a ministry called The Transformation Project.
The Transformation Project, originally based out of Chatenooga, TN, is a curriculum-based program. Some refer to it as a “little brother to Teen Challenge” because it helps people with life-controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addiction, but is a non-residential program. Several times a week, these students come together and go through the curriculum called “Living Free.” These meetings also give the students an opportunity to receive support, advice, and guidance from volunteers like the Parillos.
Dennis and Bobbie take these opportunities to speak into student’s lives, pray with them and share their story of how the Lord kept them from falling into the sins and temptations of the music industry. They share with them the good news that God is their protector. If they have fallen into these sins, He can most definitely pick them back up.
One husband and wife, after becoming associated with The Transformation Project, recognized the value of the curriculum and saw the potential benefits it could have on people’s lives. The couple made a significant impact when they decided to take this ministry to their family, friends and even to the local jails. To this day, this husband and wife remain involved by teaching one of the weekly Transformation groups.
“The biggest thing with this Transformation Project is being able to speak into these people’s lives. We get a chance to pray with them.”
The testimonies of this couple and of so many others who have come out of The Transformation Project has been a witness of the life changing power of God to so many people who have connected with Refuge Assembly. While the stories of some students are not yet complete and it can be difficult to see some continue to struggle through their life-controlling addictions, the Parillos and the rest of the volunteers are relentless in their prayers and discipleship.
“The Lord will lead them. It might take a little bit more time for some of them, but He will lead them to get out of their addictions.”
This is their greatest pleasure in ministry; seeing the successes and having the ability to leave a legacy in each life. These rural Tennessee pastors have used their testimony to pass on knowledge and experience gained from their time in the music industry. They have both walked in the same shoes, faced the same choices and have both had the will to turn away from the life of drinking and drugs. It is their greatest pleasure to plant seeds in people’s lives, knowing that it is an eternal seed that will last and a fire that will not go out. And it is pure joy to witness the students cling to God, get involved in ministry and watch them run the path God has laid out for each one.
“Sometimes we learn it the hard way, but it leads to testimonies in the long run. Sometimes you have to get through the test before you see the testimony.”
Throughout their lives, Pastors Dennis and Bobbie Parillo, have performed on cruise ships to audiences of thousands as well as in small church congregations of less than fifty. They have found blessing, influence, and success in both settings. The success they have found in their music ministry, rural pastoral ministry and through The Transformation Project demonstrates that success is not measured by numbers, or how big or small the audience. God measures success by our willingness to say “Yes” to whatever He asks of us and our obedience in doing it well.
To connect with the Refuge Assembly of God in Soddy Daisy, TN or Pastors Dennis and Bobbie Parillo, visit their website at https://refugeagtn.com/.