Brett Parks at Flat Creek Baptist Church
When: 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 14
Where: Flat Creek Baptist Church, 5504 Flat Creek Road, Gainesville
More info: 770-532-0228 or www.flatcreekchurch.net
Brett Parks lay in the street, a bullet in his abdomen, and prayed.
He looked at the Florida sunset on that fall evening four years ago, and he knew God would help him survive.
Parks, now a motivational speaker and founder of Second Shot Ministry, is speaking at the 11 a.m. worship service Sunday, Aug. 14, at Flat Creek Baptist Church at 5504 Flat Creek Road in Gainesville.
“He has a wonderful, fresh story that frankly is still developing,” said Mike Taylor, pastor at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Gainesville. “People are going to have a connection with him and get refreshed in their own personal journey. We’re hoping he brings that message of hope and encouragement to people who are struggling.”
Parks will share his story about being shot Oct. 17, 2012, and his recovery from the bullet that took his leg, a kidney and a chunk of his colon.
At the time, Parks was in school to become a Navy flight engineer in Jacksonville, Fla., and was a part-time certified personal trainer. He was waiting for a client outside a fitness center when he heard a man scream nearby.
“The back of my hair stood on end and I went running to see what was going on,” he said. “A lady said, ‘Somebody help, he’s being robbed.’”
Parks caught up to the robber and tried to detain him. The robber had both hands in the pocket of his sweatshirt.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘OK, this is what’s going to happen. He’s going to take one hand out of his pocket and try to take a swing at me,’” Parks said. “I had what to do planned out perfectly, but that wasn’t what happened.”
Two shots were fired. The first hit Parks in the abdomen. The second missed, but Parks was already down.
“The first thought I had in my head was, ‘I can’t believe I just got shot,’” he said. “The second was, ‘I’m going to die today.’”
Parks said he remembers praying in the street, thinking of his 17-month-old son and unborn daughter. He wondered what kind of man his son would become without a father, and he feared he would never walk his daughter down the aisle.
But Park said he remembers looking at the sunset that night, while he bled out in the street, and it was “so beautiful” that he felt God was with him.
“I knew in that moment I was going to live,” he said. “I went from, ‘I’m going to die today,’ to ‘I’m going to live.’”
The bullet entered Parks abdomen and ricocheted downward, shredding a kidney, tearing away a third of his colon and severing a major artery.
He was later told 99 percent of people who are shot in the same part of their body die on scene. Of the 1 percent who make it into an ambulance, 99 percent die on the way to the hospital.
“I had a 0.001 percent chance of survival,” he said.
Parks spent 20 days in a coma, during which time one leg had to be amputated below the knee because of blood loss due to the severed artery.
When he learned of the amputation, Parks said he “panicked.” He asked his wife Susan, “Do you still love me?”
She replied, “Brett, I didn’t marry you for your foot.”
In that moment, Parks said what had felt like a tragedy became a challenge. This summer, he competed in the Invictus Games, winning a gold medal in sitting volleyball and a silver in swimming. He’s now training for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
Parks founded Second Shot Ministry as an outlet to share his message of hope and survival with others.
“Everyone is scarred in some way, be it physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually,” he said. “This story is extreme and you may have not gone through this, but you have gone through something. It hurts, but we have a God that loves us.”
Parks is coming to Gainesville at the invitation of Chuck Bridwell, music director at Flat Creek Baptist. Bridwell and Parks have known each other for decades, since Parks was in the youth choir with Bridwell in Coral Gables, Fla.
“He’s got a pretty amazing story,” Bridwell said. “Basically, people do not live through what happened to him, but he did.”
Parks said he is looking forward to visiting Gainesville and Bridwell and meeting people who have overcome their own obstacles.
“I love getting together with people and telling my story and trying to give people hope,” he said. “It feels like a hopeless world right now. It’s a tough time we’re living in, but there’s good at the end of it.”