From ABF to Africa, Donna Parker moves on a mission to save souls and lives
From ABF to Africa, Donna Parker moves
on a mission to save souls and lives
Love doesn’t just feel. Love does. Love goes. Love has feet. Donna Parker’s mother taught her early on that love is an action, and not merely an emotion.
The lesson resonated with Donna, and at the age of 16, she answered the call to missions. Now the 30-year-old Greenwood native heads #LoveHasFeet, an organization she founded to help her show the love of Jesus to people in some of the poorest nations in the world.
In January, Donna left her job at ArcBest after seven years, and embarked on her fifth journey to Africa. While her previous trips have lasted only a few months, this time she will make Burkina Faso her home for at least two years.
She took her first trip to the continent in 2010, after meeting a co-worker who had friends running a school in Uganda. Donna took a sabbatical from work and spent a trimester (three months) teaching there.
“I stepped off the plane in Africa and thought, I am home,” remembered Donna. “This is where I am supposed to be.”
Love Has Feet was founded on the belief that “reaching the lost is the very heartbeat of Christ.” However, in Burkina Faso and many other parts of the world, traditional evangelizing methods are ineffective, which is why Donna pairs the Gospel with community development.
“It is hard to just reach out and say, ‘hey, let me tell you about Jesus,’ but we can get to know them by helping with a well and then coming back to go out and check that well,” Donna explained. “It is all about building relationships with them first.”
Her hope is that “people in need of Christ the most will understand his compassion, as well as His saving power.”
The concept for her organization came during one of her previous visits to Burkina Faso. Using money from donors back home in the United States, Donna and a team were purchasing large bags of grain to distribute to people affected by drought. An elderly lady approached them, crying. Donna learned the woman was recently widowed, had several children to feed, and no means to provide for them.
“She collapsed on top of the 100-pound bag of grain,” Donna recalled of the mother’s relief and gratitude. The widow then got on her knees and thanked the missionaries for giving life back to her family.
The missionaries attempted to explain that the food was not from them, but from believers back in the United States. The widow wasn’t worried about who had sent it, but was simply grateful to have food for her children.
“I thought, there has to be a way to continue to meet these needs ... there has to be a hands-on way to make a difference in these communities,” Donna said.
Upon returning home, Donna began the process of creating Love Has Feet and in June 2015, the organization received its official 501(c)3 status. It focuses on meeting certain immediate needs including food, clean water and mosquito nets.
“There is extreme poverty in Burkina Faso,” noted Donna. The third-world nation often experiences drought, causing famine. Clean water is hard to come by and many wind up sick or dead because of contaminants in their water source. Virus-carrying mosquitos are another problem. Love Has Feet gives access to these basic necessities. Large bags of grain are distributed. The mission supplies filters to clean contaminated water, helping to prevent deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid, among others. Love Has Feet also purchases mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria, which accounts for many deaths in that area.
Living in Africa will also enable her to help meet a major long-term need of the region: literacy training.
“Only 13% of people there can read,” she explained. Illiteracy is directly related to poor job skills, lower health care, inability to compete in a global economy, and higher poverty levels in general. Donna hopes to improve the quality of life and income-earning potential for the Burkinabé people by employing a Bible-based literacy program, aimed at teaching adults and children alike how to read proficiently and simultaneously, to understand scripture.
“Literacy provides life and job skills,” she said. “Everything from understanding signs to how to read instructions for how to clean their wells. It is vital.”
While she is only budgeted to stay in Africa for two years, Donna hopes to extend her trip and continue the work of Love Has Feet. Part of that depends on contributions made to the organization. Donna will work as a freelance writer for her former employer, ArcBest, while in Africa, using those funds as her income.
“My living expenses are totally separate from the organization, which means 100% of what is given to Love Has Feet goes directly to what we are doing here,” she explained.
The LoveHasFeet.org website accepts tax-deductible donations. Purchases of #LoveHasFeet shirts, with a design shaped like the continent of Africa, also support the mission.
– By Brittany Ransom