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Dr Enid Parker (1920-2016)

July 2016 | by Paul Yeulett

On 8 April 2016, Dr Enid Parker, known as ‘Asamolta’ or the ‘Red lioness’ to the Afar people of East Africa, went to be with the Lord she had served so passionately, for so many years.

Born in Edenfield in Lancashire in 1920, her childhood was a sad one. Her father’s health was ruined by the Great War and he died when Enid was only seven. Her mother was unable to care for Enid and her two brothers, so they were all cared for by other relatives.

During World War Two, Enid served in the land army and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Following the war she became a PE teacher. It was in the early 1950s that she came to faith in Jesus Christ and was soon confronted with the possibility of missionary work overseas. She initially rejected the suggestion, believing that she was too old, although only in her 30s!

However, in May 1956, Enid followed a call to work with the Red Sea Mission Team and set sail for East Africa. For the next 38 years she was to devote her life to the Afar people, who live in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. Today they number about 4 million.

God had called her to a great work: to get to know and love the Afars; and to learn their language so that the Bible could be translated for them. The Afar language had no written script, and so she dedicated herself to the time-consuming and arduous work of studying the language minutely. In time, an English-Afar dictionary and an Afar-English-French dictionary were produced.

Scripture translation

Enid also embarked on the translation of the New Testament into Afar. Her linguistic work earned her a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1978. But she never retreated into a private, academic life. She was heart-and-soul on the mission field, living among the people, depending daily on the grace of God and always marvelling at the Lord’s provision.

Her deep devotion to the Afars continued throughout the later years of her life, when she was a committed member of Grove Chapel, Camberwell. Even in her 90s, she was still making international trips to visit them.

She gave herself with equal commitment to making the Saviour known in her local community, organising a weekly games night with fellow residents in her sheltered accommodation in Peckham. This continued right up to the last week of her life. She would also chat with and encourage younger members of the church.

Her interests and associations were broad. She was an avid member of the Dulwich and West Norwood Conservatives and a member of Surrey County Cricket Club. Her warmth, zeal and infectious enthusiasm will be greatly missed.

Enid’s own lively and vivid narrative of her years in East Africa is available to read in her book, My life among the Afar people (from lulu.com). Typical of Enid are the following two sentences: ‘My own motives for doing anything for the Afar people were inspired by the love of God, for their blessing. God gave me to the Afar people and I love them, we belong together’; ‘it was a matter of praise to the Lord that he enabled me to do as much as was achieved. His provisions made the impossible a reality’.

Paul Yeulett

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