By Anastasia Howland
If you’ve been in Montreat College’s Howerton Dining Hall even just once or twice this year, you’ll know who Mr. Akila Parks is. Many a day of mine has been brightened by his big smile, hearty laugh, and his joy in both speech and song as he serves up breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I know I’m far from being the only one whose days he constantly brightens, and so I wanted to know more about where his abounding joy flows from. The following is what he told me in a recent interview.
Anastasia: So, thank you so much for doing this.
Akila: No problem, I enjoy it.
Anastasia: Okay, what’s your full name?
Akila: Well, my full name is Akila Deangelerus Parks. Yeah, it’s a crazy name. Actually, Deangelerus means “wings of an angel,” It’s almost like Italian, my mom told me.
Anastasia: So did you grow up in a Christian home, then?
Akila: Oh, yes.
Anastasia: So you’ve been a Christian since you were little?
Akila: Yes, ma’am. My whole family have been spiritual people from generation to generation and it’s been handed down. That’s one of the biggest loves I have about my family, because they shared Him with me. If they wouldn’t have shared Him with me, I probably would have never known who He was.
Anastasia: What do you like about working here at Montreat?
Akila: Everything. The people, the view, the environment. When I walk in here and I feed you guys—there’s just something about having you come in here and forget about your schoolwork, forget about your next class—when you come in here it’s like family oriented. Everybody is family, so when you walk in the door I’m like, “Okay, I’ll get that for you!” You’re in here, so relax, take your mind off of your work, school, everything, and just enjoy family time. They might not be your biological family, but we’re all family. And that’s what I like about it—it’s family oriented, very much.
Anastasia: Have you always been a chef?
Akila: I’ve tried a lot of other jobs, I just find myself liking this one more. I’ve done construction, hanging sheetrock, concrete work, and I just find myself loving to cook. I like to sit back and watch people eat, and if they enjoy it you just see this little smile on their face and they gently rub their stomach, you know? It just brings me joy.
Anastasia: Well we all love your food. And speaking about that joy—how and why are you so joyful?
Akila: Well, I wake up with Christ, and I go to bed with Christ. And in return he just fills me. When he spoke to his disciples and said, “I will make you fishers of men,” he was talking to everybody—if you walk with him and read his word, he will also make you a fisher of men. So I figure the best way to draw attention is to use myself as the bait—if people see my joy, they will want the same joy.
Anastasia: I agree—everyone definitely sees your joy, and they want it!
Akila: Well I thank you, that’s what I do. And I love Christ, I truly love him. His words have gotten me through a lot. You know my mother passed recently, but you would never tell because of how I act back there at work—and that’s because of Christ. I know she’s with him, and I want to be there too.
Anastasia: Well, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.
Akila: Oh, no. You have to die to live. In order to live, you have to die—but where is your heart when you die? I know hers was right, and I want to be there too.
Anastasia: How do you view God, and how does your view of Him impact your daily life and attitude?
Akila: He’s my everything. Everything that the Bible has stated: Him being a provider, Him making sure that all our needs are met—He’s done that since day one. I’ve never, ever, ever in my life been without. Now, there’s a lot of stuff out there that I want that I ain’t got, but that’s because it’s not His job to do that. He said, “I will give you all your needs,” and He’ll give you what your heart desires as long as you walk with Him. I have everything. I might not have money, but He gives me enough, and I have everything. I’m a homeowner, I have a beautiful wife, I’ve raised some gorgeous kids, I’m a grandfather. I’m always surrounded by beautiful, wonderful people. He’s done His job. I have to do mine now, and that’s to share Him with people—everybody! I like sharing Him.
Anastasia: What do you think is the difference between joy and happiness?
Akila: Joy comes in the morning when He gives you that first breath. Happiness comes from what you enjoy doing, or when you just sat and watched your best friend get married, or you’re watching a television show and it just makes you so happy because it ended well. But the joy that I get, it never stops. It’s ongoing, always, every day, all day. Despite the troubles that you have in your life, if you’ve got God in your heart, you will still always have that joy. You can’t get joy from a friend, you have to get that from Christ.
Anastasia: So He’s how you’re still joyful in the hard times?
Akila: Yes ma’am. I praise him in the storm, and he keeps me joyful.
Anastasia: Amen. Well, that’s all the questions I’ve got, thank you so much!
Akila: Oh, no problem. We can do this anytime you like ma’am! Christ is my salvation, and I go to bed with Him and I wake up with Him, and that’s how you should start your day and end your day. Have a blessed day!