Donna speaks to us about how people are not one-dimensional, her “location independent” lifestyle, and the seven days that changed her life. We are so blessed to have this wise author share with us!
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I was raised in an Irish-Catholic family, the youngest of 8 children in South Jersey (suburban Philadelphia). My dad was a truck driver and mom stayed home to chase the kids and make millions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: The first encounter between David and his future wife, Abigail, is a masterclass in conflict resolution. By leaning into the heart of God for her enemy, Abigail is able to see the person attacking her (David) as someone who is precious in God’s sight. We tend to view people through a single lens, and then neatly categorize them. But people are not one-dimensional. There was more to David than the lunatic standing in front of her, pitching a fit over a sheep BBQ. He had a past, present and future. There was much more to his story than what he was revealing in this one moment in time. Who we are at our worst is not the whole truth about who we are. The same is true for everyone you meet.
“Who we are at our worst is not the whole truth about who we are.”
Profession: Although I’m best known as an author and speaker, for most of the past decade, I’ve served primarily as a tent-making missionary, traveling to more than 40 nations on 6 continents. I’m blessed to be a digital nomad, which means I can live and work anywhere in the world because I have multiple passive income streams, including book royalties and an online membership program, none of which require me to be tied down anywhere. I’m location independent. It’s a tremendous way to live and anyone can do it. I host an annual event called Lifestyle Freedom, where I train other Christians to do what I do: www.7daystofreedom.com.
How do you incorporate your connection with God into your daily, secular work? God is everything – everything is by Him, for Him and about Him. There’s no distinction for me between secular and sacred. Everything I do, I do because he placed his affections upon me and picked me up out of the pit.
“There’s no distinction for me between secular and sacred.”
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? I’ve written more than 30 books. The most autobiographical is my humorous devotional book, This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For… But I’m Finding Hope & Healing.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? Reflecting upon my life journey, there were seeds of faith and small encounters throughout my childhood. But the most dramatic occurred during the summer between high school and college. A friend offered to pay my way to a weeklong conference in an idyllic setting. Not sure what I thought I was signing up for, but those days away from my family and friends — everyone who had limited ideas about who I could be — radically altered the trajectory of my life.
Around the third or fourth day, I was sitting alone by a riverbank, and the power of God came down upon me. I got up filled with His presence and instantly delivered from strong addictions to drugs (cocaine) and alcohol. The next night, I was again alone with God under a spectacular moonlit sky and he spoke to me so clearly, it was almost like he was standing next to me.
He said, “Donna, I’m going to take you all over the world and I’m going to use you in a mighty way for my Kingdom.”
They handed me a Bible and within 24 hours, I was pointing at passages saying, “Hey, have you ever noticed…?” Over the next 4 weeks, I read the entire thing from cover to cover. I also devoured a giant stack of books the youth pastor had given me on apologetics, missions, theology, you name it. We’re talking 24/7 obsession here. By the time I showed up on campus, I was teaching evangelistic Bible studies and leading the college ministry.
That was 39 years ago and to this day, no human on earth and no devil in hell has been able to shake my conviction that I heard from God, and He had a destiny in store for me. That’s why I know, for a fact, that 7 days can change your life. It’s why I host 7 day events.
“That was 39 years ago and to this day, no human on earth and no devil in hell has been able to shake my conviction that I heard from God, and He had a destiny in store for me.”
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Anyone who knows me will tell you my answer to everything is “time in His presence.” It’s the only answer. The contemporary church vastly under-estimates the power of silence and meditation. Combine that with time in His Word and throw in time in His creation, and you’ve got a powerful life-changing trio.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I’m reading The Bible in One Year 2019 featuring commentary by Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton in London. He does a masterful job of introducing each day’s readings from the Old & New Testament.
Top three essentials: Time in His Word. Time in His Presence. Time in His Creation.
How did God speak to you recently? Last week, I was at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference and went into the tiny chapel with a friend. The conference center has been there for more than 100 years. We’re talking holy ground. There was no church service going on. Just one woman in the back of the church available for prayer if anyone wanted it. We sat praying quietly. I went up to the altar and began weeping over my sins — especially my sin of indifference. The ridiculous nonsense I waste my time on, waste my life on – it’s really pathetic and tragic. Social media, news, worthless habits – just dumb stuff.
I wept uncontrollably for a while, maybe 30 minutes, crying out to God to change me. Then I tried to get up from the altar, but God had other ideas. I ended up on the floor of that tiny chapel for almost 3 hours, as God spoke to my heart about his priority: the building of a house of prayer for the nation of Colombia. It’s a long story, but let’s just say I had begun a good work, then got discouraged and distracted. But after that encounter with God, nothing will ever be able to shake my conviction that part of my destiny is establishing a house of prayer and a mission-sending station on a mountain north of Bogota, Colombia.
Hobby: I sold my car a few years ago because I’m so often out of the country. So, I ride my bike everywhere — that’s probably the closest thing I have to a hobby. Some of my happiest times are when I’m riding my little $10 yard-sale bike. I’m blessed to live 2 blocks from the beach in Florida.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Go to church. Go to church. Go to church.
Favorite person in scripture? Where to begin? Joseph, because he was such a man of integrity. And that goes double (quadruple?) for Daniel. Wow. Those men were rocks. Unshakable and unassailable. Then, I love David and Peter because they were exactly the opposite. They blew it all time. David, in particular, didn’t end very well. Yet they inspire me because I’m a mess on most days. Abigail absolutely blows me away. Four hundred armed men, charging toward her house with swords drawn — and she rides TOWARD them? Are you kidding me? Talk about the original Wonder Woman! She disarmed an entire army with one prophetic word. Can I be her when I grow up?
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? That He has very poor taste. He picked ME? Me? Are you kidding? Clearly, there are no standards. At all. If God can pick me, He can pick anyone. I remember early in my Christian walk, attending Christian women’s conferences and thinking of the speaker, “What an amazing woman. I could never be like her.”
When people hear me preach, I want them to conclude the opposite: “If I had known the standards for service were that low, I would have signed up years ago.” Yes, please. By all means. Sign up. You’re not the issue. He is.
How do you leave your mark on your community? Not sure I do. I do try to be kind and generous. I’ll pull my neighbors weeds, take back her trash, etc., even though she knows she’s been awful to us. Okay, I do it especially because she’s been awful. And I’m a huge believer in giving out huge tips, which has made me pretty popular at Starbucks, restaurants and other service locations in my neighborhood. Most of my work is overseas.
“I’m a huge believer in giving out huge tips, which has made me pretty popular at Starbucks, restaurants and other service locations in my neighborhood.”
Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving. I have a terrible time with ingratitude. Truly, my worst sin. Probably the most endemic sin in America. Once a year, we give it a national day of rest. That’s a good thing.
A goal you have? To be part of the greatest missions mobilization movement in the history of the church.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: When my children were teenagers, we had weekly family communion. There were only three rules:
1. Each of us could confess our own sins, but couldn’t point out the sins or failings of anyone else.
2. Each of us had to edify everyone else, in turn, with a genuine, specific example of something good we had seen in the other person during the prior week.
3. And the most important rule: mom wasn’t allowed to deliver any sermons or quote bible verses at anyone.
It was a safe place. We sometimes remained in the prayer room for hours after communion.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? One word: mosquitoes. Why. Just why?
Thing you want to raise awareness about: The urgency of partnering with the Latin American church as they take their turn to run with the Great Commission. It is their task to take the gospel to the Muslim world. As their brothers and sisters in North America, we need to equip them and enable them to run their race.
What does your morning routine consist of? Morning is everything. And that’s coming from a life-long night owl. I used to stay up til midnight or later. It wasn’t unusual, back when I was homeschooling my children, for me to be up until 1 or even 2 in the morning. My mom was an infamous night owl, my grandmom was a night owl, I turned my kids into night owls. No more.
My goal is to be out of bed by 5am, at my desk going through the motions. Going through the motions is another vastly under-rated exercise. Don’t worry about “feeling” it – just do it. Do what matters first, before anyone else in your house is even awake. Read the Word, pray, plan, give time to your best gift, learn something new, exercise, get outdoors, if at all possible.
I have a free Make Today Great Daily Planning Tool people can check out. It’s the exact system I use every day in my own life.
What is on your nightstand? My Kindle with more than 400 books.
Define Christianity in a sentence: God came down to rescue His beloved children because we were drowning in sin and powerless to save ourselves.
For more Donna:
Facebook: Donna Partow
Instagram: @Donna Partow
Note from Donna: “One cool thing is that, because my last name is Iranian, I’m literally the only person in the entire world named Donna Partow, so I’m very easy to find.”
Resources for you:
Free “Make Today Great” Planning Tool
7 Days to the Life You Were Born to Live: Lifestyle Freedom Event
Join Donna on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel & Jordan
Until next time, keep witnessing!