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« 6 Years Later | Main | The Watsons go to Washington »
Thursday
Oct242013

Amos Heroes - Dr. Randy White

Over the past several weeks I have been making my way through the Minor Prophets.  Now, when I say, "I" I actually mean "we" and when I say "we" I actually mean me and a fiesty little church in the heart of Washington, D.C. called The District Church.  And the Minor Prophets?  That's just a short handed way of referring to a collection of 12 short books in the Old Testament of the Bible written during various periods of Israel's history wherein they got sideways with God.  Nearly all of them carry the same message, "You've forgotten God's love and He's pissed about it!".  The reasons vary somewhat, but in many cases its because of Israel's neglect of justice, care and compassion.  

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:23-24

 A few nights ago, I found myself in a room with 16 other people reflecting on the passage above and remembering that we too have been loved by and rescued by a God who loves us.  We reminded one another that a part of what it means to walk humbly with God is to boldly care for the poor, the dispossesed, widows, orphans and strangers.  

Sailing up to Hong Kong; BGU course 2011It was a powerful night; in part because of the message of the prophets, but also because of my location.  For a long time I've noted how context shapes the way we read the Bible.  My context on that evening was in the capital of the strongest (militarily) and the wealthiest (monetarily) nation the world has ever seen.  I was leading a discussion on the book of Amos surrounded by a community that has greater access to global power and influence than I could have ever imagined prior to moving to D.C.  

And the question came up.  "Who is your 'Amos' hero?  Who is the person that has modeled for you a life lived well with Jesus and a life lived well on behalf of those made poor?".  

For me, Dr. Randy White.  No question.  

When I begin to think how in the world I ended up in the nation's capital leading a Bible study with such an amazing group of people who carry an amazing burden of power and possibility discussing the Prophets' call to care for the poor I know exactly who to blame.  I blame Randy.  

Right out of seminary, Lisa and I moved to Fresno where I began working at a local community development organization and Lisa began working for IVCF as an Urban Project Director.  Randy was her boss.  Over the years Randy and his wife Tina became dear friends.  Weekly dinners at their house.  Hours and hours of conversation about the Bible, Church, the City, God's call for personal righteousness and public justice and where to find the best Merlot.  

Hong Kong, BGU course 2011God used Randy & Tina to ingrain in us a faith that takes seriously the responsibility to care for the poor and dimantle unjust systems in our world resulting from sin.  Randy reminded us through his life, living and teaching - and continues to remind us - that we were saved by Jesus for a purpose which includes care for the modern day widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor.  And Randy challenges us to consider how God shapes us and prepares us to do justice differently.  

Prior to and upon moving to D.C. I expressed concern about relocating here and pastoring a church that in many ways is made up of an emerging elite - those who very soon will be at the highest levels of government, business, finance and international development.  I worried that I'd become too far removed from the poor and those I felt most comfortable with and most equipped to minister to.  Randy reminded me of another prophet, Nathan, who was a confidant of and prophet to King David.  "Matthew, for Nathan to speak prophetically to David, he had to be in the room with David.  Yes, its easier to stand on the street and shake your fist 'at the man', but someone has to be in the room with the Kings and Queens of the world reminding them of Christ's call to care for the poor.  So get in the room."

A year ago Randy left his role with IVCF and joined the faculty at Fresno Pacific University leading their Center for Community Transformation.  I was still serving as Mission Pastor at Living Hope in Memphis and upon hearing his pending transition I sent him this email...

Randy,

Later this morning I travel to Delhi India with a small team of pastors and leaders from Living Hope Church.  While in India we'll visit slums, learn about community development efforts there, we'll visit church plants and encourage their pastors.  We'll teach a few things, learn a few things.  As I lead this team of leaders, over the week I'll ask them to make note of signs of death and signs of life.  I'll ask them to consider what Scriptures, stories and Biblical themes might be relevant to a group of women, living in a slum and learning the trades of cosmetology and tailoring.  When we meet with church planters we will listen together as they share with us about their villages; listening for commonalities among them and listening for examples of good community exegesis.

Through it all we will reflect well - reflecting on what we saw, what we didn't see, what God was saying to us, what He said through us.  And we will do the hard work of contextualization asking ourselves what did we learn from our Indian brothers and sisters and how might we apply that learning in Memphis.  We'll wrestle with how to steward this experience on behalf of the poor and lost in our city and consider appropriate next steps in India.

Randy, the way I spend the next 10 days is deeply influenced by BGU and by you most specifically.  You have ruined me!  In the best, most meaningful sense.  I'm a better leader and pastor and missionary because of how God has used you and how you have been faithful to steward your experiences, scholarship and wisdom on behalf of the cities and the ministers of the world.  I thank you.  My family thanks you.  My church thanks you.  Memphis thanks you.  And this week, Delhi will thank you.

I'm so grateful for you my friend.  I'm proud of what you've done and tremendously excited about what awaits you at FPU.
Now go grab a well deserved glass of Merlot.
From one wine wench to another!

-watson

Randy and Tina have for decades rooted themselves in the poorest neighborhood in the country in downtown Fresno.  And from that spot they've shaped hundreds of Christian leaders and ministers.  Their finger prints are on the lives and life's work of a lesser cloud of witnesses who owe a great thanks to God for Randy White.  I'm honored to be among there number.  

Reader Comments (2)

Matthew, thank you for this very generous post. I have been encouraged on countless occasions by the decisions you and Lisa have made. I have learned so much from you all, and miss you terribly here on the left coast. May God continue to anoint your family for kingdom influence in this new arena.

October 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRandy White

Glad to hear you are doing well and keeping the faith.. God bless you and yours especially during the up coming Holiday Season..

November 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarc Marmolejo

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