“Don’t take care, take risks.”
This advice, given by Wheaton College’s 153rd Commencement speaker Canon Andrew White during his address this past weekend, was taken seriously by May 2012 graduate Paul Davis White. Shortly after accepting his diploma from President Philip Ryken, Paul found himself accepting a job offer from Canon White (pictured above), and will travel to Iraq this August to intern with a canon who, according to his moving speech Sunday, has been “held at gunpoint, kidnapped, and thrown into cells with fingers and toes thrown around the room.”
“I’ll go wherever he goes,” Paul said yesterday. “I’ll meet whoever he meets, which will include prime ministers, kings, queens, heads of state, and terrorists.”
Saturday night, Paul was in the lobby of his parents’ hotel, opening graduation gifts and spending quality time with family when Canon White walked in and approached him, noting Paul’s Wheaton College t-shirt and mentioning the fact he would be speaking at commencement the following morning. One thing led to another, and Paul found himself explaining his passion for history, and more specifically, Modern Middle Eastern history, to the President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East – also known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” or, vicar of St. George’s Church, the biggest church in Iraq.
“He asked what I was doing next year, and I told him that I had no plans yet,” Paul said. “He then said that I should come work for him next year as his intern on staff. He said he needed someone who could travel around with him everywhere that he went. I said that sounded like a great opportunity, and then we kept talking a little longer about where I was from, what I had studied, etc…then, before he left, he shook my hand and said, ‘I will definitely hire you if you want to come.’ So, right after I got out of the graduation ceremony I saw him and we confirmed that I will go to work for him in August.”
Before Saturday night, Paul was a history major with plans to work on campus until August, and then, a big “?”. Now, come August, he will be leaving everything familiar for the chance of a lifetime – the opportunity to travel the world with one of the most influential church leaders in the world.
“He and I both believe that it was such a God thing,” Paul said. “He told me then that when he walked in the hotel that night and saw me, God told him that I was the man he was looking for, but then he said to God, ‘but he doesn’t look like our sort of fellow,’ (because of my long hair and big beard). But he still talked to me all the same.”
The main theme of the Canon’s message Sunday was to take risks. However, what’s more, is his encouragement to trust God with everything, because “you don’t know how the Lord will use you.”
“I had no plans to be in Baghdad as a pastor – I majored in surgery and anesthesiology,” White said in his commencement address Sunday. “This was the last thing I would have considered, but God had other ideas. You may be a teacher, a doctor, maybe even the president – just know that if you listen to the Almighty and take risks, you will never be disappointed. Today is a great day for all of you, but it’s only the beginning.”
For Paul Davis White, it is the beginning of what is sure to be an unforgettable international mission. For several hundred other Wheaton graduates (and thousands of other college graduates around the world), the world is their oyster, and Canon White encouraged them to pursue their dreams, paying heed to this verse from Joshua 1:9:
“BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. DO NOT BE AFRAID; DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED; FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.”
Wheaton College Class of 2012