Andrew White is a favorite speaker at Wheaton College, and he was with us again last week. He is an Anglican priest whose parish is in downtown Baghdad. Yes, Iraq. He's affectionately called the "Vicar of Baghdad," and it's a rough job: In the past ten years, some 1,200 of his church members have been killed. When he travels on pastoral visits, he is accompanied by a couple truckloads of armed guards. Just in case.
I've heard Canon White address our students now three times. And in every case he ends the talk with his pastoral mantra. The students know it so well, they finish it before he can.
White tells how many times people caution him while he's in Iraq. They say "Take care." It annoys him; taking care is the last thing he wants to do. So he thunders to all 2,600 of our students, "Don't take care . . ." and they chime in: "Take risks." He currently has a Wheaton graduate as his personal assistant. One of my students, Sally, may join him this summer as an intern. Imagine telling your parents that your 2014–15 summer internship will be in Baghdad. "But don't worry—the church will supply armed men."
As I walked back to my office after another Canon White chapel, I began to think about risk-takers and how important they are to the vitality of the church, or any organization: a ministry, a college, perhaps any gathering that desires to have vision. We need risk-takers. Sometimes they're called prophets. Andrew White is both a risk-taker and a prophet. And like most biblical prophets, he lives large—and dangerously. He is quite happy to speak boldly and forthrightly about what he believes. He is not a cautious man.
It seems ...