Paul White - Assistant to Canon Andrew White

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Paul White '12 with Cannon Andrew White on Graduation Day.

For Paul White, class of 2012, life after Wheaton had an unexpected beginning. “We were down in the lobby and my family was giving me graduation gifts as they would have to leave directly after the ceremony the next day. We had just had a long, but fun day filled with various family activities and I know that I for one was getting pretty tired. So there we were just hanging out, talking, and taking pictures and the like, when in walks Canon Andrew White, our commencement speaker for the next day. I recognized him right away because he had spoken at Chapel for us before. He walked past where we were sitting and commented to me about my Wheaton College t-shirt that I had on. He asked me some questions about if I was graduating tomorrow, and I introduced him to my family. He then asked if I knew what I was going to be doing next year seeing as I was graduating the next day. I told him that I didn't know, and didn't have any plans. Then Canon White asked me what I studied at Wheaton. I told him that I studied History, and with some prompting from my mother, told him that I wanted to focus on Modern Middle Eastern History one day in Grad school. After telling me that he loved history as it is the foundation for all other fields of study, he then proceeded to ask if I wanted to come work for him in Baghdad! I was absolutely shocked and said that would be great! He said that he needed someone who could travel around with him all the time and be on his staff. I said I could definitely do that. After chatting with my family and I a bit more, he gave me his card and told me to e-mail him about the job,  shook my hand and said that it wasn't a maybe, but that he would definitely hire me if I wanted the job. He then left to go prepare and rest for our commencement ceremony the next day.

 Needless to say, my whole family and I were all shocked! There was somewhat of a stunned silence after he left. Here I was with no idea what I was going to be doing, and in a 10 minute conversation I was going to Baghdad, no application, no interview, just an offer. It was such a God moment. As soon as I got back to my room that night I e-mailed Canon White and told him that I was excited about this opportunity and that I definitely wanted to do it. He replied not too long afterwards and gave me his cell number and told me to call him the next day so that we could figure out some more details. When we talked the next day, he told me that he had been praying God would show him an assistant when at Wheaton, and when he walked into the lobby that night and saw me, God told him, ‘That's your man, that's the one you want.’ Canon White replied, ‘But he doesn't look like one of our fellows’ (at the time I had really long hair and a big beard). He then told me that I would have to cut my hair and shave in order to work there because he said that we meet with Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, Heads of State, and Terrorists. And that I couldn't really meet the leaders of the world looking like that. I figured my hair was a small price to pay for such an opportunity. Canon White’s commencement address was titled ‘Don't Take Care, Take Risks,’—an appropriate title for what I would be doing. He gave a great speech and inspired us all.”

Enjoying an Iraqi meal.Paul joined Canon White in August in New Jersey, and since then has traveled in England and Northern Ireland as a part of Canon White’s staff before arriving in Iraq a few days after a shooting spree rocked Baghdad and right before Muslim outrage erupted in the aftermath of the anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims,” made in the U.S September 2012.  Paul’s first month in Baghdad was the most deadly month Iraq had seen in the last two years. Yet, in this time of violence, Paul had many opportunities to accompany Canon White on missions of reconciliation. On his blog he wrote,

“I have also been fortunate enough to be present at some very important meetings already. We have had multiple meetings with various religious leaders, and some really good work is being done to combat religious extremism. I've also become aware of the fact that the best way for Christians to be protected here in the Middle East is to engage with Muslim leaders who can stop violence. A couple of years ago there were many attacks on Christians in Baghdad, after some meetings with an influential Sunni leader here, he talked to everyone he could to spread the word that it was not acceptable to kill Christians, and the violence for the most part stopped against the Christians in particular. This is very encouraging, because it shows the importance of building new relationships with religious leaders who can really affect the situation on the ground here…

Paul White '12 (right) talking with the Archdeacon for the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.Everything else here has been very interesting to say the least. Canon White is the chaplain at the US Embassy, so we go there every Saturday. To be honest it is a great comfort to be around so many Americans again, but it is very interesting talking to them. One of the men there, named David, who graduated from Wheaton actually, is really great. He and I have talked a lot and I have enjoyed meeting him. The other great thing about the Embassy is that we usually stay for a meal after the Anglican service. This is great because it is all American comfort food…It’s good for my missing American food binge once a week! The really interesting thing about the Embassy though, is that no one is allowed outside the green-zone unless they have a really, REALLY good reason to go. One man had been working there for 8 years and was never allowed out into Baghdad to see St. George's church. There is legitimate reason, as security risks are very real, but the most intriguing thing to me is how much the people I've talked to in the Embassy want to be able to see the city. They want to just have a fraction of the time I've had driving around, much less visiting families and going to a restaurant. It is really helping me to appreciate all the time I have in this city, when I remember that there are thousands of people here, who will never see it…

I invite everyone to check out Canon White’s website at http://frrme.org/ and read more about what the Foundation does, please add us to your prayer list as your prayers are appreciated.”

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