Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Church planting is….

What a strange journey we've been on.  We left the comfort of a stable salary and now live every month by faith, just like Jesus' own disciples were called to do (Luke 10).  We live trusting that God will call our friends and family to provide enough money for us to do the work that God called us to do.  He called us to start a church in the Jackson Neighborhood.  A church for people who don't like church, a church of neighbors who would focus on three things:  Jesus, people, and place.  A church that started a small business to employ people in our neighborhood with barriers to employment, and started a non-profit that would meet our neighbourhood's specific needs, and a gathering that would meet weekly at Jackson Elementary to hear Jesus' incredible message as it relates to all of our lives in the Jackson Neighborhood. .    

We think the church needs to get entangled with the neighborhood. We think the church needs to love it local and invite imagination for how to announce Jesus' incredible message. We think church is about family and local community -- our church isn't above our neighborhood, we are a church of our neighborhood. We think the the church is the incarnate faithful presence of Jesus and called to demonstrate the gospel by serving the 923 homes of Jackson. And we think the church is called to dwell beside our neighbors because that's what Jesus did for us.

As a church we are going to focus on three things:  Jesus, people, and place.   And even before our launch (January 2016 @ Jackson Elementary) incredible things are happening in each of those areas.  We are hosting 3 parties in the neighborhood….because we love our neighborhood and enjoy spending time with neighbors.  We are currently renovating a dilapidated workshop in our neighborhood and turning it into a place where neighborhood teenagers could be paired with Christian mentors who are skilled woodworkers, welders, and artisans. Could those teens hear about Jesus and acquire skills that could be immediately transferable when they reach the age of employment?  Also, along with some neighbors we are in the process of buying an abandoned house and turning it into a house of hope for the neighbourhood - a place of Kingdom work and a statement that Jesus makes all things new….even ugly and abandoned things.  And our launch team is growing….in fact….6 of the team members have left their full-time jobs to become donor supported missionaries, like us.  They've been called to an unstable adventure, filled with certain struggle, persecution, temptation, and trial (Acts 14:22; John 16:33)….but they have been CALLED.  We understand that….we were called too.  But for them is a special provision:  Jeremiah 29:11.

We have an incredible life, an incredible job, an incredibly hard calling…but it's our JOY.  

And amidst all of this…we are still having fun!  Look below:   

Thanks for being a part of our lives!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Celebrating 10 years of marriage

These few days away have been a gift from God.  We've realized that we've never been away from all three of our kids, so the time to reflect, play, and sleep-in have been incredibly relaxing.   We've also never spent more than 100 dollars on any of our anniversaries....I suppose we've never felt the need to buy memories.  This year God used some friends of ours to invite us to splurge a we did. It has been incredible.  

We've realized (remembered) a few things while being away on this anniversary:

- We still don't love one another more than when we got married....but we do better understand the love we share. That's better. 
- We still don't love one another most in this life....that spot is reserved for Jesus.
- We still have a marriage characterized by mission. We are not driven to achieve wealth, or happiness, because our marriage serves a bigger purpose than what it can offers us. Our marriage is about together sacrificing and serving Jesus by aiming to make life-long followers of Him. 
- We still have a marriage characterized by friendship.  We've traveled the world, hiked and climbed all over North America and Canada, and so many more things...but we did them as friends.  
- We have a marriage characterized by substance.  We have deep friendships and people actually know "Joe and Heidi white".  We aren't people who take ourselves to seriously.  We admit our mistakes and failures to ourselves and others and hope that if we are made low, Jesus will be made high. 

...I could go on....but seriously, it's our anniversary....and I want to be with my girl. 

Thanks for all your support and love for us over the years! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

7 random pictures and one complete story

So how are you doing?…so many have asked.

I spend my weeks speaking about Jesus in front of every kind of group.  Here I am in the town of Avenal, a city just outside of Fresno.  

I asked someone there, "how many people are in your town", he replied, "14,000 but 7,000 live in the prison".  There I spoke about Jesus in front of a group of teens and 6 came up afterwards and wanted to talk more about following Jesus.  

We are learning to see Fresno with a new set of eyes…to see the way that beauty grows out of it's soil and up into it's long horizon.  

We are practicing faithful presence in our family…in the front yard and the backyard.  Many nights we have guests around our dinner table but sometimes it's just us…and that's OK. 

We are renovating an old workshop.  Hidden in one of the walls we found a beer bottle dated to 1892.  We are turning this workshop into a space where teens in the neighborhood can be paired with experienced mentors to learn job transferable skills -- woodworking, welding, auto mechanic, and artisan.  Most of our equipment is donated and it's going to be an incredible space. 

our kids are thriving

Our new Neighborhood Church intern has arrived.  He is living with us for 6 months doing design and marketing and learning how to leverage his gifts to love our neighborhood and serve our city.  

…and I keep talking about Jesus nearly every weekend all across the city --Sharing vision and telling the story the stories of Neighborhood Church in the Jackson Neighborhrood.

…it's going better than we ever thought it could.  Jesus is moving faster than we know how to keep up.  So many stories to tell….but not here -- Sign up for our newsletter if you haven't already:   

Thanks for loving and supporting our family as we plant Neighborhood Church.  We are on target to do a preview service in October and launch weekly at Jackson Elementary in January 2016 -- everyone we speak with loves the vision of - "a church for people who don't like church"…. a Church about Jesus, Neighbor, and Neighborhood.

Friday, April 10, 2015

An update: What's been going on with the White Family?

We are feeling more settled into our new life here in Fresno, California.  That's good. "Unsettled" feels like wearing clothes that don't fit.  We don't like that feeling.  We are still searching for our normal rhythms…especially for making time to play in the mountains, but that will come.   

Our kids are doing so well.  For those of you that read our blog that pray for our family….thank you!  We have been so thankful for the ways that they've discovered friendships, bonded together, and joined us in our life of ministry in the neighborhood.

Speaking of ministry…. it's been incredible (sign up for our newsletter at for stories and updates).  God could have sent us anywhere and he knew we would have said yes.  But he sent us to a place where we get to play on the same team as guys like this (seen below).  My dad has for decades been on the cutting edge of ministry in Fresno.  It feels like such a privilege to have been called to join the team of Jesus focused missional radicals seeking the shalom of Fresno.   

It's also been nice to find our rhythm of extended rest.  Once a month, instead of working six days and resting one, we rest two days.  This last month we went to the central coast to drink in some cool breeze and California sun.  

It's also been fun to preach here in Fresno.  Preaching the whole gospel is what I feel called to do, in fact, something I feel I have to do.  Jesus continues to encourage me by giving me opportunities to speak for Him across Fresno.    

It's also been fun to engage in our neighborhood.  Here I was able to talk about Jesus with a group of neighbours who gathered to celebrate Easter together.

…and yes, we still climb.  We currently have sinus infections and ear infections so we are totally out of commission….but you'll start seeing outdoor pictures soon :)  

Thanks for following our lives….sorry it's been a few weeks since we last updated our blog.  We will do better from here on out!

These are good days.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Palms and Prayers

As we walk through our neighborhood we see that our streets are lined with very tall Palm trees. Whenever I see them, I find myself praying, "Lord, raise up new Jesus followers to stand tall like these trees." For me, every palm is a prayer.

But Praying is easy….waiting is hard.

I love palm trees because Palm trees bend they don't break.  When I pray for new Jesus followers to rise up like those Palms, I am praying for durable Christ followers who won't break under the pressure of their culture to conform to its ideology, its morality, and its "wisdom."  I pray that they will face the storm and bend, like Jesus did as he washed his disciples feet... and not break, like Jesus did not break when confronted with death.  

Every palm is a prayer and I want God to answer my prayers.  Soon.    

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Lesson in Contentment

The picture is terrible….but the metaphor wasn't.

As I took a moment and watched the sheep graze on the edge of our city, Fresno…. I noticed how little they looked up.  Their contentment surprised me. A picture in my mind began to emerge.  I saw myself, a sheep, eating and unworried.  I noticed myself beginning to pray…."Jesus, these your sheep don't worry about anything.  But I worry about everything.  Lord, these sheep don't question the care of their shepherd because they see his grace in ever blade of grass abundantly provided.  But I question Your provision (stupid, I know, Lord) and some days feel blind to the daily bread you're providing."

God, keep teaching me how to be your sheep…..content and unworried under the care of my Shepherd.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I've found that when I grow more dependant on God...prayer gets easier.

But often, prayer doesn't feel "easy" or "natural" does it?  Behind the unease is often some measure of self-dependence.  Do we really need god to answer our prayers? ….probably not.  We'd figure it out.

Last year….was a challenging year for our family --  God unsettled in our sense of Call and then we watched Him undo every part of the life we loved…and depended on.  He had to teach us how to depend on Him…..our future Call would depend on that lesson.    

It's my discipline, once a month, to do a day of silence and solitude at a monastery.  Having now moved to California, I've wondered where I'll go.  My brother and I found nunnery close to Fresno and thought we'd check it out….(Dang. I now have that one Beyonce song, "all the single ladies….put your hands up..." in my head)

Song aside….. it was beautiful

there was a trail with prayer stations...

the sun was shining...

and my brother was there. 

There wasn't much silence or solitude this time…but there was prayer.
…..and it felt easy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stunned. Dream Bigger.

A successful urban farm in Detroit.
Six months ago, we felt the Lord impress a question into our hearts.  The question goes something like this:   

"Can we turn an abandoned property in the Jackson Neighborhood into an urban farm which can produce enough fruits and vegetables for 920 homes in the Jackson Neighborhood?" 

I've shared this question with many people over the last number of months with mixed responses.  We see many people's eyes glaze over because it sounds idealistic and unrealistic.  Others….especially non-Christians are intrigued that a Christian or a church would think that food insecurity and healthy eating are "spiritual" issues which merit a church's attention.

Yet, there have been some who have applauded, encouraged, and asked us to continue to press deeper into our question and seek solutions.  Some of these visionaries have even pledged to donate to the purchase of an abandoned property and another recently agreed to help us work out the correct zoning required.

And yet…sometimes we doubt.  Did God really put this question into our hearts?  Is this really a realistic dream?

It was in the midst of doubt that we had a conversation today with a neighbor who lives directly across the street.

"Hi! When did you move into the neighborhood?  She smiled and quickly responded, "Oh, a month ago."  We inquired further, "Why did you move here?"  She thought for a moment, her eyes glancing to the ceiling before returning to us, said, "It's strange, my partner and I are from Los Angeles but we felt compelled here."  It was that word, "compelled" that caught my attention.  "Are you Christians?" I asked.  "No" she said.  Our conversation changed to the topic of what compels us.  We shared our hope of turning an abandoned property into something that can feed and bless our neighborhood. We saw her eyes light up.  She said, "That's exactly what my partner is currently researching!  It's his passion and dream.  In fact, he is already working with some guys in Fresno who are doing it.  We should do dinner and talk more!"

We were stunned. They live right across the street.

…Blog readers.   Dream big dreams….because there may be someone out there who has dreamt your dream long before you and knows how to turn dreams into reality.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

We're in!

It was only our first day in the neighborhood.  We were moving furniture from our Uhaul to our house and at the threshold of our front door when we heard, "Howdy neighbor.  Your house looks great!"

We turned to see an elderly hispanic woman with a full smile welcoming us to the neighborhood from her car in the middle of the street. She must have been driving by and seen us moving in.

We yelled back, "Thank you!  What's your name?"  She replied enthusiastically, "Lana!".  We walked over to her car, now idling in the middle of the street outside our house.  I asked her, "Are you a Christian?"  I'm not really sure why I asked that….it just kinda came out.  She replied, "Yes!  Praise the Lord.  My husband is actually an evangelist.  He's not with an organization or something….he just tells people about Jesus all the time.  His name is Jose.  And crazy as it sounds, a strange thing happened 2 weeks ago.  We were being prayed for at Church and the person praying for us paused, and said, 'God is going to give you a Church'.  We don't know what this means….but we are waiting on God to find out."

Our hearts leaped.  We wanted to tell her our story….our whole story.   It's a story about how God interrupted our lives and asked us to adopt a specific neighborhood and seek it's wellbeing by planting a neighborhood focused church.  A Church that was going to preach Jesus and meet our neighbors practical needs.

We asked her to dinner, and soon, after we are unpacked, we will have Lana and Jose over for an evening of food, laughter, and story telling (they live just a few houses down the street).

As we parted ways, she raised her hands as if to wave and said, "I am so excited you are here.  Welcome to the neighborhood.  God wants you here".  It felt like a benediction.  God was welcoming us on our first day in 'the hood", and he was also commissioning us…."God wants you here", she said.

That was day 1.  I wonder what day 2 or 3 or 1000 will look like?

Stay tuned.


p.s. For all of you who love to keep up with our family….here is a picture of Elizabeth playing the piano.  She LOVES doing this  She sings and plays her own little songs.  Could this become a passion for our little 5 year old?  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Homes and Hearts

The front door of our house will be opened for us to move in our possessions this coming Tuesday.  Right now the house feels like a corpse….but soon we will give it a heart.

We are ready.  Ready to have rhythms again.  For us, daily rhythms are like blood in a body -- they bring life.  Our daily disciplines include sleep, coffee, scripture, prayer journaling, eating, reading, exercise, parenting, cleaning, playing, working, and ending the day with hospitality or fellowship.  It's these daily sacred tasks which give life to our family and fill our home with heart.

Right now….we have none of these rhythms…and we feel it.
And our kids feel it….they haven't slept well for the last 2 weeks.  

We are looking forward to filling our home with heart, because we know that rhythms are like blood to a body -- it makes it feel alive.

We can't wait to make our home alive for the neighborhood.  

p.s. if you'd like to receive our newsletter we will be posting stories and specific prayer requests that we won't be sharing on FB or through our blog.  Visit and watch us up-close make life-long followers of Jesus by planting a neighborhood focused church in Fresno.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A quick update on what's been going on

The Fresno Unified School District serves 90,000 meals a day.  They work hard to make them nutritious.  In fact 85% of their produce included in each meal comes from local sources!  We visited their facility to learn about the meals the kids in our neighborhood are eating.  

We also wanted to understand why the zip code we are living in has a lack of availability of fruits and vegetables in our local convenience stores and supermarkets.  

We got a private tour and saw all the food being prepared and packaged to be sent out to elementary schools across Fresno.  We wondered if Jackson was in there somewhere.  On the way home we said a prayer for all the kids in our neighbourhood who would be eating these meals that day.  We prayed, "Jesus, you fed 5000 hungry people in a day…and today you are feeding 90,000 kids across Fresno.  Thank you for loving our city."  

We are trying to listen to our city….to understand the forces at work within it.  We are learning that to love a city…you have to work to understand it.  Just like a relationship.  There isn't love without understanding. 

But here's a quick update: We plan on moving into our house early next week…something we are really excited about.  We have been meeting neighbors, sharing vision across the city, and trusting God for big things…

Big things like:  purchasing an abandoned property to turn into an urban farm that will provide access to free fruits and vegetables for the 920 homes of Jackson. 

Big things like:  Volunteer at the local elementary and begin to invest our lives into the heart beat of this neighborhood and starting an early childhood education program and tutoring club for little kids. 

Big things like:  Planting a spiritually vibrant neighborhood focused church that will start in our home and end up in a school -- a church that preaches Jesus and meets the practical needs of our neighborhood.

Thanks for following our journey, friends.  

Love you,

p.s. for our weekly blog readers…an update: we just got a check in the mail for the month of January.  Remember the story Joe tells of the the 5000….God did it!! Thank you cards are coming.  We love you.  Thank you for loving our family and taking care of us.  If you'd still like to support us, visit:  Your support will help us accomplish incredible things.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Sunday's are a bit of conundrum for our family.  We haven't moved fully into the neighbourhood yet….we are close….but still unpacking boxes, doing work on the inside, and still very much in transition  -- getting health insurance, car insurance, new drivers licences, etc.  Our whole lives we've attended a church service on Sunday mornings…but now what?  We have many churches we intend to visit over the next two months to connect with pastors who will help us understand the city.

But in the meantime….what do we do on Sundays?  For the last two weeks we have spent a couple hours praying through every block of our neighborhood (8 mi/ 12km), reading scripture, singing, and meeting some neighbors along the way.  It feels a little "hokey"….the voices in our head say, "really, a church is just going to emerge out of some prayer walks and conversations?"

But you see, it's because we have big vision that we have to pray.

Our big questions motivate our big vision.  Questions like:
1.  Can we empower a group of neighbors to purchase and turn an abandoned property into an urban farm which can produce fruits and vegetables for our entire neighborhood using aquaponics and hydroponics?

2.  Can our family show Christian hospitality to 350 families in the next six months and see the Lord grow a community of people who together seek the Shalom of our neighborhood through a vibrant Jesus centred, neighborhood focused Church?

3.  Can we serve Jackson elementary by starting an early childhood education program and after school tutoring program?

And so on Sundays we pray…and maybe soon, others with join us, and together we will believe God for big things in the Jackson neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A simple exchange

a typical California sunset.

Our neighbor said to us, "So, you've come here to start a church, huh? Where's your building?"
"We don't have a building," I said timidly. 

He seemed perplexed…and searched for a question he perceived wouldn't come across as dumb.  He asked, "So, what kind of church is it?"
"It's a church for people who don't like church!" Heidi said

He looked surprised.  It was like he had never considered churches were open to people who weren't Christians. 

He smiled, saying, "That sounds like my kinda church!  I think I'd like that."

There are 920 homes in the neighborhood and we are praying for every family they represent.  It's takes 8 miles (12 km) to walk every block of our neighborhood.  We pray for every home as we walk, run, or drive.   We are praying that that Jesus would assemble a group of people in the neighborhood to seek it's renewal and we are praying that Jesus would transform people's lives -- spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, relationally, physically, and economically. 

We want to be a neighborhood focused church that preaches Jesus and addresses our neighbors practical needs -- we'll start in a home and grow into a school.  We dream of church full of neighbors all working together to seek the renewal of the neighborhood and city we love -- Jesus focused, mission focused, Spirit led.  

Lord, build your neighborhood Church.

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