Talking Neighborhoods with Joe White



Several weeks ago we spoke with Joe White, Pastor of Neighborhood Church in Fresno about his lifelong commitment to seeing neighborhoods improved in Fresno and how each of us can be part of that change.

Joe White

Neighborhood Church

Jackson Community Development Corporation

Lowell Neighborhood

Dickey Playground

Edison High School

Wise Old Owl

Vancouver

Granville Chapel Vancouver BC

Alta Vista Tract Fresno

National Main Street

Esther Carver-Lowell CDC

John Perkins

Hanford Thursday Night Market Place

Vision 22 Fresno

Paraclete Missionary Baptist Church

Paul’s Leadership Coaching Cohort

What’s on your mind?

Conspiracy Theories

Doing Household Projects

Andy Crouch

Gazebo Gardens

Transcript: Transcribed by AI, not 100% guaranteed accurate.

[00:00:00] Joe White: [00:00:00] I think it’s the responsibility that we have.  Fresno is, we all know it’s fifth poorest city in America.

[00:00:04]we have 22 of the highest concentrated poverty neighborhoods, , which makes, pushing big rocks up Hill,  very difficult.  and so , , the reality is we’re in such a desperate situation.  If you do have. resources available to you as I do.

[00:00:19] It’s not the time to sit in the stands. 

[00:00:21] Two Guys Liner: [00:00:21] podcast of two guys talking. Fresno are two guys are mr. Fresno, Craig Sharpton. I’m longtime radio talk show host, Paul swear, engine Paul and Craig talking Fresno on the two guys talking Fresno podcast. Now here’s Craig and Paul 

[00:00:37] Paul Swearengin: [00:00:37] and we’re zooming 

[00:00:38] Craig Scharton: [00:00:38] again. Yeah, I love it. 

[00:00:41] Paul Swearengin: [00:00:41] we are we’re properly social distancing, Ashley and I went and went grocery shopping.  I don’t know what the decorum is on this cause there was a dad and his sort of.

[00:00:51] You know, older teenage son, and as we’re coming down the aisle, they’ll be coming the other way. And we kept running into each other in that same way. And they didn’t know social distancing at [00:01:00] all. And they had no masks. And like, even with like reach over our cart to get some, I was like, actually, and I laid her, like I was low key, really bugged by this, you know?

[00:01:10] And didn’t know, I said, what is the decorum? When do we get to say, Hey, bud, back off with your, with your virus germs, my friend. 

[00:01:18] Craig Scharton: [00:01:18] Yeah, it was, I talked to a lady who was at the grocery store and, you know, after you’re done the, but you haven’t finished bagging, the checker started checking the next person and the other lady started coming and bagging right next to her and even grabbed a couple of her items.

[00:01:37] And she was 

[00:01:38] Joe White: [00:01:38] like, 

[00:01:38] Craig Scharton: [00:01:38] I just wasn’t going to kill her. And I had to like yell at the clerk and go, why would you start what with one birth or when the other person wasn’t done called the manager and everything else. 

[00:01:50] Paul Swearengin: [00:01:50] It’s the other skill we’re having to learn in this time is bagging our own groceries. So that’s, that’s another thing we’re going to come out of this with a lot of skills to zoom [00:02:00] skills, bagging our groceries, making masks.

[00:02:03] Craig Scharton: [00:02:03] My pepper spray handy.

[00:02:08]

[00:02:08] Paul Swearengin: [00:02:08] Alright. We have a great guest today on the show. This is going to be fun. It’s Joe White, who’s the lead pastor of neighborhood church. And he heads up the Jackson community development corporation. And, and there’s an all around great guy. So, Joe, how are you today? 

[00:02:22] Joe White: [00:02:22] Amazing. And I’m so glad to be talking to the two guys talking smack.

[00:02:26] No, the two guys talking Fresno, Fresno. 

[00:02:30] Craig Scharton: [00:02:30] I’m tying to smack about Fresno, but we live here so we can write. 

[00:02:35] Joe White: [00:02:35] I agree. 

[00:02:37] Paul Swearengin: [00:02:37] We can kid, because we love

[00:02:43] Joe. Your story is an amazing one as a, as a Fresno. I think because you had the chance to not be a Fresno and, and we always, we love boomerang stories as they’re called of young people that grow up in Fresno and leave and come back. But, so tell us, why did you [00:03:00] come back to Fresno after living in a great place like Vancouver, Canada?

[00:03:04] Joe White: [00:03:04] Right. And I won’t want to tell you that, but can I just back up one step before that Paul and I know, and I know the boomerang is the interesting part, but it’s actually the throwing of the boomerang, which, was most impactful. I grew up in the Lowell neighborhood, just North of downtown. I’m the soul, the soil of law.

[00:03:20] When I was growing up alone, neighborhood was Fresno’s highest crime, lowest income neighborhood. And, yeah. 

[00:03:25] Craig Scharton: [00:03:25] Yeah. Nine, nine, three, seven Oh one is still lowest. 

[00:03:28] Joe White: [00:03:28] Right. That makes you pull 

[00:03:30] Craig Scharton: [00:03:30] in other low income districts, mad. 

[00:03:32] Joe White: [00:03:32] Cause I know, well, you got to win at something. And my, my neighborhood, when I was growing up was it was, really a desperate place, multiple gangs battling for turf.

[00:03:41] And we were part of a group of families, about six families who decided collectively to live on each block of the neighborhood and just to seek the neighborhood’s wellbeing. And that was kind of the world that was. Tridion. And I just watched a lot of people work really hard to find the best that was in law and maximize it.

[00:03:58] Paul Swearengin: [00:03:58] You at that time. 

[00:03:59] Joe White: [00:03:59] Sorry to interrupt. But [00:04:00] that was a, I was seven. Yeah. So just a little boy 

[00:04:03] Paul Swearengin: [00:04:03] and you moved from Clovis, is that right? 

[00:04:05] Joe White: [00:04:05] Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. I was, I lived on a, on a, in a suburban neighborhood in Clovis, on, on a street called Ashcroft. There was like a more, you know, is everything a suburban neighborhood has a Mormon family and a golden retriever and a col-de-sac.

[00:04:17] It was all right there. And, that was, that was my world. And when I was. Thrust into the Lowell neighborhood. just as a young boy, it really, radically changed me. I saw a Fresno that I didn’t know really existed and that many people had forgotten about a square mile, six blocks running North to South divided by one block, run East to West 6,000 people and a high density and just a whole new world.

[00:04:41] My family moved into a hundred year old. The lap of David mansion, six bedrooms, six bathrooms. Each, each room was decorated in a different motif. It was used as a boarding house. My room was decorated like a sailor’s room. They had driven bolts in the side of the walls to make it look like a sailor ship.

[00:04:57] My parents’ room was a harem. They had taken [00:05:00] silk sheets and brought it up to a canopy in the middle to make it look like a harem. The downstairs bedroom was all black, black floor, black walls, black ceiling. What happens in a black room? I mean, it was a wild house, like a truly wild house. And, that was the house that, that I grew up in and, went to our local schools, kind of thrust into, into that world a few years after having moved.

[00:05:22] And, and so in many ways, my identity, I mean, I’m a Fresno kid. I’m a kid that grew up in Fresno. I’m a kid that grew up in the, in the Lowell neighborhood. All my memories were from people there, Dickey, playgrounds, where I learned by basketball, no blood, no foul. you know, this is the, the, the, the world that I went to Edison high school, not the competency program.

[00:05:41] That was for the smart kids. I just went to like a normal one, you know, where you like walk and then you go, you know, that was my world. And so, played basketball for Edison and something profound happened in kind of middle through high school. I hated my neighborhood. I hated how violent it was.

[00:05:57] I hated how it made me feel. [00:06:00] afraid all the time. I hated, the, the issues, which were constantly at our doorstep as a family, our family really like was a family. There was very little barrier between the neighborhood and our home. It was, it was like a one was the same, you know, 

[00:06:13] Craig Scharton: [00:06:13] you had wine in the house, right?

[00:06:16] Joe White: [00:06:16] Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:06:18] Craig Scharton: [00:06:18] Teaching neighborhood kids how to read. 

[00:06:19] Joe White: [00:06:19] Oh yeah. Yeah. My whole childhood few times a week. Yep. We had reading clubs and all sorts of clubs going on. it was very, very, I was a, I was a tutor, even though I didn’t know how to read, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s it’s I was in it, you know, we were in it to win it as a family.

[00:06:34] And for me, that was incredibly profound to watch what it looked like to actually live that way. But it was also exhausting. I just remember feeling, like many of my friends felt can’t wait to get out. You know, can’t wait to experience, experience something else. I mean, I think a lot of the friends that I had grown up, they didn’t look like me, but we lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same school.

[00:06:58] And our experience [00:07:00] was, you know, kind of chaotic and difficult, but I had the incredible privilege of having parents who had a bigger vision. And, and so I had the awareness that couldn’t get out, you know, and kind of could, it could explore. And so something profound had happened to me in high school.

[00:07:14] In high school, I stopped hating my neighborhood. And I started really feeling, bad for my friends. Many of whom went to the gangs and many of whom got addicted and just, you know, continued the cycles of poverty that we all know about. And I just watched that happen to many of my friends. I just started to hate it.

[00:07:30] I started to hate what it did to the people that I loved. so after high school, after having graduated barely, I went to okay, more than bear V I was a, B. A B is. Okay. after, after,

[00:07:46] after having graduated, I did a one year diploma in urban ministry. And part of the course curriculum was you had to sit on a Saturday and do these Saturday long seminars [00:08:00] in commune development and things like this that think things that my dad would be interested in. And I remember sitting in this classroom filled with people on a Saturday.

[00:08:08] I was probably 18 years old. And, something about what the teacher was saying was just resonating with me. Have you ever had that experience and somebody is teaching something and you’re like, Oh, gosh, like this, this is my stuff. This is who I am. And I remember this feeling and like, I actually started a week in the back of this classroom.

[00:08:28] Maybe it was because I grew up in a poor neighborhood and I wanted to see my neighborhood change. Maybe it was because I watched my parents do incredible work along with many others to actually see visible, tangible change, measurable change. I don’t know what it was, but something about it was speaking to me.

[00:08:42] And so I was so embarrassed. Everyone’s in there taking notes and I’m 18. I’m like, Weeping. And so I ran out of the class and it so happened that the class was next to an overpass under which highway 41 runs. And so I’m sitting there bawling my eyes out on this [00:09:00] overpass, watching cars, some running North to North Fresno, the rich part of him, and some running South to South Fresno, the poor part of town where I’m from.

[00:09:08] And I will this with you is I is I can possibly be for the first time of my life. And this has never happened to me since. For the first time in my life, I heard God speak to me. I heard God say, Joe, are you gonna serve me in the North? Or are you going to serve me in the South? Now? What was so cool about his invitation?

[00:09:28] Is that it wasn’t one was better than the other. It was where are you going to do it? Where are you gonna serve me? Is it going to be in the North or is it going to be in the snap and my friends? I remember what I did that day. I was 18 years. In fact, the stills, I tell the story, I can get the goosebumps on my arm.

[00:09:43] I remember turning towards downtown, looking up at heaven. Cause that’s where I thought heaven was. At that point, I look up and having a yelled at the top of my lungs. I will go South. And then I wiped the tears from my eyes. And went back in the [00:10:00] class and continued setting about a year later, God, I believe would call me as far North as possible to Canada.

[00:10:11] So I had made a decision to go South. I thought my life was going to be about serving vulnerable people and vulnerable places. In fact, I even got hired at a local nonprofit, called hope now for youth, that was a vocational placement counselor helped young men ages 16 to 24 with gang affiliations or criminal records dropped out of school.

[00:10:30] My job was the recruiter. I would find those guys on the streets of our city and then get them in the program at job, train them and launch them into full time jobs. I did that for four years full time, and all of a sudden I made that decision. So to go South. And some short while later, I was heading North and not just anywhere North, I went to Canada as far North, as you can go.

[00:10:51] And not just anywhere Northern Canada, I went to Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the nicest cities in the world. 

[00:10:56] Craig Scharton: [00:10:56] No, no, no. In many years it [00:11:00] is voted as the Knights. I don’t think it has been out of the top 

[00:11:07] Joe White: [00:11:07] three in. 15 to 20 years. It’s insane. It’s truly 

[00:11:15] Craig Scharton: [00:11:15] a nice city. I just want to be clear the international surveys quite often as at the top in the world.

[00:11:25] Joe White: [00:11:25] It’s so true. And not just anywhere in the nicest city in the world, I moved to kits beach, which if you’ve been to Vancouver, kids beach, The nicest neighborhood in the night to see in, in the world. And it’s literally any more North you’re in the water. I lived on the beach. I literally lived on the beach half, half a block from the beach was from a ski Hill in the nicest city in the world.

[00:11:48] Yeah. I could see it from my window, my window overlooked grass mountain. 

[00:11:55] Paul Swearengin: [00:11:55] That’s funny. So that’s a quote, Cuba Gooding jr. And Jerry Maguire. [00:12:00] That’s another way to go. So you, you, you, you didn’t go South. You went as far North, as you could go both physically and mentally and spiritually. 

[00:12:09] Joe White: [00:12:09] If you know the book of Jonah, it’s a little bit like going in the opposite direction.

[00:12:15] Paul Swearengin: [00:12:15] Well, that’s great. Well, so what took you up there? You got a job up there? 

[00:12:20] Joe White: [00:12:20] I did originally it was to go to school. I never, at that time, I felt like nonprofit was the only way to go. I, you know, you could do more than a nonprofit then I believe you could ever do an, a church. It was like, forget that. No, we’re working for a church overworked under prayed church politics.

[00:12:34] I get more done in the nonprofit world. And so that, that was my mentality, but I went to a, to seminary, you know, my master’s degree at a seminary in Vancouver and instantly got connected to a great church. And, I ended up working for that church for 10 years. But what was unique about that church was that it was a lot of rich people.

[00:12:55]that was not the world I grew up in my, I am the soil of LOL, the rich people [00:13:00] that I knew. Was that, you know, it wasn’t, it wasn’t like the wealth that we see in a place like Vancouver. I mean, it, wasn’t uncommon to see sports cars rolling up to the church on a, on a Sunday, you know, it’s, it, wasn’t uncommon to see most of the kids in the youth group going to Ivy league schools.

[00:13:17] Like that was pretty common actually. and so it really was like a, a true culture shock. I remember when I first moved and got hired, I called my dad. Who? I think he just, Paul had on in Craig just had on the podcast. I, I remember calling him and I was like, dad, I can’t handle these people. He said, what do you mean these people?

[00:13:38] I said, they’re also put together and they’re also wealthy. I feel like I’m going to start wearing Brooks brothers suits pretty soon up here. If I stay here, I never ended up wearing Brooks brothers suits, but that would have been nice. Cause those are really expensive. but I, I did find that, that it was a real culture shock for me, a, a local neighborhood kid, right.

[00:13:59] Thrown into the [00:14:00] world of wealth and power, and prestige and status. Those are all things that were very important to a Vancouver. Right. And on top of it, all the icing on the cake was workaholism. the harder you work. The more Valerie you have in the community. And so those were all things that I didn’t, I didn’t know much about

[00:14:23] Craig Scharton: [00:14:23] how long did you stay up there? 

[00:14:25] Joe White: [00:14:25] We were there for 10 years. 

[00:14:27] Craig Scharton: [00:14:27] Oh, wow. So you really just fly by, you know, pretty deeply 

[00:14:32] Joe White: [00:14:32] we did. And you know, part, part of the reality is I think for us, it was like it’s, the, the allure of comfort. And, being at ease strong, it’s really strong, being around, being around folks who are mostly all educated.

[00:14:49] You know, if, if, if you had to put a category around me, you’d say he grew up with two parents, grew up in a home that had vision grew up with [00:15:00] all sorts of privilege, education well and so forth. and you kind of put all that stuff in a box. None of that fit well in the context of, of. the loan, the loan neighborhood.

[00:15:11] In fact, it was out of place. and so as a, as a kid, we were taught to, to, to squeeze our privilege on behalf of others, steer it in the right direction. Literally use it as a tool to serve that’s it not as a tool, not as a ladder, a rung to be stepped on, never use it that way. Always to serve. That’s what I was taught, but, but it never fit well in context of law.

[00:15:35] But when we moved to Vancouver, With my new wife and we started having kids up there, all that privilege fit right in like a puzzle piece, right into a big old matrix of other people that had all the same privilege and more. And so the, the allure of comfort in the Alora status, the allure of space and kind of the beauty of a place, very attractive to us.

[00:15:56] And so thankfully I come from the family that I came from. [00:16:00] And, I didn’t leave that at the door. When I moved to Vancouver, I never got comfortable. I don’t think, I think I can say that. we, we actually tried to steer our church towards being a church that cared about vulnerable people. And over the course of 10 years, that’s exactly what that church is today.

[00:16:15] In fact, that church, if, if there’s any church of Vancouver, Granville chapel, shout out to them, that church serves honorable people left. I mean, that’s all they do. Th th it’s the only reason they exist is to serve their city and serve vulnerable people. That’s it? And it’s a church of wealthy people.

[00:16:29] That’s all, they are as wealthy people who have it together and have status and privilege, and they found a way to leak it, squeeze it on behalf of their city’s most vulnerable. And so, 

[00:16:38] Craig Scharton: [00:16:38] Maybe that’s your say is that that’s a area where there were a lot of homeless people over by gas, down 

[00:16:44] Joe White: [00:16:44] the downtown East side.

[00:16:45] Yeah. We used to do a lot of work on the downtown East side. In fact, my wife actually worked there for a long period of time with union gospel mission, which is like a rescue mission. She worked, right there on the downtown East side for many years. 

[00:16:56] Craig Scharton: [00:16:56] Yeah, they’re all kind of congregate. All the services are kind of congregated [00:17:00] in one area.

[00:17:01] Joe White: [00:17:01] And I remember, 

[00:17:02]Craig Scharton: [00:17:02] so I rented a, LA apartment loft in one of the downtown Vancouver places for like a week or. 

[00:17:11] Joe White: [00:17:11] Oh, yeah, here’s 

[00:17:12] Craig Scharton: [00:17:12] something. And we face in grouse mountain and the guy that I rented it from, he was like, everything is great. Except if you cross the street, it’s gonna, you don’t want to do 

[00:17:22] Joe White: [00:17:22] that.

[00:17:28] Craig Scharton: [00:17:28] Yeah, that’s cute. But I tell you, when you cross that street, it gets pretty, real, pretty damn fast. I can’t remember what street it was, but all of a sudden I’m there with my ex wife and a son and his girlfriend now wife, and, Like we hadn’t crossed the street and there were like four people trying to sell us drugs with my kids.

[00:17:50] Right. 

[00:17:51] Joe White: [00:17:51] Like, yeah. You’re a little 

[00:17:53] Craig Scharton: [00:17:53] bit Corum, you know, like 

[00:17:54] Joe White: [00:17:54] I think it’s like 50%, I think 50% of every [00:18:00] person, you have to fact check this for those who are listening, but I’m pretty sure 50% of every single person you see on the downtown East side has a mental illness. And so, it’s actually visually stimulating, right?

[00:18:11] Because you, you know, one out of every two people are literally doing. I think erratic. and it’s not just, you know, the booze or whatever, but it’s, it’s literally like people are, you know, having seizures and, in episodes 

[00:18:24] Craig Scharton: [00:18:24] for people that are sensitive to those things, it is a real energy change. Like, Oh 

[00:18:29] my 

[00:18:29] Joe White: [00:18:29] goodness.

[00:18:30] Craig Scharton: [00:18:30] I think that’s what shocking is. Usually you get a couple of, you know, like San Francisco, you. I bought a good block and a mediocre block, and then a couple 

[00:18:39] Joe White: [00:18:39] blocks later, a little rough, 

[00:18:42]Craig Scharton: [00:18:42] not in that. It was like, but they have a containment strategy where all the services are in one place. 

[00:18:48] Joe White: [00:18:48] So 

[00:18:50] Craig Scharton: [00:18:50] it is like LA skid row, but not nearly that bad.

[00:18:54] Joe White: [00:18:54] So Vancouver for me, you know, was this kind of, period in our lives where I [00:19:00] had to figure out how to speak to wealthy people. and it’s different because in, in Fresno, the, the kind of language of Fresno, the language of, service towards vulnerable people in Fresno doesn’t sound the same. when talking to wealthy people, like I would never ask my neighbors to.

[00:19:21] Squeeze their privilege. We’ve been using that phrase in the last few minutes here to squeeze their privilege on behalf of those who are most vulnerable among them. That, that wouldn’t be like, what we’d, what we’d say here. Right. but, but it is in, in the language of, of Vancouver, the only way to get.

[00:19:37] Into the minds, the psychology of a business owner of somebody who has an amazing mansion at kit’s beach. somebody that has an amazing retirement plan. I mean, the only way to get into the mindset of someone like that is to say, how can you use your life, literally leverage your life to do, to do something good.

[00:19:56] And, and so I had to learn how to speak that way for a bunch of years for [00:20:00] about three or four years. When we first moved, I was terrible at it. And most, and most people, I would say, just loved my stories about poverty and loved my store. You know, like the poverty tourists. Tell me another one.

[00:20:12] Joke. Tell me another one. 

[00:20:15] Craig Scharton: [00:20:15] I would tell them about the police helicopter search 

[00:20:18] Joe White: [00:20:18] and all of that, like, 

[00:20:21] Paul Swearengin: [00:20:21] Oh, you’re so funny. 

[00:20:23] Joe White: [00:20:23] Right?

[00:20:27] Craig Scharton: [00:20:27] And it would shine through my window and my pregnant. Wife would be up there and they’re like, Oh, you are, you can 

[00:20:33] Paul Swearengin: [00:20:33] tell a tale. 

[00:20:34] Joe White: [00:20:34] Yeah. So for the first few years I could get beyond just the stories. I mean, they just, you know, the, the disconnected Vancouverite who that wasn’t their world, couldn’t, you know, couldn’t, couldn’t, place that for themselves.

[00:20:48] And it would mostly result in people going like this. I’m glad someone’s doing it. Glad someone’s doing it. Good job. Big, big thumbs up. Well done. Well done. Glad you’re doing that. That’s really important. Good work. [00:21:00] Right. But, but to take the next step to actually leverage people’s assets on behalf of, their, their community, that’s a whole other process.

[00:21:07] Craig Scharton: [00:21:07] And then we try to leverage assets. So that’s one of the ones you learned. 

[00:21:11] Joe White: [00:21:11] Yeah. Leveraging 

[00:21:12] Craig Scharton: [00:21:12] a return on investment, a lot 

[00:21:14] Joe White: [00:21:14] ROI. That’s all about the baby baby. So for a good seven, seven years, that was really the strategy. How do you take people that are disconnected from their city and help them to see it, helping to see what’s there?

[00:21:29] To see its vulnerability. We actually began to realize that Vancouver was a socially isolated and disconnected place, that the issues of poverty that I saw every day as a little kid lived out, lived on my sidewalks, but those same issues lived inside of their big mansions, alcoholism. And my front sidewalk was the same kind of alcoholism that was behind closed doors in Vancouver.

[00:21:53] Right? that the pocket a little better. It just tastes a little bit better and it’s a little bit easier to hide my brother and I call it [00:22:00] pain with property and, and that’s really what it is. It’s, it’s, being able to kind of insulate your pain with all the stuff that you’ve got in your life to keep a distance from people.

[00:22:11] And that’s the Vancouver story. And so for seven years, we began to speak to that pain, and learn how to do that in a way that mobilizes people. And I’ll tell you, in, in 2000. This is the long lead up to your answer to your question. And Paul, I haven’t forgotten. How did you come back to Fresno? So for the listener, it all led to this.

[00:22:33] And in, in 2013, I had a profound experience. if I could just tell a short story, would you mind, December of 2013, I’m sitting in front of our church about to get up and speak and. For the second time of my life. Something very strange happened to me. I daydream all day long. I daydream my mind wanders.

[00:22:56] I think about the laundry, even in church. What do I have to do today? Am I gonna do about that? Oh yeah. [00:23:00] Supposed to be singing right now. We’re supposed to be singing the aliasing Saint saying, what am I supposed to do after this? You know, my mind wanders and I’m sitting in the front row and my mind wandered and my mind wandered to a question.

[00:23:09] The question was, are you still called to this? And in my mind, I said, yeah, I love this. And then I went up on the stage, spoke, got off, nailed it. And then on the way home coming home and still finding myself thinking about the question and that question paralyzed me for three days. I just couldn’t stop thinking about, am I still called to this mr.

[00:23:29] Call to this? And then all of a sudden, after three days, I’m starting to get bothered. So I. Called my mentors. I’m a really big believer in mentoring and a, I have a bunch of coaches in my life who coach me and I called these guys like, Hey, is this a transition moment for me? What do you think? I’ve been kind of thinking about this question.

[00:23:46] They said, we have no idea. Here’s what we want you to do. We want you to write a personal bio. So what’s that? They said a personal bio is what you would say. If you sat down in front of Craig Chardan and you had never met him before, and [00:24:00] you had to describe to him. In very clear terms who you think that you are, what would you say.

[00:24:06] Now you can’t say everything could crate don’t care and it’s going to be way too long. So what’s the one, two or three things. 

[00:24:12] Craig Scharton: [00:24:12] Mind also wanders.

[00:24:17] Joe White: [00:24:17] So what are the ones who are three things at the core? This is who you are. I was like, that’s an interesting task. So I wrote that down and I handed it to all my friends and family sent it to him on the email. What do you guys think? Is this me? Would you add anything or take something out? And a hundred percent of the people I sent it to got it back.

[00:24:35] I got back from and they said, no, we would change nothing. This is who you are. Well, I looked at that list of stuff and I looked at what I was doing in Vancouver and I thought, perfect. I’m doing exactly what I’m made to do. And yet there was this feeling inside my life of discontent and it’s like, I couldn’t shake it.

[00:24:55] It was like a bad COVID-19. Oh, that was okay too, too soon, too [00:25:00] soon, too soon on the COVID-19 jokes. But the point is, it was just something I couldn’t shake. I couldn’t shake it that inaugurated a year of exploring. And I could tell you a bunch of stories if you’re interested, but what, what it was resulted in was a clear, calling to the Jackson neighborhood.

[00:25:20] Jackson neighborhood is in Fresno, just Southeast of downtown. If you’re listening and you’re from Fresno, it’s from first to Cedar and to Larry, which runs East to West to Ventura. So it’s, it’s eight blocks by 12 blocks and it’s 923 homes. We see our neighborhood like a geographical area of responsibility.

[00:25:41] So the issues are. political, spiritual, relational, whatever. we just invest ourselves in those issues and this became our obsession. It became our, it became our calling. And in 2015, January, 2015, we moved back from Vancouver, to, to Fresno to seek the [00:26:00] wellbeing of Jackson 

[00:26:02] Paul Swearengin: [00:26:02] while that’s an adventure 

[00:26:06] Joe White: [00:26:06] truly.

[00:26:08] How’s Jackson. Jackson’s great. yeah, no, it’s good. It’s a, it’s an interesting neighborhood. it’s an amazing neighborhood actually. I mean, it’s, for those of you who may not know who are listening, it’s one of Fresno’s most historic neighborhoods. You have Huntington Boulevard running right down the middle.

[00:26:23] Huntington used to have a trolley that would literally take you from your home a hundred years ago. Take your ride into downtown. So you could do your work. Get you right back on the trolley and drive you right back home. That was all alfalfa fields. People loved it because they could hunt quail and build their mansions.

[00:26:39] It had a part of something called the Alta Vista track. So it had water accessibility and people planted trees that they knew it exists in a hundred years. In fact, today where I’m sitting right now, I’m looking at a, a Mexican fan Palm, which is a hundred feet tall. Somebody planted a seed. And then believe that every year it would grow about a foot a year.

[00:26:59] That’s all they [00:27:00] do about a foot, the foot a year. And then they top out between 90 to a hundred feet. These things are amazing. They, they bend when the wind blows through our neighborhood. If it doesn’t Fresno, sometimes these things bend over the neighborhood at 40 degrees. And what I love is they bend, but they don’t break.

[00:27:13] So for me, they’re a symbol of people in our neighborhood. Who’ve had to endure incredible pressures. Over the last hundred years, but they’re not to be pitied or some buddy’s charity project. These, my neighbors are the most durable neighbors in Fresno and, it feels like such a privilege to be able to look at 573 trees have counted them actually, to look at 573 trees and.

[00:27:35] I think those, those are good examples of the kind of neighbors that we have. So it’s a neighborhood that was devastated, by social inequality equality. my home, for example, has what’s called a racial covenant, built into it. This is Fresno story, like many cities across, across the nation. My, the title of my house says this house may never be sold to an Armenian Chinese or black, and many of the homes.

[00:27:59] Those are the older homes [00:28:00] in our neighborhood, have that racial covenant built into them. And that was legal according to the Supreme court until 1968. Right. 

[00:28:09] Craig Scharton: [00:28:09] We’ve been through in North Fresno. 

[00:28:11] Joe White: [00:28:11] Wow. 

[00:28:11] Craig Scharton: [00:28:11] A lot of the, subdivisions that were built up until then had that covenant, but it is not unique to Fresno.

[00:28:18] Joe White: [00:28:18] I 

[00:28:19] Craig Scharton: [00:28:19] hear some people in Fresno blaming our entire city’s problems on that. And, that was a national thing. In fact, we might’ve had much less of it than a lot of the Eastern cities had. but still a sign. Yeah. When you look at those covenants, we have a council member that was Armenian, who. Wanting to somehow get that stricken from everything.

[00:28:45] And it’s just an impossible feat to do. but you know what, so the court took care of it, right? You just didn’t want to see it there. And, I understand that, but it also sometimes good to have reminders of. 

[00:29:02] [00:29:00] Joe White: [00:29:02] Well, I think it speaks to the narrative of the Jackson neighborhood because still to this day, Jackson is socioeconomically divided.

[00:29:09]you, you really do have a, you know, Huntington and Kirkoff, are relatively middle-class. And even in some cases, upper middle class, and then you have bulge plat, mono Varu, all of which are incredibly vulnerable and desperate, many. Migrant farm workers. 71% of our neighbors don’t have a high school education.

[00:29:27] I mean, just think about that at 26 average income in our neighbor, and this includes Kirkoff and Huntington average income is $26,000 a year annually. Right? That’s that’s including our wealthy streets, right? So you have incredibly wealthy and incredibly. Horrible, literally side by side. And to me, in some ways it’s a little bit like you took Lowell neighborhood and you took Kitts beach and you smashed them into one place.

[00:29:58] And so in some ways 

[00:30:00] [00:30:00] Craig Scharton: [00:30:00] you think about Bolton and, and van ness. So if those were two, still intact streets with two, two way traffic, and hadn’t been rezoned CSX, which is the same zoning as a convenience store, and allowed all of those houses to be converted into. 

[00:30:22] Joe White: [00:30:22] Boarding houses. 

[00:30:23] Craig Scharton: [00:30:23] That is what we would have had in LOL.

[00:30:25] We would have had very wealthy, people historically living on, Fulton and, van ness. And then it migrated into smaller houses and more mixed income 

[00:30:38] Joe White: [00:30:38] streets. Right, right. As 

[00:30:40] Craig Scharton: [00:30:40] our bad planning destroyed the. Unfortunately the cohesion of those two streets. And so then they became worse than the neighborhood with all of the problems and boarding houses, all consolidated into one place.

[00:30:57] Paul Swearengin: [00:30:57] What I was going to [00:31:00] jump in and say, what is the, what’s the goal? You know, I’m looking at you guys, two families that moved into the Lowell neighborhood. Craig still lived there. Now you’re in the Jackson neighborhood. When a family like yours, Joe moves into the little neighborhood with some other families who did it strategically sort of what is the goal?

[00:31:20] What is, what is, because I know gentrification, you don’t want to just have a bunch of white people move in and, and kick everybody else out. So kind of what is the mindset and the goal of that process? 

[00:31:31] Joe White: [00:31:31] Thankfully in a neighborhood like Lowell, which has 6,000 folks, in a neighborhood like Jackson, 3,300 folks, the amount of people that it would take to displace.

[00:31:40] I mean, we have 19 vacant lots in our neighborhoods today. So, 

[00:31:43] Paul Swearengin: [00:31:43] I’m really impressed by the way that you know, how many houses and how many trees and how many vacant lots in your neighborhood. I don’t know if there’s many of us that know that 

[00:31:52] Joe White: [00:31:52] it’s truly a sickness. I mean, if there’s anything I nerd about.

[00:31:56] It’s it’s the Jackson neighborhood. I mean like [00:32:00] literally, and this is no exaggeration and I’m even shamed to say it the other day. I counted of streetlights on every block in the neighborhood, just because I was curious. And if you’re wondering there’s 183 on Kirkoff, so, you know, take it or leave it. But, the truth is, is that in a neighborhood like ours animal they’re there not only is enough space, but, For four people and it would take, it would take a drastic amount of people, first of all, to, to really displace people.

[00:32:26] Okay. So that’s like in terms of ratios, right? So like in law right now, they’re like what 40 families or something like this, they’re living there intentionally among 6,000 neighbors, right? Like not even, not even a fraction and same, same thing. 

[00:32:40] Craig Scharton: [00:32:40] I don’t know of any gentrification that’s happened in any Valley town.

[00:32:46] Joe White: [00:32:46] Right. 

[00:32:46]Craig Scharton: [00:32:46] including up to Sacramento, of the sort that you see in an Oakland or, or, or other coastal city or Brooklyn or the Bronx or something like that. And I, I, a lot of times think that, [00:33:00] are, are a bleeding heart, liberal, friends of which we have many. 

[00:33:06] Joe White: [00:33:06] That 

[00:33:07] Craig Scharton: [00:33:07] they almost want to have the same kinds of problems as those other plants legitimacy, like, you know, and I’d always have these young people go back to the CDC conference and come back and they’re just like gentlemen and I’m like, quantify it first.

[00:33:26] I define it for me. And they could never define it. And it was always some obscure reference to rich people moving in and poor people. And then I’d say, how do we measure it? And then tell me where it’s happened because I have yet to see it. Now I have seen. You know, maybe property values go up or, rents go up.

[00:33:51] But I don’t know that they’re going up disproportionately to other places. 

[00:33:55] Joe White: [00:33:55] Right. 

[00:33:56] Craig Scharton: [00:33:56] So the rents went up 14% and [00:34:00] Jack, I want to go. Okay. So, what did they do 

[00:34:03] Joe White: [00:34:03] everywhere else? Yeah. 

[00:34:04] Craig Scharton: [00:34:04] Oh, well, they went up 18% in North Fresno, right? I that’s not gentrification. Right, right. But, 

[00:34:13] Joe White: [00:34:13] you know, we haven’t, we, we, you know, we have this belief that in, you know, the, the truth is I could spend my life breathing into the wind about the ills of gentrification, and it would still happen and it would still happen.

[00:34:26] So, so I have a choice to make, I can breathe into the wind, how he. It’s that it, it hurts certain ethnicities, more disproportionately hurts certain ethnicities, more, it hurts blacks more than it hurts whites. So on and so forth. You can make those arguments and do it. And you can totally like legit, like with data.

[00:34:46] Here’s the problem. Not only will it still happen, but it’s going to, but, but number two, I’m going to change anything. So for me, what we’ve said, we’ve decided to do on the Jackson neighbors say, how could we, how could we do gentrification with [00:35:00] justice? How can we help to be a part of the market and get neighbors into the market now so that when a rising tide raises boats, every the benefits.

[00:35:11] So for example, we work with investors. Neighbor, church works with investors to buy properties in the Jackson neighborhood and we rent them. In the Jackson neighborhood who would like to own that home one day and they’re gaining equity in the market wall are going up, right? These are just some of the little tiny contributions that we’re trying to make in a place like Jackson.

[00:35:33] And the truth is, is that. Whether gentrification happens in a ugly way or not the point of all of this. Paul, I think back to your question, the point of all this is our neighborhood. We believe has everything it needs inside of it already. To solve our problems. And so if we could just imagine this, if we, you and us meet me, Paul and Craig decide to get on a spaceship together [00:36:00] and hover above the Jackson neighborhood.

[00:36:02] What we imagine is seeing eight blocks by 12 blocks and everything’s dark. Right. And then all of a sudden, maybe on Kirk, off on third, you’d see a little light pop up. That’s John, Heidi, and then you see another light pop up. That’s a Maria and her family. They run a tamale business. And then, you know, at Baldwin seventh, you see another family and all of a sudden you’d see these disconnected lights.

[00:36:23] Those speak to the neighbors and our neighborhood. Who’ve got something to offer. I feel like my principal will job is just to bring those people together to shine in the same direction, because the truth is, is that’s the difference between a lamp and a lighthouse. A lamp has one little light trend to do everyone everywhere and a lighthouse.

[00:36:42] This is when you get a bunch of those tiny little bulbs, all pointing together. That’s what makes a lighthouse so powerful. And our job is simply the conductor of that experience. It’s it’s saying, how can we, what, what mechanisms would we need to create and innovate to point people together in the same direction [00:37:00] to solve collectively the problems that we experienced collectively, because we all live here.

[00:37:04] That’s really the main point of all this fall. 

[00:37:08] Craig Scharton: [00:37:08] And that’s how the national main street program ran and, and it is on arguably I would, I would be happy to argue, but the best revitalization, effort that we’ve ever had in the country, in fact, that success was its downfall. because other people were jealous of it, but statistically it was 2,500 districts in downtown across the.

[00:37:33] Across the country downtowns across the country, all revitalizing at the same time, using the same basic framework and, and capturing all of their data points together. 

[00:37:45] Joe White: [00:37:45] And 

[00:37:45] Craig Scharton: [00:37:45] every district. Had to have a main street 

[00:37:49] Joe White: [00:37:49] director, 

[00:37:50] but 

[00:37:50] Craig Scharton: [00:37:50] that director didn’t come in and do revitalization. They coordinated the resources that would allow revitalization to happen.

[00:38:00] [00:38:00] And that, that difference was really big, but we would go into, a district or a neighborhood and they’d say, well, we don’t have anything and I’d go, well, your goal is to 

[00:38:09] coordinate. 

[00:38:10]Craig Scharton: [00:38:10] government, business nonprofits and the faith community. Can you coordinate those four things? And they’d be like, well, I think so.

[00:38:19] And I go, Oh no, I forgot education. And they’re like, yeah. Okay. Well, we’ll coordinate that. She was like, we’re going to be kind of busy. I go, I didn’t think you had any resources and they’d go. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We don’t have anything. I go, okay. So now remember with government, you’ve got federal 

[00:38:35] Joe White: [00:38:35] state County.

[00:38:37]

[00:38:37] Craig Scharton: [00:38:37] city, you know, quasi workforce board, you know, all of these nonprofits. You’ve got these 47. 

[00:38:45] Joe White: [00:38:45] Oh, I forgot media. 

[00:38:46] Craig Scharton: [00:38:46] Oh, you’ve got TV, radio print. Oh yeah. with churches. How many churches? Oh, well we’ve got 19 different face center. Oh, so. You’re coordinating 2,500 different [00:39:00] resources and you don’t have enough and your community.

[00:39:03] What you have is all those lights you’re talking about that are all 

[00:39:06] Joe White: [00:39:06] separate. 

[00:39:07] Craig Scharton: [00:39:07] And if you somehow try to get those others to work together, you have a more than a full time job, but the result will never take off until you get those working together. 

[00:39:17] Joe White: [00:39:17] And then it’s 

[00:39:18] Craig Scharton: [00:39:18] exponentially powerful. 

[00:39:20] Joe White: [00:39:20] Yeah. And what we’ve seen in the Jackson neighborhood.

[00:39:23] So we’ve only been here, really working, working pretty hard since 2015, but you know, we, our, our last association meeting, which we have every month over 50 neighbors come regularly to our association meeting. I mean, we have the finest association in Fresno. I put that against the low CDC, Esther, Carver eat bad, you know, so right.

[00:39:41] I mean, in words, those are probably the words. So we began to think, you know, as a, as a church, we, we obviously started a church called neighborhood church. We started a small business, which employs people with barriers to employment, started a nonprofit, the Jackson, CDC, and all sorts of programs and innovations throughout the neighborhood on every block and all that [00:40:00] isn’t run by me.

[00:40:00] It’s actually run by a very committed. Group of neighbors and growing group of neighbors who are just getting on board to a vision of a neighborhood made whole. 

[00:40:08] Craig Scharton: [00:40:08] And so I get called about every nine months to a, by someone in the tower district going the tower district is full of crime and problems and this and this and this come talk to us.

[00:40:21] And I’ve gotten to the point where I very crabby by the time I show up and that a big crime, one, you know, crime, come talk to us about what to do about crime. I go well, there’s a neighborhood North of you called old fig and there’s a neighborhood South of here called the wall neighborhood. We both have neighborhood associations.

[00:40:41] We have an organization, we have a board, we meet together twice a month. They meet together twice a month. You’re right in the middle. What’s your association. Oh, we don’t have one, right? Yeah. There you go. There 

[00:40:51] Joe White: [00:40:51] you go. Okay. 

[00:40:52] Craig Scharton: [00:40:52] So quit complaining until you put 

[00:40:56] Paul Swearengin: [00:40:56] together some 

[00:40:57] Craig Scharton: [00:40:57] kind of a structure that would allow you to work [00:41:00] together and focus on solving your problems.

[00:41:03] I’m talking to you. 

[00:41:04] Joe White: [00:41:04] Yeah. Heyo Elizabeth mass Cantor is an author and she writes you can’t build on broken. Let’s start with what’s good and build on that. And 

[00:41:12] Craig Scharton: [00:41:12] some people really like the broken, it 

[00:41:15] Joe White: [00:41:15] turns out 

[00:41:16] Craig Scharton: [00:41:16] it’s really funny when they kind of figure it out. They’re the, they’re the ones who don’t want 

[00:41:22] Joe White: [00:41:22] things to get better.

[00:41:23] They just want to complain. I see building on broken the same way dogs. Let’s see the vomit. It’s kind of like you can spend your life doing something disgusting or you can find what’s good and, and mobilize what’s good and maximize. What’s good for the wellbeing of others. To me, that’s a much more effective way about moving balls forward, you know, pushing big rocks up Hill.

[00:41:45] Craig Scharton: [00:41:45] Threw up in the kitchen, like 

[00:41:47] Paul Swearengin: [00:41:47] before this 

[00:41:48] Craig Scharton: [00:41:48] started and set off my beautiful mood,

[00:41:53] trying to eat guacamole while he did it. 

[00:41:56] Joe White: [00:41:56] Oh 

[00:41:58] Paul Swearengin: [00:41:58] no. 

[00:41:59] Craig Scharton: [00:41:59] The [00:42:00] new low point of the podcast, 

[00:42:01] Paul Swearengin: [00:42:01] the podcast just went to hell. Right there. That’s crazy. I mean, it sounds a little bit like, what you guys are saying is, and I think you, you said leveraging your privilege, that you, there, there needs to be instigator sometimes to tell people in a neighborhood, Hey, you can do this.

[00:42:20] You can change this thing and be a rallying point. And, and maybe what is sometimes our, our, our privilege, however, that worked out in education, or just having parents that were engaged in our lives or whatever, it might be different than somebody else’s life. It gives us an understanding of the resources that are available to us.

[00:42:38] That if there’s our landlord is not doing us right, there are, there are actually government resources to tap, to help with that. So it sounds to me like that’s a little bit of, of what you’re trying to rally together. No 

[00:42:50] Joe White: [00:42:50] doubt. And it’s, I think it’s the responsibility that we have. Like, you know, Fresno is, we all know it’s fifth poorest city in America.

[00:42:57] You know, we have 22 of the highest concentrated [00:43:00] poverty neighborhoods, which, which makes, pushing big rocks up Hill, you know, very difficult. And, and so the truth, you know, the reality is we’re in such a desperate situation. It’s not the time. If you do have. resources available to you as I do.

[00:43:15] It’s not the time to sit in the stands. 

[00:43:18] Craig Scharton: [00:43:18] what is it to be involved with revitalization though? And yeah. 

[00:43:22] Joe White: [00:43:22] Oh, it’s amazing. Is there any better 

[00:43:25] Craig Scharton: [00:43:25] thing that you can ever do? It is it’s 

[00:43:27] Joe White: [00:43:27] amazing. 

[00:43:28] Craig Scharton: [00:43:28] Most fun thing on the planet. 

[00:43:31] Paul Swearengin: [00:43:31] I’m actually convinced that, and I do coaching with business people in wellbeing, and I’m convinced you cannot have a truly fulfilling life if you’re not pouring out of yourself into somebody that that can advantage you, that you’re, you’re not getting anything back other than the thrill of, of using what you have to help somebody else.

[00:43:51] I, I think it’s, it’s vital in having a fulfilling life. 

[00:43:55] Joe White: [00:43:55] That’s true. One of my mentors has mentored. Also my dad, [00:44:00] is very famous named John Perkins. Yeah. Great. A great man, but one of the things he’s most famous for saying Billy others have said it also, but I think the point is true. It’s it’s in, in, you’ve heard it it’s, you know, teach a person to fish and the fish for a day.

[00:44:16]you know, right. But, but what John ends up saying is teach them to own the pond. Right? This is the idea of it’s actually, if we can, if we can create an environment where we don’t only benefit. So it’s not just about skill acquisition for others. It’s not just about producing for others. What others could not do for themselves.

[00:44:36] It’s actually not that it’s actually so much more profound than that. It’s building an equitable environment where we, we were me as maybe the leader of something can actually be as supportive for someone else’s wellbeing. They own the pond where then I don’t have to. Right. They own the pond that maybe I don’t own.

[00:44:55] Right. And so it’s creating an environment where my neighbors and that believing and knowing [00:45:00] they, they saw the wellbeing of the neighbor that they created. It. Wasn’t Joe White out there working his butt off. It was the neighborhood, which that’s a much more profound and eternal. I would say a few. Sure for our neighbor, if it all rested on my ability to just give people the info and data and skills that they need to improve, 

[00:45:20] Paul Swearengin: [00:45:20] it’s not the missionary coming in saying I’m the American white man here to fix everything for you and make you me.

[00:45:26] Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:45:27] Joe White: [00:45:27] That’s just, it’s another, that’s another form of conquest that kind of looks good on the outside, but we don’t want that. That’s that, that, that that’s, that should be enough tomatoes us. 

[00:45:35] Craig Scharton: [00:45:35] You might not live forever or you might not live there forever. It’s really fun to see it continue on after you’ve left.

[00:45:46] You know, I was really looking forward to in Hanford. I started a series of events every Thursday night. And this was going to be their 20th anniversary. And of course now it’s probably not, not happening, but for 19 [00:46:00] years, it’s gone on without me and a man. I loved going back to that and see that happen and see people dancing and laughing and flirting and buying an ice cream for their granddaughter and all those things that happen at a, at a community event.

[00:46:15] I got to tell you it’s a great, it’s a great rewarding 

[00:46:18] Joe White: [00:46:18] thrill. You know, one of the, one of the realities I think of having kids shows us that. it’s, it is rewarding when our kids get to the place where they don’t just know what to think, because we told them to think what the thing, but they know how to think.

[00:46:33] And, and, and they can make decisions, good decisions because of the, because of, because of the position that they’ve been given. I think in some ways, most of my neighbors, 90% or more. The only thing that they think about is the problems like every neighborhood, right? Oh, I wish the PD would pay more attention.

[00:46:51] Oh, I wish the government would represent a smart, Oh, I wish they would make someone pick up the trash. Why aren’t they doing the job? Right. This is every association everywhere. [00:47:00] And in some ways the beauty, I think of pursuing the wellbeing of a place in the way that we’re doing it is to say, what if actually we thought differently about, about the place that we all live.

[00:47:12] What’s good here. And what works and how can we organize those efforts to move government, to move PD? How can we organize what works? And what’s good to move, to bend the ears of those for whom we need to listen. What would that look like? And when, when we take that approach, it gives people a greater sense of ownership for their place.

[00:47:32] As opposed to me going in and saying, here’s all the problems we’re going to fix. 

[00:47:36] Paul Swearengin: [00:47:36] And so you’re doing something really fascinating right now, your, your church neighborhood church is partnering up with another church in the neighborhood and you guys are, are just walking this thing out together. 

[00:47:48] Joe White: [00:47:48] Yes. So I hope that your listeners have had a chance to go online and look at vision 22.

[00:47:53]there’s a website just type in division 22 Fresno, and 

[00:47:57] Craig Scharton: [00:47:57] we do show notes and every time you do something [00:48:00] like that, you create more work for me.

[00:48:05] Paul Swearengin: [00:48:05] dot org.  

[00:48:09] Craig Scharton: [00:48:09] to go to the website and copy the URL. 

[00:48:13] Joe White: [00:48:13] There’ll 

[00:48:14] Craig Scharton: [00:48:14] be a link in the show notes. I do the work. You don’t have to. 

[00:48:19] Joe White: [00:48:19] We, we’re we’re in the Jackson neighborhood obviously, but one of the, so a little bit about visual 22 and then a little bit about our collaboration. as, as a church vision, 22 just recognizes that there are 22 neighborhoods in Fresno, which have high concentrated poverty over a majority of the neighborhood lives underneath the poverty line.

[00:48:37] And that’s. devastating at multiple levels. And, why, why should it be that the city has so many high concentrated neighborhoods like that? There are all sorts of reasons for that planning reasons and systemic reasons and so on and so forth. And so what vision 22 is saying, what, what if we stopped, looking at how many problem neighborhoods there are, and look, what if we look for concentration of light.

[00:49:00] [00:49:00] What if we looked instead of looking for concentration of poverty, what if we looked for concentration of light? What, what churches or institutions are in those neighborhoods? That if we brought capacity to, we could actually potentially make some difference. And so all across these 22 neighborhoods, there are churches and institutions and nonprofits who are doing good work.

[00:49:22] Envision 22 brings that light together to collaborate across denominational lines or religious lines to collaborate in such a way that we can move things forward. And so we’re in the Jackson neighborhood, but, just South of us is the Winchell neighborhood. Winchell is one of those 22 high concentrated poverty neighborhoods.

[00:49:41] And Jackson, wouldn’t be one of those, except for we make $2,000 per you know, like more than the, than the, than the dividing line. So she’ll be like $24,000 annual income. We make 26. so we’re so much better off than when she’ll. Let me just say that right now 

[00:49:56] Craig Scharton: [00:49:56] and always feel better to be good, to be better than someone else.

[00:50:00] [00:49:59] Joe White: [00:49:59] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We’re just the second loser. Not it’s really great. so, in windshield, there’s a great church called para cleat missionary Baptist church, run by a great man godly. Yeah, I know it may be the longest name and I’m not sure if they fill it out on their IRS tax form. Cause there’s literally not enough boxes, but it’s, it’s a pair of cleats, missionary Baptist church, a cleat perfectly.

[00:50:23] It’s a great word. It’s a great word that comes from the new Testament. Although we never see the word parakeet, cause it just gets translated to something like spirit. But a pair of Cletus 

[00:50:35] Paul Swearengin: [00:50:35] literally means one who comes alongside and somebody who walks with somebody else. I love that word. 

[00:50:43] Craig Scharton: [00:50:43] That was great.

[00:50:44] My show notes. So I will look that 

[00:50:45] Paul Swearengin: [00:50:45] up. 

[00:50:47] Joe White: [00:50:47] It’s a great church tucked into the Winchell neighborhood, off of orange Avenue, just South of Ventura and neighborhood church has tucked right into the Jackson neighborhood just blocks away, but our shared street has been true. [00:51:00] So Edna, I got together and we said, look, there’s no such, there’s no version of wellbeing for Jackson.

[00:51:08] If Winchell doesn’t win. Also, it just means that if, if we kill it in Jackson and crime goes down, it just means that Winchell, anyone that wants to steal stuff on windshields, it’s going to come to Jackson and steal stuff and then go back and sell it and Winchell. So Winchell has to win too. Right.

[00:51:26] Everybody has to win. And so what would we do to make everybody win? What would have to happen to make everybody win? And it was with that question in mind that we begin to pursue a relationship Edna. Now, ed is totally different from me. ed is older, younger, ed is blacker. I am wider. ed is a Baptist.

[00:51:47] I am not Baptist. Right? So in every way, at least in every important way, we have very different life experiences. But for two years we just fostered relationship. We met regularly. We love each other. We prayed [00:52:00] for each other. We invested in our families together, and I began to see ed. Almost like a mentor to me because ed knows things.

[00:52:06] I don’t know. He’s had experiences that I’ve never had. And so not only did he tutor me in life, he tutored me in love. I watched the way that he loved his neighborhood. I watched the way that he loved his neighbors. He thinks in pastoring ways that don’t come naturally to me. And so I, I began to learn from him and if he were sitting here.

[00:52:24] He would say that he began to learn from me. I had some strategic, gifting and some visionary gifting. Some of those things begin to kind of come together and we found that our relationship wasn’t just about love for one another, but it was also. collaborative. We could take what I had and he could take what he had and we could put those things together and move things forward.

[00:52:43] And so over the course of a summer, for example, we brought our churches together. We actually stopped meeting separately. we started meeting together for a summer 

[00:52:51] Paul Swearengin: [00:52:51] and that’s a fascinating thing by the way, because like you said, you guys aren’t the same denomination. And so they’re not only practical differences in how you do [00:53:00] church, so to speak or a church service, but, but even sort of theological and logistical issues.

[00:53:05] Joe White: [00:53:05] Oh a hundred percent and I won’t even get into the depth of theological difference. We had to lay down some stuff. 

[00:53:12] Paul Swearengin: [00:53:12] Most churches will not 

[00:53:13] Joe White: [00:53:13] do that. 

[00:53:15] Paul Swearengin: [00:53:15] Those are non negotiable sometimes. 

[00:53:17] Joe White: [00:53:17] Yeah. We decided what if we laid down? Things for a season. So what if we decided, what if we just didn’t lay them out forever, but for a season, a time of peace and we laid the is down and instead prioritized something that we agreed on love of neighbor.

[00:53:34] Cause we both agreed about that. We both wanted to love Winchell. We both wanted windshield, a wind. We both want Jackson loved Jackson. We both want Jackson to win. So, if we were able for a season to lay down our particulars to uphold something that we agreed on together, maybe we could do something together that mattered.

[00:53:51] And that’s exactly what happened over the course of a summer. Our churches got in a mass together, both envision and in practice. [00:54:00] And, what we have found is that we have vision for. Things that we can do together along our shared street, Ventura Kings Canyon. And, the possibilities now have, have exponentially grown for things that we can accomplish together because of what happened years before investing in relationship and choosing to lay down the things which mattered to us at the time for a greater thing, love of neighbor.

[00:54:23] Paul Swearengin: [00:54:23] Good stuff. And how has that been going? You guys enjoyed that? 

[00:54:28] Joe White: [00:54:28] You know, we do, I have to say that, you can have two times that I do a lot of mountaineering and rock climbing adventure, and the mountains are my passion. And you may not know, but there’s different types of fun. type one. Fun is the fun.

[00:54:42] That’s fun when it’s happening. Type two fun is the fun that it’s only really fun. Once you get back to the car. it was like, wow, that was really, I was really flying a fine, I’m glad we did that, but you’re really glad to be back at the car. That’s type two fun time. Three fun are the things that happen that never really become fun.

[00:54:59] They just were [00:55:00] basically suffering. You think fondly about it, but you probably would never do it again. That’s type three. I have found that collaboration is type one fun. It really is. It’s the kind of fun, that’s fun while it’s happening. It feels so much better to lift heavy burdens with others. It feels so much better to work alongside people who are as passionate as you it’s so much better.

[00:55:24] And it requires sacrifice laying down things that you might really care about. It requires a listening and learning posture that may be foreign to some, it requires disagreeing about things and being able to talk about those without. Being offended, personally offended. It requires some skills, but if you can acquire those skills and practice them and utilize them, I have found it to be type one, fun, fun while it’s happening.

[00:55:51] Craig Scharton: [00:55:51] It has, and it has a long tail. You remember it for a long time. In fact, you know, so some people might have that [00:56:00] had had that in maybe a work environment or something else, but a period of your life where you really like look forward to it. And it was like energizing and a sense of group accomplishment or group struggle.

[00:56:16] Even, maybe you didn’t even win, but. Like, you’re all trying to gather. And, and, and, you know, some people have a few of those. Some people don’t have any, unfortunately, you know, some may be just one spike. I mean that you hear about it even from like soldiers, you know, and a completely miserable thing, but they’re all.

[00:56:37] Working together as a unit. It’s a, it’s really powerful and it, and it does stay with you your whole life. You’re like, you can identify them. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. 

[00:56:49] Joe White: [00:56:49] Do this work. 

[00:56:51] Craig Scharton: [00:56:51] You actually get to have it a bunch. 

[00:56:53] Joe White: [00:56:53] So 

[00:56:55] Paul Swearengin: [00:56:55] it’s, 

[00:56:55] Craig Scharton: [00:56:55] it’s really cool. 

[00:56:57]Joe White: [00:56:57] we had really good work. We have found that, you know, [00:57:00] comparison really is the thief of joy.

[00:57:03] So if, if you don’t collaborate with people, you will compare yourself against them. It’s only when you collaborate that you begin to love people. You see people, you see their good, you see what assets they bring and when you collaborate, you learn those things. And if you don’t, if you never get to the point of collaboration, you’re always stuck in the comparison and comparison will always kill your joy.

[00:57:25] Paul Swearengin: [00:57:25] Is that the 

[00:57:27] Joe White: [00:57:27] minute you compare two things to the other joy, 

[00:57:30] Paul Swearengin: [00:57:30] that’s so good. And it’s a lot of, a lot of the work my wife does now is, is getting the business community and the social justice community together. And they’re both very suspicious of the other and certain that the other is trying to take something from them, or we’d go a lot deeper than that, but get this idea of, of if the one crowd can say, I want to.

[00:57:53] To make sure the other is successful so that we can be successful together. and that my, my goal is to see us [00:58:00] as a whole be successful, what could happen together instead of just coming in, accusing each other and being sure that our site is all right, and we have to win. So collaboration, which at times has been such an overused word.

[00:58:13] It makes my teeth cringe when I hear it. But it, but in the way, in the context of you’re saying that their joy, it can help us be really successful. 

[00:58:21] Joe White: [00:58:21] That’s true. True. Sorry, sorry, Paul. I didn’t want to interrupt you there. I just want to say, and across our great city, there are many examples of collaboration, especially with vision 22.

[00:58:31] And I encourage you again, go to the website and, and just see what’s happening. Cause it really is remarkable. 

[00:58:36] Paul Swearengin: [00:58:36] Yeah. And I think what would be good for somebody to do that? Because sometimes we just need our picture broadened. We can, we can start living in our own little world and miss what’s happening in our whole city.

[00:58:46] So it’s a great opportunity for people. And so let’s do this and finish up the show. 

[00:58:52] Joe White: [00:58:52] Now we take it home with Craig and Paul on the final countdown. Here’s Paul and Craig. 

[00:58:57] Paul Swearengin: [00:58:57] Mike Craig had said what’s on my mind [00:59:00] segment. 

[00:59:01] Craig Scharton: [00:59:01] In your mind, 

[00:59:02] Paul Swearengin: [00:59:02] who should, should I go first, today? So conspiracy theories are on my mind today.

[00:59:08] And in the midst of COVID-19, we’re seeing many conspiracy theories that this was created in a lab in Wu Han China by bill Gates too. So he could control the vaccine and take over the world. I actually have very good smart friends who believe that is true. And have said sell on social media in the last 24 hours on a regular basis.

[00:59:32] And so I’ve been thinking I’ve done a lot of research recently on, on conspiracy theories and particularly why’s my why my people, the Christian seems so. Gung ho to jump into these things. And some of it is just being people of faith and, and sort of have a little bit of a pack mentality. you know, we, we go into these things and then, and then feeling like victims and somebody.

[00:59:57] So there’s sort of this victim mindset of there’s a culture war, and [01:00:00] somebody is trying to take away our religious freedom. You put all that into a mixed together, and then you add. Social media in the mix. And people start to get convinced that everything has some sort of dark underbelly under it, rather than just being a natural phenomenon of the world.

[01:00:16] And so I I’ve been brainstorming with some friends recently, like what do we do about this? Cause. One thing I’ve learned about conspiracy theories when you’re in them for awhile. Some of the things we fear in life are death, you know, or, or, or not being accepted by a group. And so you have to sort of step outside your group to stop believing some of these things.

[01:00:39]and the other thing is we don’t want to be wrong. Being wrong is a, is a real fear or being embarrassed. And so you’re not going to tell somebody in a conspiracy theory, you’re stupid for believing that stop believing, and that’s not gonna work. In fact, that’s gonna make them dive deeper into it. But so I I’m just starting to encourage people like, just take one step.

[01:00:59] Just [01:01:00] do one thing to question something that you’re believing. And for me, a journey of a, of a, of many years began with just an urging from sort of my faith belief of what if I stopped listening to rush Limbaugh for a little while. What if I, what am I just, I don’t know that this is serving me well, it’s kind of making me angry and not like people.

[01:01:21] And so I quit listening to rush Limbaugh and all of a sudden realized the sky was blue. I had forgotten that the sky was blue. And so I’m just asking you, you know, take one step, take five days and don’t listen to the media. You normally listen to your take five days and not in a way of like, I’m going to be in denial and get rid of these things, but start to think, okay.

[01:01:42] Is there a chance that something I’m believing in this season might be just a little bit skewed and, you know, and, and ultimately my step will be meet somebody who totally disagrees with your belief system and find out that they’re not bad people and start to work from there. But anyway, I’m just saying, come on guys.

[01:02:00] [01:01:59] Let’s let’s challenge our belief systems every once in a while. So we don’t go to this deep dark place. 

[01:02:06] Craig Scharton: [01:02:06] Well, the, the former Christian agnostic agrees with you, Paul,

[01:02:15] I throw the whole thing in the question and, I keep the parts that I like, and I get to discard the rest and I. And I don’t do it because I’m afraid that I might burn in hell. 

[01:02:27] Paul Swearengin: [01:02:27] I think it’s, I think it’s part of it. It’s Craig is that we’re, we’re afraid to have our, even our religious belief systems challenged.

[01:02:34] And I think we should do that on a regular basis is what I is my interpretation of the Bible. Right. You know, and those are scary questions that we never seem to feel comfortable to ask. And I think those are questions we ought to ask on a regular basis. 

[01:02:48] Craig Scharton: [01:02:48] Yeah. I think if you, if you have faith, it should only get stronger in that and the things that matter, but, you know, separate the wheat from the chaff, [01:03:00] you know, 

[01:03:02] Paul Swearengin: [01:03:02] that’s on your mind, 

[01:03:03] Craig Scharton: [01:03:03] I’m a free thinker.

[01:03:04] That way I get to be. I’ve been, I was just thinking, you know, the coven thing, 

[01:03:12]Joe White: [01:03:12] in 

[01:03:12] Paul Swearengin: [01:03:12] order to, 

[01:03:13] Craig Scharton: [01:03:13] keep a level of sanity such as it is, I’ve been doing lots of projects, but like quantifiable, especially stuff that I didn’t want to do. So I’m like, I carded these boxes around for, I don’t know how many years or how many moves, and just as kind of fun, there’s all bunch of memory lanes stuff to go through and I’m sending some old stuff to people that would enjoy it and want it.

[01:03:47] Donated a bunch of stuff to the neighbors and, and all of that. But, it’s, it’s, I think it’s going to be that the saving grace for, for this, shelter in place for me is like pick [01:04:00] projects. Like 

[01:04:00] Joe White: [01:04:00] I’ve got this, 

[01:04:02]Craig Scharton: [01:04:02] what did they call DG? Something. Grant decomposed, granite. 

[01:04:05] Joe White: [01:04:05] Patio. And, if 

[01:04:08] Craig Scharton: [01:04:08] you don’t take care of it, it it’ll get weeds.

[01:04:10] You know, all the little seeds get stuck in all the little tiny cracks now, all winter long. And so, so I look at that and I’m like, ah, that is just too big. So the other day I like dragged my hose across and I went, I think I could do this much tonight. And even if I want to go pass that house, I am not going past that hose.

[01:04:32] So I hold and raked and everything up until that spot. And I’m like, alright, now I’m just going to sit down and have a beer. And that’s what I did. And then the next night I did the same thing 

[01:04:43] Joe White: [01:04:43] and it’s, 

[01:04:44] Craig Scharton: [01:04:44] it’s really, it’s really funny to watch because I’m starting to do stuff that I never have done because it always seems so big.

[01:04:54] So, and I, now I have no excuse for not having the time to do it cause 

[01:04:58] Joe White: [01:04:58] it’s like, Hey, 

[01:04:59] Craig Scharton: [01:04:59] it’s [01:05:00] right. Afternoon guys. Awesome. What are you going to do this weekend? I’m going to say I have a bunch of projects. Cause they were all go 

[01:05:09] Paul Swearengin: [01:05:09] crazy. It is the blessing of the season, the, the blessing of time. How many times have we said if I ever had time, I would blank.

[01:05:17] Craig Scharton: [01:05:17] Yeah. And so I’m, I am bound and determined to come out of this healthier, as long as I don’t get the virus. so sticking to the diet and, eating healthy food and doing our best, not to order too much stuff online, being grateful for 

[01:05:33] Joe White: [01:05:33] work. 

[01:05:34] Craig Scharton: [01:05:34] And, and just, I’m just going to keep doing a bunch of projects and this place is gonna look better than it ever looked before.

[01:05:42] Paul Swearengin: [01:05:42] Good stuff. Alright, Joe, what’s on your mind. 

[01:05:45] Joe White: [01:05:45] You know what? Paul has a few things that are bothering. The one has been this podcast. You’re there, there is no reason why you should look as young and good looking as you do for your age. That bothered. That really bothers me why it would be that you could look the way that you do.

[01:06:00] [01:06:00] The fact that you’ve lived some years, I don’t know. 

[01:06:03] Craig Scharton: [01:06:03] And you notice, he said that to Paul, not to me

[01:06:11] living my life. There is no way I should look as well as I do. 

[01:06:17] Joe White: [01:06:17] So Craig it’s offense intended it’s offense intended

[01:06:23] Craig Scharton: [01:06:23] or taken completely. I don’t know. 

[01:06:27] Joe White: [01:06:27] The second thing, Paul is actually something that concerns me. That’s the, the former editor of Christianity today, is named Andy crouch. And he wrote an article recently where he’s arguing, I think quite successfully that we should not consider COVID-19 just as like a blizzard, it’s bad.

[01:06:43] And then the snowmobiles come in and plow everything away and everything goes back to normal. He should, he says, we should think of it more like the beginning of winter. And he’s thinking specifically about organizations, every organization, businesses, small businesses, nonprofits and churches who really do need to be asking questions about the future. [01:07:00]

[01:07:00]how, how to do business, so to speak, moving forward. And I’m concerned, number one, that many organizations are not having those difficult discussions on are just expecting things to return, to baseline normal. but number two, he’s now projecting in a recent, in a recent survey that churches are, can expect a 50% drop in giving, nonprofits.

[01:07:20] I believe a 60%. Thank you. I’ll have to fact check that, but somewhere around there and that’s deeply concerning. And so I I’m thinking about that. But the last thing that I’m thinking about is I, I would maybe call this, I’m thinking a lot about, the hope that I’ve seen in our city. during this COVID-19 season, I’ve seen businesses support each other and advocate for one another.

[01:07:42] I’ve seen people continuing to pay their, hairdressers and their gardeners and to buy coffee, and to pick it up. And, and take it home. I’ve seen businesses pivot and, you take out, I, I I’m impressed. I’m I’ve seen churches, go basically all online and make that pivot, [01:08:00] to produce the kind of content their congregations need in this time.

[01:08:03]I’ve seen churches step up and serve people’s practical needs. people’s church and st. Restaurant church and neighborhood church, and online on Clovis Hills and, and, and on-ramps, and so many others have stepped into the space of food and caring for vulnerable people. I’m so, I kind of hope filled by the way that I’ve seen Christians.

[01:08:22] And, and, and people step into that space. And so, I’m not dismayed, I think our best days are in front of us. And I think the last month of sheltering in place is a testimony to the way people have leaned into uncomfortable space and done. What’s difficult for the wellbeing of others. I’m proud to be a resident.

[01:08:40] Craig Scharton: [01:08:40] Yeah. Well, I, I think, you know, with individuals, right. Stuff is going to happen to you. Right. You will get sick. You will lose a business. You will have people die around you. You will have a divorce, your bankruptcy, like all those things happen to people like 

[01:09:00] [01:08:59] Joe White: [01:08:59] all the time. Right. 

[01:09:02] Craig Scharton: [01:09:02] And stuff. It’s not a question of whether stuff will happen to me.

[01:09:07] The question is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to get knocked back permanently or are you going to find a way to grow from it? 

[01:09:16] Joe White: [01:09:16] And then 

[01:09:17] Craig Scharton: [01:09:17] extrapolate that to organizations, whether they’re businesses, nonprofits, churches, and then also neighborhoods and cities. So like 

[01:09:28] Joe White: [01:09:28] every, every thing that happens 

[01:09:31] Craig Scharton: [01:09:31] is going to be an opportunity to grow.

[01:09:34] Or to take a, 

[01:09:37] Joe White: [01:09:37] take a fall and 

[01:09:38] Craig Scharton: [01:09:38] enter your head and stay down, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s what do we want to do? You know, you know, how are you going to put your feet shoulder with the part and get ready, you know, to take it, or, or are you just going to throw in the towel? And I think that’s the message it’s got to be, how are we going to get better from this.

[01:09:59] No, [01:10:00] we can have better systems. How are we going to have better communication? How are we going to have better care for each other? How are we, you know, I talked to Scott Miller from gazebo the other day. They can’t keep vegetables in. They’re getting three deliveries of vegetable plants today 

[01:10:16] Joe White: [01:10:16] and 

[01:10:18] Craig Scharton: [01:10:18] planting gardens.

[01:10:19] He goes, he goes, he’s famous for his roses. He’s like, I can’t sell a damn Rose. All of a sudden, the entire a hundred plus years of our nursery has been about these roses, but everybody, all of a sudden wants vegetables, which only used to take a couple of 

[01:10:35] Paul Swearengin: [01:10:35] tables. 

[01:10:37] Craig Scharton: [01:10:37] So, you know, how do we, how do we do this?

[01:10:39] How do we become more resilient? Maybe we get. Well healthier. Maybe we get a little more vitamin D working in the yard. You know, maybe we meet a couple of neighbors across the fence and basket of oranges for him. I mean, it’s just like, there’s an opportunity to get better. There’s a lot of pain. No doubt.

[01:10:58] Just like I said, the [01:11:00] individuals, but. You know, you’re going to grow from it or get knocked down 

[01:11:04] Paul Swearengin: [01:11:04] by well, and that’s it. It’s a, it’s a great biblical principle you’re talking about there. My agnostic friend that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character produces hope. And, and so yes, we acknowledge that people are hurting in the midst of it and that’s yeah.

[01:11:23] But, but we we’ve become a society that is trying to avoid pain at all costs and avoid discomfort. And you hear it now and people saying. Come on, you know, why do I have to stay home if it’s just to save a few thousand lives? And I think we need to step back and say, Whoa, wait a second. Where did that come from inside of me?

[01:11:42] And, and look at, you know, to me, the pictures of air quality being changed radically by this should make us, we should all be saying right now, how can I use my car less? Because if just the short time of us all not driving is changing the air that much. [01:12:00] Then what can I do to make this a more permanent lifestyle to change it?

[01:12:04] So I think there’s like, exactly, like you’re saying acknowledge the suffering, carry the suffering together, but understand collectively this is going to produce something hopeful for all of us. It’s good stuff. All right. Now that we’ve preached that sermon, let’s take up an offering.

[01:12:27] Well, Joe White of neighborhood church and the Jackson community development corporation. Thanks for being with us. 

[01:12:34] Joe White: [01:12:34] Thank you so much for having me too. You guys are amazing. You guys are the champions. Love you, both 

[01:12:39] Craig Scharton: [01:12:39] great. Hanging out with you on a Friday afternoon. 

[01:12:42] Joe White: [01:12:42] Thank you so much. 


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