We are pleased to introduce Nikki T. White. Nikki was the winner of the 2020 Braun Book Award for Non-Fiction and Identity in Exodus will be released soon. It will be available for pre-order through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold, soon. We asked Nikki to share a little bit about his writing, and new book. But first, a little bit about her.
For author Nikki T. White, story is everything. She sees God’s overarching narrative of redemption give meaning and beauty to the seemingly random chapters of life and gives it expression through the written word. Writing for Multiply, the missionary-sending agency of the Mennonite Brethren, White aims to help others glimpse the divine narrative, reflected in both ordinary and extraordinary events, and be inspired in praise, prayer, and more irrepressible story-telling!
This current season, despite COVID-19 lockdowns, has seen doors open at an astonishing pace. With in-person events curtailed, there have been an increasing number of invitations for online teaching.
To more easily keep up with these requests, I recently created a video series on prayer, vocation, and identity. This tool is being used in conjunction with a training manual I developed, now being translated into Spanish and Portuguese. Teaching opportunities include delivering seminars on mission and prayer for OMF International (formerly China Inland Mission), speaking at a conference for the Christian student body of the University of British Columbia (Comagape), and presenting workshops for global church leaders in Lithuania, Thailand, and restricted-access regions of East Asia.
The ban on international travel has created a new platform, a kind of Zoom journalism, which allows me to continue to gather stories from missionaries and national partners overseas.
As Identity in Exodus is being launched, I am knee-deep in a second book, one which examines the leadership profiles of King Saul and King David. This work addresses the sensitive issues of manipulation, marketing, and deception in church leadership styles and requires that I navigate tricky waters in today’s politically charged and polarized climate. Deep waters, thin ice, prayer requested!
Q: Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
A: While in graduate school, I did a deep dive into the life and person of Moses. I thought to myself, This man is seriously messed up! Why would God choose him?
Over time, I developed a deep affinity for this man of God and related to what I perceived to be his struggle with identity. I was inspired by how God chose a misfit for the founding of a whole new culture!
Moses became the topic for my thesis and the frequent topic of my conversations with immigrants, young adults, new missionaries, and missionaries returning from the field only to face reverse culture shock. Writing and talking about identity became something I couldn’t not do. When the professor who reviewed my thesis wrote, “Nikki, this cannot stay just between you and me!” I wondered if a book was being birthed.
Q: What impact do you hope this story will have on readers?
A: My heart yearns over those who feel “stuck.” It’s an intolerable feeling. I long for others to know that they are Image-bearers, each with a unique role, an other-oriented vocation into which God has called them. I believe that the key to finding our sense of self lies in identifying as sent ones. My goal is to communicate this in ways that help people get “unstuck.”
A great example of a win for me is helping refugees and new immigrants see how invaluable they are to their host country of Canada. Those in our Latin American support group are beginning to see themselves as having been sent to Anglo-Canadians, particularly in regards to the strong Latino commitment to extended family and elders.
This became quite obvious during the pandemic! While many seniors were languishing in isolation in care homes, my Latino friends did elder care (even palliative care) at home, where their aging parents or grandparents could see and touch and be loved by their children and grandchildren. Now they are helping advise their Canadian neighbours and friends in strategies to engage in this kind of home care.
Q: What role did your experience in global mission play in the writing of this book?
A: I spent almost six years in the southern interior of Mexico. When I first arrived, without knowing a single word of Spanish or having ever set foot outside of southern Manitoba, it was terrifying.
Then I experienced an unexpected surge of relief. Being socially awkward by nature, it felt wonderful to be in a strange culture where no one expected me to be “normal.” The people had grace for my blunders and insensitivities and assumed I was just being “Canadian.”
The real problem came when I became familiar with the culture and fluent in the language, and the bar got raised. I was then expected to be more tuned-in and to fit in better. Ha! When that didn’t happen, my social life, which had never been terribly vibrant, tanked. It took years for me to find my feet, to find some sense of sent-ness that would sustain me through the challenges of cross-cultural life.
Returning to Canada, I began to realize that I had much more empathy for new immigrants. They were intelligent, often very well educated professionals who were forced into menial labour that shattered their sense of self. I felt a strong desire to get to know them and affirm their giftedness, and to help them find their calling and place as strangers in a strange land.
Q: What message about God do you hope readers will take from this story?
A: The incarnation is the ultimate model for sent-ness. God became man—not out of ambition to achieve, not out of a desire to self-actualize, and not out of a need to be independent from the rest of the Trinity, but because he was sent… to us. All his years on earth were focused on that mission, and when he chose his disciples they had both a call to “come, follow” and a command of “go, I send you.” I want others to be comforted by knowing that they are following in his footsteps when they choose to see themselves as being sent to others, and that they are part of a people who have this corporate identity.
Q: What were some of the influences and sources you drew on in writing this book?
A: Aside from the research—biblical commentaries, historical resources, and textbooks and articles that deal with adoption, culture shock, and immigration issues—I found significant insights to be gained through personal interviews. I begin each chapter with a story that highlights the chapter’s theme.
As well, my twenty-year affiliation with the Mennonite Brethren has offered exceptional opportunities for dialogue on corporate identity. Their focus on evangelism and mission is central to their founding values and has been an inspiration to me. I still have a long way to go in being other-centred, but I am grateful to not be alone on the journey. I encourage readers to seek out travel companions who are always scanning the ditches on the side of the road and looking for others who have fallen by the wayside; those stray souls are our true destination.
Q: What can you say about your writing process?
A: Writing is hard, and this last year has been especially challenging, with the pandemic affecting our ability to stay focused and motivated. Writing requires vision, and right now our vision needs to be refreshed!
I’ve had to be intentional about reflecting on those key values and themes that God has entrusted to me. I ask myself: what is my life motto, the things I cannot not do? what drives me, and what drives me crazy? and to whom have I been sent, to inspire, comfort, heal, and challenge? Then I write something, anything, no matter how little, every day. My children tell me that I write way too much on their birthday cards, but heh.
Q: How do you approach editing, revisions, and rewriting?
A: I am fortunate to work with an incredible team of creatives at Multiply—writers, graphic artists, website developers, videographers, and social media specialists. Early on, I was introduced to the group editing process, where we would each take turns being shredded (I mean, critiqued). Yes, at times, hearing my own words being read out loud was cringe-worthy, but it was always enlightening.
Diverse feedback is essential. It is especially helpful to hear others read your work out loud and notice where they stumble or skip. It does get a little less painful with time, but it can still feel like you’re handing over your baby to someone who insists upon dressing him up in a sailor suit.
Revisions then consist of undressing the baby, discarding the cute bowtie and vest, and figuring out what part of the outfit to keep, which new articles might work, which accessories will tie the whole fashion statement together… and finally dressing him up again. Only to have your editor then strip him back down to his diaper!
Q: How does your Christian faith inform your writing process?
A: As a writer, I am very aware of both my influences and my inadequacies. It terrifies me to read that I will be held accountable for every careless word I utter (Matthew 12:36). At the same time, I know that to bury my talents in the earth for fear of making a mistake is to incur the rebuke of the landowner: “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26) Perhaps these two competing fears cancel each other out?
Ultimately, I am motivated by my conviction that I have been crafted in the image of God. I have been created to create. When I anchor my creative impulse to the clear mandate of drawing others into a deeper relationship with Jesus, I trust I will be neither mute nor frivolous.
Q: What advice would you offer to writers thinking of entering the Braun Book Awards?
A: As I mentioned earlier, this has been a hard year for humanity. Creatives are no exception. It has, at times, been a hard trudge, mostly uphill. COVID-19 leads to hypervigilance, anxiety, screen fatigue, loneliness, apathy, and even depression. We ask ourselves, are these feeble words worth writing? Does anyone care? It helps to remember how our work fits into the big picture.
I have drawn much courage from an obscure passage in 1 Chronicles 21. At this time, Israel was in the midst of a pandemic, much like the one we are currently experiencing. King David’s unauthorized census resulted in a plague that swept through the land, and thousands fell in the course of only three days as the angel of the Lord brandished his sword.
Then, suddenly, the angel stopped and hovered over the city of Jerusalem.
The prophet Gad rushed into the palace and told the king that the angel was stopping at the threshing floor of a Jebusite named Araunah, where another drama was unfolding. While threshing, Araunah and his four sons saw the angel—and the sons fled in terror. But for whatever reason, Araunah, who could not fail to see death poised above his head, kept threshing. Why? Was it pragmatism? Optimism? Simple steadfast resolve?
“I see you there,” Araunah seemed to say. “Death will come, sooner or later. But until then, I will not waver. I will keep my eyes on the task before me, and I will keep on threshing.”
And the angel’s sword was sheathed.
David arrived to offer a sacrifice, and then bought Araunah’s farm so that his own son Solomon could later build upon it. The threshing floor of Araunah became the foundation of the temple. It’s still there, somewhere. Grains of barley, a scythe… perhaps these are still buried somewhere beneath the Temple Mount today. And Araunah? His story has survived for thousands of years.
Keep threshing. Keep writing. Your labour is part of the foundation upon which God builds his living Temple.
Do you think you could be our next Braun Book Award winner? We are accepting submissions for the 2021 contest until March 15, 2021. Enter today!
Nikki T. White writes for Multiply, the global mission agency of the Mennonite Brethren Church. While gathering and publishing stories from all over the world, White serves the local and global Church through teaching, prayer seminars, and training of short- and long-term missionaries. She attends North Langley Community Church in B.C., Canada, where she oversees curriculum development and training for prayer ministry. Nikki can be found online, via: