Reflections by Kara Garrison
After reading Encounter God in the City,  and hearing its author, Randy White as a guest lecturer, I realized that the Fresno City Immersion was going to be the best investment for me. There were other immersion event locations that sounded intriguing, but I always came back to the longevity Dr. White has had in Fresno.
During the early days of our online class introduction, it became evident that one of my fellow Fresno participants was DTL student, Andrea Whyte, also a resident of Tulsa, OK (via Jamaica). Andrea and I met to discuss our preparations for our on-site class time. We didn’t meet again until October 13th, when we gathered at the home of Tina and Dr. Randy White, along with students from across the US and around the globe. (Erisa Mutabazi traveled the greatest distance, coming from Rwanda, East Africa.)
Perhaps, one of the best dynamics was not the intriguing mix of BGU participants, but BGU’s hosts, Fresno Pacific University students also participating in the class. Personally, some of the best learning occurred in the car, as two Fresno Pacific students (Robert Lines and Toby Hendrix) drove Ms. Whyte and me between learning destinations. We found a few snatched moments to reiterate a highlight, reaffirm sacred work, reconsider past assumptions, and, in a few cases, respectfully disagree with assumptions presented.
To offer some context of our on-site location, twenty-years ago in Fresno “Gangs, drugs, crime and poverty became the reigning forces in the south half of town, while pockets of intense poverty and crime developed in apartment complexes near some of the swankest homes in the north. Police were overwhelmed; schools declined.” Originally, the church was unclear how to respond beyond voicing concern and praying. When the L.A. riots took place in 1994, Fresnans dared to consider the implications for their own troubled city.
The church was at the heart of a collective response that catalyzed a transformation of Fresno. What did this transformation look like? That is what BGU graduate students glimpsed during our nine days in Fresno.
Dr. White was our guide through the city and learning process (which was very Mezirow-esque). He began by explaining his intention was to create a learning environment which would initially be disorienting, and pose disorienting dilemmas, causing us to question some of our personal assumptions. He was indeed correct, as Ms. Whyte and I felt overwhelmed and disoriented by the end of the second full day. We listened to key participants in Fresno’s transformation process (which is continuing to this day.) We visited with church congregants, social entrepreneurs, social activists, professional volunteers, a “herder” of pastors, educators and more.
By the eighth day, we had all undergone a winnowing process, and found insights that were specific to our own ministry contexts. Our perceived boundaries had been stretched. Dr. White engaged BGU students, putting us on a cycle of observing, considering, action, reflection and whole-life application as residents of our own cities and as proponents of Shalom.
 Randy White, Encounter God in the City : Onramps to Personal and Community Transformation (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2006).
 Tim Stafford, “Taking Back Fresno,” Christianity Today 44, no. 3 (March 6 2000).
Kara Garrison and Andrea Whyte