A believer’s transformation in Whaleyville

Published 6:51 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

Randall White of Whaleyville prepares for the Bible study he teaches on Wednesdays at New Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ. He found a calling for teaching while serving a 16-year prison term.

Randall White of Whaleyville prepares for the Bible study he teaches on Wednesdays at New Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ. He found a calling for teaching while serving a 16-year prison term.

By Billie Joy Langston

Special to the News-Herald


Every human being has made a bad choice at some time or another. One person’s bad choices may be minor and without serious consequences, while another person’s bad choices can result in major, life-changing events and much regret.

But Whaleyville’s Randall White believes life choices sometime serve as part of God’s plan for his children. For White, the misjudgment of priorities, coupled with risky coping methods, led him to lose part of his life to incarceration.

But God had the last word and the ultimate solution to help White find his true purpose in life, he believes.

White grew up in a strong, nuclear family with parents who were unapologetically determined to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. His parents were Christians and took him to church regularly.

At age 11, Randy was baptized and joined Mineral Spring Baptist Church in Whaleyville, where he was actively involved in church activities and served as an usher. He seemed to be headed in the right direction.

White excelled academically and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1974. After high school, he received basketball scholarships and attended Hampton University and Norfolk State University, majoring in sociology. When his college career ended, he graduated from the Newport News Shipbuilding Pipefitter Apprenticeship program.

Although by outward appearances, White’s life was on track, the man in the mirror knew and kept the secrets of his personal demons.

Drug use and drug addiction, followed by domestic abuse were the demons. White said he needed drugs to keep him emotionally and mentally stable to work. He had begun using illegal drugs as early as 1980.

The drug use, he said, was a major contributing factor to the domestic abuse against his wife, Annette. To her credit, she was faithful to stay with her husband to keep her family intact.

And then came Aug. 4, 1994, the day of his arrest, two days before his 37th birthday. White was convicted of domestic violence and served 16 years in prison. Sixteen years of his life were lost. Sixteen years of missed family gatherings and the activities of daily family life with his wife and two sons left White with indelible emotional scars.

Losing part of his life and the remorse of hurting his wife still haunts him.

While an inmate, White attended the prison chapel faithfully and participated in the prison ministry program. The prison chaplain asked him to serve as the coordinator of Christian discipleship training. White served in that role for seven years, with responsibilities to study, prepare and lead biblical training at the chapel and throughout the prison.

“When prison ministry is authentic and purposeful to lead people to Christ, it has a profound impact resulting in changed lives,” White said recently. “Both aspiration and hopelessness drives inmates to God, because, more often than not, there is just no one else to turn to.”

White’s quest for knowledge of the Bible began before his incarceration and expanded while serving his sentence. Within a year of his release from prison, his personal commitment to change lives was realized by helping young adults avoid making the same bad choices he did.

In 2012, he became the Bible study teacher at New Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ in Whaleyville, where he has been a member for more than two decades. During Bible study, Randy’s prolific knowledge brings the scriptures alive, especially when utilizing the origin of the Hebrew and Greek languages to explain the biblical text.

Church members flock to Bible study every Wednesday night to be enriched by the quality of the discussion.

White got a second chance to enjoy family life with Annette; their sons, Randy, Jr. and DeAndre; daughters-in-law; and two grandchildren. But his message is clear to anyone who is on the verge of getting into trouble.

“The prison door is one you don’t want to walk through, because the cost in human potential is too great,” he said. “Find a strong mentor in your community, and align yourself with people who are positioned to help you. God asks you to do it His way, and He will verily work out your life plan.”