The Fellowship of Christian Athletes in West Virginia has changed immensely since the day Mike White got involved nearly a quarter century ago.
"FCA in the last couple of years has come up with an idea called 'Shrink to Grow,'" he said. "When I came on staff 23 years ago, Keith Tyler and I divided the state of West Virginia and (I took) WVU and everything to the east and south, and Keith took Marshall and everything to the west. It was really unrealistic. At the time I covered three counties in Virginia as well."
But as he did for all of those 20-plus years, White stayed on even during the trials and served his calling to the FCA. Eventually the duties were divided into smaller regions and White and Tyler received the necessary help to push on with the mission.
Now, however, White has felt called to a different purpose. He is still with the FCA, but last month he accepted a position in North Carolina, right in the middle of ACC country.
"I'm going to be the director for the Western Triangle, which includes Durham County and Duke, and Orange County and UNC, and Person County, which is a real rural county that goes all the way up to the Virginia border," White said. "My job will be to hire the staff and train the staff to serve that area. And I'll serve in some capacities probably at Duke as a character coach."
White began his time with FCA as the South Central West Virginia area director in 1997. During that time he impacted the lives of several area athletes and coaches. He got huddle groups formed in many schools and organized events such as extreme sports and golf tournaments with the purpose of giving people the chance to share their testimonies.
Along the way, opportunities to move on to other locations presented themselves but White turned them down. But when longtime friend Johnny Evans, a former Cleveland Brown and the current Eastern North Carolina FCA director, called him late in 2019 about joining the staff in the Tar Heel State, White decided to jump on board.
"I thought, I'm not getting any younger. Those opportunities will probably stop coming," White said. "I had changed my prayers to, 'Should I take this job or not? Should I go here or not? What should I do? Lord, put me in the place in the game You want me.' I want to finish strong."
It wasn't a decision White made lightly. He feels the decision was out of his hands, anyway.
"It seemed like God had really been orchestrating this 15 years ago," he said. "Anne Graham Lotz's husband, Danny Lotz, was an orthodontist in the Raleigh area and big part of the FCA staff that is there now. Danny played in the 1957 national championship game. He was the center for North Carolina and they beat Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas. But when I first came on staff I got a call and I thought it was a staff guy from North Carolina. We talked for 40 minutes. They had changed something at The Cove, which is (Rev.) Billy Graham's training center, which Danny could use any time he wanted, I'm sure.
"They used to have what they called the Old-Timers Event. There would be guys like (former New York Yankee) Bobby Richardson and guys that were involved in the FCA back in the '60s. They would come for the weekend and just have a retreat. Danny said they were changing it to a coach and spouse's weekend. Some of them were getting older and they wanted to do something with it that would live on past them, and it's still going on. He asked me to bring some coaches from West Virginia."
It was there that White was introduced to Bucky Waters, who coached men's basketball at West Virginia University from 1965-69. He said Waters and his wife "have been like a dad and a mom to me down there" while he was driving back and forth between Beckley and Durham preparing for his new job.
"He introduced me to a lot of folks at Duke that he knows," White said. "It just seemed like that was what God was putting together. I'm not a predestination person, but I know God has His hand on all our affairs and He's working on levels our brains can't comprehend."
For now, White is in the same situation as other sports fans across the country, playing the waiting game while the sports world is at a standstill because of the fear of the spread of the new coronavirus. The ACC is one of several conferences to suspend spring athletics indefinitely.
In the meantime, White is meeting people to help with fundraising. He also will meet with the likes of Duke head baseball coach Chris Pollard and others to try to encourage them and serve them.
White will miss working with the people he has been side-by-side with here, including Dennis Dye, one of the area directors who will serve in the South Central areas though the rest of the year, Brian Young and Tyler, the state director.
White also said West Virginia likely has not seen the last of him.
"I don't think I'm leaving West Virginia for good. I love it too much," he said. "People say the quality of life is higher in other places. Maybe if you look at statistics, that's true. But there's something about West Virginia that's special. It's always home to us and I don't see us never coming back."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber