“The more I travel the more I realize that people are the same no matter where I go. We have the same desires for our families, dreams for our children, and hope for a better tomorrow. If we focused on our commonalities rather than our differences the world would be a better place.”– The Rev. Romal Tune
Where in the world is Romal Tune?
If you’re lucky enough to be friends with Romal Tune on Facebook, that’s a question you ask often as you ride along with him as an armchair traveler on his trips around the world. His feed is full of photos of him (always with that beautiful wide, warm smile) on an airplane, or at table with a group of new friends, somewhere around the globe. Take his current schedule, for instance: Next week he’s headed to Cuba, then India, followed by Barcelona. He’s been to Rio, Bangkok, and South Africa (to visit and minister to gang-plagued communities there). Indeed, Tune manages to inspire simply by sharing his passion for traveling the world and meeting and making new soul friends everywhere he goes.
The Rev. Romal Tune is an energetic advocate for helping people grow and transform their lives through the telling of their own stories. The power of sharing one’s story is something Tune knows about first-hand, often telling his own story about his journey from inner-city gang member to Magna Cum Laude graduate at Howard University to Duke Divinity seminary grad to ordained minister, social entrepreneur, speaker and author. His award-winning book, God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens, chronicled his own story as a hopeful offering for other at-risk teens seeking to overcome obstacles and succeed in their own lives.
We invited Romal to our Patheos 10+1 Q&A Series, in which we ask the same 10 questions, plus one unique bonus question, of Christian movers and shakers who are inspiring us through their work and life in the world. Here, Romal shares more about his own inspirations for his work, how he prays, the last three books he’s read, a guilty pleasure, his favorite theological word … and what he’s learned about himself and others from becoming a pilgrim in the world.
What, in the broadest sense, is your work in the world?
My work is to make a difference globally by equipping people with the tools to overcome the pain in their stories, clarify purpose, and reach their God given potential. I do this by using the art of narrative storytelling, conducting seminars, facilitating workshops, speaking at conferences, writing books, and providing college scholarships for students in several countries in order to work towards careers that will change their life outcomes, as well as their family’s.
What are you most energized by, professionally or personally, at the moment?
I’m energized by the same things everyday: living into my purpose and being grateful for the platform God has given me. Professionally, I’m excited about the progress of my next book as well as the new position I’ve accepted as Senior Advisor to the President of The Mission Society. The position comes with challenges, but that’s what excites me. I am able to learn, stretch myself in a new kind of environment, and create. It’s also put me in a posture of listening and looking for God to show up in new ways in a new place. Perhaps the greatest thing that excites me and motivates me are my children, Aman and Jordan. I want to live a life that makes them proud of me and also to leave a legacy that lives beyond me.
What’s inspiring your work right now?
I’m inspired by reaching people in new and innovative ways. I love developing ideas and creating. I’ve created a new Seminar called “Clerestory: Leadership in a New Light.” My team and I have developed several versions relevant for ministry leaders, college students, seminarians, and business professionals. Those who have taken the seminar have found it extremely useful. The focus of the content walks participants through a process of looking at how their narratives continue to influence and shape their lives. It then equips them with the tools to write their own story, rather than live as characters trapped in an old life drama created by someone else.
What’s the last book you read?
When I’m working on a book I try not to read too much beyond what’s needed for research. I typically read two or three books at the same time. The last three were Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi., and Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
What’s something few people know about you?
That’s a hard one given that my story is one of the tools I use in my work. I guess few people know that I like to hike. But if I had to give you something of more substance, few people know that I plan to retire in the next five to six years and live abroad.
Why are you still a Christian?
My faith in Christ is not optional, it’s a given, a constant. It’s not something I can walk away from as if it doesn’t matter or has no significance. My faith as a Christian is the core of who I am.
The real question for me would be ‘why do I still go to church?’ Church is tough for me because I keep waiting and hoping that one day we will begin to act like a real community, treat each well, and take a vested interest and genuine concern in the lives of the people. When this doesn’t happen, I want to wash my hands of what transpires in the buildings and walk away. I feel the same about para-church social justice institutions. Sometimes in the work of bringing about “justice,” Christian competition is just as toxic as the hyper competitive capitalistic market place. It makes me want to walk away from all of it, but hold on to Christ. I see faith in Christ and institutionalized brick and mortar churches as different things. Buildings don’t have a pulse, people do. I love God with all my heart but I don’t always like church. But something keeps compelling not to give up on it.
What’s your favorite theological word?
Pneumatology. Spirituality is critical to our faith and interaction with God. Understanding the work of the Holy Spirit is essential to living out our faith in the world. I believe that sometimes there is a danger of treating faith as something that is merely intellectual and not spiritual. I’m always mindful that God not only hears our prayers, God also hears our conversations. That helps me choose my words wisely.
How do you pray?
I pray and I meditate daily. My meditative life has become more exciting than my prayer life. I find that through meditation I can hear God speak and see God move. It gives me peace of mind. Meditation has allowed me to get to a place where I truly love my life and can enjoy it even when things are not perfect.
As for prayer, I tend to take long walks and have conversations with God or I pray while hiking. I take a prayer walk every morning. It’s mandatory. I also use vision boards and write out the things I want to do locally, globally, and financially through giving. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision and make it plain”. Writing out my intentions keeps me focused. It helps me know when to say yes and when to say no based on how different opportunities align with the vision.
What’s a guilty pleasure?
Art. Art is definitely my guilty pleasure. I love traveling to different countries and buying unique art. One day I’m going to open an art gallery.
What’s one cause you’d like more people to know about/support?
I’m working with friends to develop a need-based scholarship fund for students from low income communities through my nonprofit Student With A Goal. This cause is extremely important to me because it’s the kind of support I needed to change my life, get out of poverty and help others. A college education equips young people with the tools needed to compete in a global economy and generate the income that changes the life outcomes of their family’s and communities. A friend once told me “you pay for what you don’t know.” Knowledge and skills are empowering.
You spend much of your time on the road, including many trips abroad. What are you learning about yourself and the world from your travels?
I love traveling the world. It’s one of the few things I’ve asked God to open doors for me to do. The most important thing I’ve learned about myself through travel is how much I did not know about other cultures and how changing my priorities was the key to making a difference globally and living the life I’ve always wanted.
I learn a lot when I meet new people while visiting and speaking in different countries. The more I travel the more I realize that people are the same no matter where I go. We have the same desires for our families, dreams for our children, and hope for a better tomorrow. We live in a global economy and global community. What happens in other parts of the world impacts our lives. If we focused on our commonalities rather than our differences the world would be a better place. I’ve learned that racism is a global problem and so is greed. In some ways the two are like parents and their children are hatred, violence, classism and their big brother poverty. A lot of the biases we have towards people in other countries, and the biases they hold against us are perpetuated by television and misinformation. When I travel to South Africa people always tell me to be careful because they’ve ‘heard’ it’s dangerous. Clearly they’ve never been to South Africa. I am a Black man in America and they’re telling me to be careful when I leave America? What’s funny is when I leave other countries and tell friends I’m headed back to the U.S. they get worried and tell me to be careful and then pray for me.
Visit Romal Tune’s website here.