“The Jubilee vision fundamentally shaped my life,” says Chris White. “In my job as a pastor, I understand that my work is about calling people in whatever they do to be able to follow Christ. I understand that Jesus is Lord of everything. That’s what I learned from the CCO.”
Chris first connected to the CCO as a high school student. His youth minister, Brian Sheeler, was also a CCO staff member, reaching out to students at the nearby Bradford campus of the University of Pittsburgh. When Chris headed off for his freshman year at Malone University, Brian made sure to connect him to the CCO staff members there, including Jeff Leon, who was Chris’ resident director and would eventually became his mentor and a life-long friend.
Chris became a resident assistant, studied theology at Malone, read books recommended to him by Jeff and other CCO staff members. He attended the Jubilee conference, after which he joined the Jubilee team on campus, where he met his future wife, Jessika.
“I felt a call to ministry before I started college, but that broadened under the influence of the CCO’s ministry,” Chris says. “I met people who had an authentic faith and who really invested in people. It was the first time I saw a model of discipleship that resonated. Rather than recruiting people to serve in a religious institution and hoping that along the way God might do something, my job is go out and equip and call and empower people to serve wherever they are. That’s at the core of what I want to do with my life and CCO staff helped me realize it.”
After almost a decade of serving on CCO staff himself, Chris is now Associate Pastor for Outreach at Gateway Community Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Chris, Jessika and their daughter, Libby, live in Slippery Rock and are actively involved in the community there, including the university. Gateway is a partnering congregation with the CCO, so Chris’ work amongst college students continues today.
“My job at Gateway is to direct our campus ministry efforts in partnership with the CCO. This church partnered with the CCO from the very beginning. I’m in charge of Hands of Hope, working with the poor in this community. We are about working with the poor in a holistic way—we try to get to know them, walk alongside them, and connect students to that ministry as well.
“I serve my church in light of the Gospel and what Christ has taught us about being faithful in everything. It’s not just trying to get people to come serve at this church for the sake of it. It’s about inviting them to become a part of this church community and then going out and doing ministry wherever they are. I engage people not as projects, but as people in whose life God is already working.”
And Chris continues to point back to his college years as transformative in his understanding of his own faith and calling. “I really can’t say enough how formative the CCO’s ministry has been in my life. Maybe it’s just because Jeff and I clicked, but I saw him invest in others; he modeled for me how to do life-on-life ministry. He taught me how to really invest in people and to believe that Jesus changes people’s lives.”