When God said, in Jeremiah (29 v 11), “For I know the plans I have for you …” He wasn’t kidding when it comes to Jon White, the new Pioneer Student Minister for Transforming Mission Cornwall.

Pioneer Student Minister

Jon White, Transforming Mission’s Pioneer Student Minister

Everything Jon has done, explored, been interested in or pushed against has been a puzzle piece that has now found its partner and fits together for the role of student minister. Integral to Transforming Mission will be a student minister who is relatable, in tune with the demands of being a young person studying at an arts-based university with enough energy to convince have-a-go-students that a relationship with God is the biggest adventure of them all.

As the son of a vicar and brought up in Cornwall, there has always been a strong dynamic for Jon between theology and art. He pursued study of the former but still nurtured his love of the latter, inspired by our ever-changing seascapes. Seeking a way to enrich and unite both loves, Jon reached out to Makoto Fujimura, a highly-regarded Japanese-American Christian painter who has recently collaborated with Martin Scorsese, on the off-chance that he might need an apprentice.

Happily, he did and Jon worked alongside him for three months in New York. “He’s an amazing artist – very open about his faith and impact it has on his work but also highly respected in the art-world.” Undoubtedly, this sowed the seeds for a recent return to the US to study for an MA in theology, with an emphasis on art, at the Fuller Seminary where Makoto Fujimura now lectures. It also laid the foundation for ministry with arts students in Falmouth.

The Four Gospels by Makoto Fujimura

“I want students to feel confident about being Christians and help them to explore that in their work, so they can see what that could look like.”

But that’s only part of the puzzle, and not even the corner pieces. Those Jon found when working with Bless, a Christian charity now based in France, that is mission-based and works through church-planting alongside communities, especially refugees. Part of what Jon and his wife Anna did was to befriend the Sudanese refugees who had made their way to Calais, and now Caen, but got stuck, not realising there was a sea dividing them from the UK, their primary destination.

“For an hour or so, they stopped being refugees running away from destroyed lives and became boys. Boys who love to kick around a football, build a Jenga sky-scraper, paint or just talk, laugh and forget.”

Jon explained that many of the boys didn’t know how old they were, but a lot were very young and most were highly educated with impressive skill-sets. The families send out their strongest in the hope that they will survive the journey and send home much needed funds.

Jon spoke about Salah. He’d run from a bomb in the Sudan six years earlier, was enslaved in Libya, was rescued from a sinking vessel near Italy and had made his way to Caen, where, miraculously, he was reunited with his brother Saleem. “It was extraordinary,” says Jon.  “They’d both ran when the bomb dropped, both journeyed across the world, neither knowing if the other was alive and certainly not that they were in the same camp at the same time. Other volunteers who’d met them individually had remarked on their similarities but no one knew they were brothers until they were brought together. I didn’t see it, but they both said the moment of reunion was incredible. Amazing.”

So why Transforming Mission? Won’t Cornwall be a bit dull after all the excitement of recent years? “No! I love the heart behind Transforming Mission. It’s so exciting, a great dream that’s very possible,” says Jon. “I have that vision of Jesus and His transfiguration in my heart – when everyone was blown away by His beauty. That’s how I want the students to feel!”

“That’s my heart for student work. That people will see Jesus in wonder and then go towards him, whether that’s a slow step or a rush we will see.  Building relationships, creating the space, we can do all the social stuff but to make room for worship, the Holy Spirit…that’s where the real beauty lies.”

Jon is now in post, the students are arriving and prayers are needed to support all of the work in Transforming Mission if our churches are to be filled with young people blown away by His beauty.

“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2 NIV)