Youth pastor goes from gang to God |

Youth pastor goes from gang to God

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff Writer

The moment Chris White turned his life around came while watching the move, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” at a youth camp for troubled teens.

“When the terminator reached his hand down and told Sarah Connor, ‘Come with me, if you want to live,’ that was it for me,” said Chris White. “I knew if I wanted to live, I needed to go with God.”

Involved with gangs and drugs, White, 26, admits he was “not the best of kids.” He credits a teacher at Reed High School in Sparks who paid for him to attend “Young Life” camp. It was there he prayed and accepted Christ into his life.

“But at first I was mad at God,” White said. “Why did I have to go through so much, the drugs, the hard times. Now I understand.

“I got involved with church and working with kids right away.”

After committing his life to God, White changed his lifestyle. He wanted to be a history teacher, but on a path to self-destruction, he knew it wasn’t going to happen. He had to tell his gang brothers he was leaving.

“I told them I was a Christian and they supported that,” he said. “I even got one other guy to leave (the gang) and he’s now a youth pastor in Texas.”

When White graduated high school, he walked with his class and received recognition as the most-improved student in Washoe County.

“Now I show kids you can have fun without drugs and give them a positive roll model. One day I looked behind me and here are kids following me.”

Since then, White has married the woman he took to the high school prom, Vanessa, an attractive young lady he grew up with who lived on the same block.

Vanessa, also 26, is pregnant with the couple’s second child, a girl. Their first child is Josiah, who is 23 months old.

“We’re a team,” Vanessa said of their work as pastors for Fountainhead Foursquare Church’s youth and children’s ministry programs. “We have a wide variety of kids who come here and we help them all.”

Chris White said the church offers youth diversions and a safe place to be. They can play foosball, pool, watch videos, play video games, do their homework or just hang out.

“We’ll talk with them about their struggles, have a Hot Pocket, soda – mostly give them a safe place to be,” Chris said.

As Chris’s partner, Vanessa said she helps him do whatever needs to be done, like with meetings and getting things organized.

“I do feel like I’m a mommy first, then help here,” Vanessa said. “We have underprivileged and privileged youth who come here. About 40 percent come from single-parent families. We help them all.”

Vanessa will do a “girls night” at the church and Chris has a night with the guys.

“She does the nails, and makeup and stuff like that,” Chris said. “I do the guy stuff.”

Chris said there are 4,389 students enrolled in the Carson City school district. There are 70 kids in the church’s youth programs. Chris will pick up children on Thursdays after school and take them to the church to just hang out.

“There’s a lot of kids who need to be loved and need a fun and safe place to be,” Chris said.

“We want to provide that and a place kids can hear about God. A lot of kids out there need to hear about God.”

White said he is working with senior pastor Louie Locke to get computers in the youth activity room.

“Transportation is also an issue,” White said. “But if you pick them up, they’ll come.

“We’ll go get a coffee, some food, then head to the church as Thursday is youth group day as well. We do an early boys Bible study, then clean up and do videos, pool and dinner at 6:30 p.m. We usually watch a cool You Tube video during dinner.

“Every week I try to do something visual, even a song. I try to talk about God in a fun way and still make an impact.”

When it comes to teaching the youth, Vanessa refers to 1 Timothy, 4:11-13 in the Bible.

“Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”

“We want youth to reach out to God now and become a good person now,” Vanessa said. “They don’t have to wait until they grow up.”

• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.