Two people figure prominently in Jon Blanchard’s life, leading him to a covenant with God that has radically changed his life-direction.
“P.J. Ellis was a football teammate of mine during our junior and senior years in high school,” Jon explains. “I had heard that he was a pretty religious guy and I was a little curious, so I began to stay after practice and just sit in the locker room and talk to him about his beliefs and his church background.”
One day Jon heard the music P.J. was listening to and was shocked to find that it was Christian hip-hop.
“I was blown away!” Jon confesses. “Like, how could a Christian be involved in rap? I was raised in Fundamental Baptist churches and that would have been more than frowned upon! I took those things I learned from P.J. and let them marinate in my mind.”
Turns out, P.J. invited Jon to a barn dance at his church. Jon agreed to go and there he met Betsy Best, who would become Jon’s second major influence.
“Betsy and I became great friends and when I went away to college we often text-messaged one another,” Jon says.
Jon started college at Siena Heights University on a football scholarship. He played at lineman, and focusing on football, friends, and fun were his only interests. But Jon became very ill and over the span of eight weeks he was mostly bedridden and ended up losing 80 pounds.
“I had to have two surgeries on my throat and I went from a 300-pound lineman who could bench 350+ to a sickly-looking 215-pound student who could barely lift himself out of bed,” Jon says.
Jon was completely depleted; his whole identity was gone because all he was known for was his ability to play football. So he began a desperate search into religions to find answers to his “life questions.”
“I found Christ that winter!” Jon marvels. “I found Him speaking so clearly that all the other religions who wanted me to be good were misleading—but that Jesus knew that I was not good enough and He came down as God in human flesh, with human emotion, and lived a human life to redeem me because I would never be able to.”
This was a truth Jon could make a covenant to—devoting his life in ministry to other youth searching for answers.
Jon transferred to Grand Canyon University as a dual degree major in Communications and Biblical Studies. He was headed back home for break and was seriously considering finding a church/ministry to volunteer his time and get some experience in youth ministry.
“I had contacted some of my family and friends, asking if anyone had any connections or if they knew of a church/ministry that I could pursue.”
This is where God showed His plan for Jon’s life had already been in the works long before Jon could imagine.
“I learned that Betsy’s parents (Majors Tim & Beverly Best) were Salvation Army Officers at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in South Bend, Indiana,” Jon says. “I met with them and to my surprise they had a job lined up for me and I was blessed to see God making a path clear and using The Salvation Army to do so.”
Jon admits that like many people, his knowledge of The Salvation Army before then was limited to thrift stores.
“After four years now I can honestly say that the Army is much, much more than I would have ever imagined. The amount of service and care the Army offers worldwide is amazing and I get to be a part of that!”
Jon loves pastoring teens and young adults at the South Bend Kroc. He also has a heart for global ministry of some sort.
“Working with (teens and young adults) here in South Bend, I see so many obstacles that surround them,” Jon says, “and I am constantly seeking wisdom from God on what I can do to meet a need or solution.”
Jon is sold on the Army’s mission and ministry, and looks forward to keeping the promise he made with God back in the winter of 2012.
“The Salvation Army offers a huge opportunity to serve others and meet the needs of those I encounter on a daily basis. (I am) a young man who is growing in my walk with the Lord; while He offers new challenges daily to help me grow!”
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor