Appointed April 2015, Tyler and Kellie work among international students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Almost one-fourth of the 44,000 students are from outside the U.S. Many of the countries represented by these students have no widespread gospel witness. Most students are in the States only a year or two before returning to their home countries to become business, industry, and government leaders.
The Penns hope to partner with a home missionary family to plant a church. Their main focus is reaching international students with the gospel, so the gospel can be taken to the ends of the earth.
Tyler came to Christ as a six-year-old. He began asking his dad questions following a Sunday evening church service. After his dad clearly presented the plan of salvation, Tyler knelt beside the couch and invited Jesus to be his Savior. As a teen, he took greater ownership of his faith, answering the call to pastoral ministry at age 16.
Kellie also grew up as an active church member in a Christian home. Eight-year-old Kellie walked from her parsonage home to her father’s church office to talk to him about salvation. She accepted Jesus as her Savior then. Her faith was tested in junior high as she walked with her mother through a two-year battle with breast cancer. Kellie’s mom won the ultimate victory during Kellie’s freshman year of high school. This and other life traumas have solidified her hope in Christ and the assurance of His love and care for her.
Tyler attended Welch College in Nashville, Tennessee, and thrived in the Christ-focused environment. He met Kellie on campus and they were married following his junior year of college. Tyler graduated in May 2001 with a B.A. in pastoral ministry. He began pastoring the First Free Will Baptist Church in Decatur, Illinois, soon after. Tyler and Kellie remained at First Decatur for ten years.
In 2010, Tyler and Kellie sensed God directing them to a new ministry. After much prayer, they felt He was leading them to reach international students at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The couple entered into a joint project with the Illinois Mission Board and North American Missions in 2011 with the goal of beginning a community church that ministered to international students.
The Penns are the first couple appointed by IM to serve in partnership with Home Missions for the purpose of cross-cultural ministry projects in North America.
The Penns have three children: sons, Mason (January 19) and Madden (May 17), and daughter Millie (May 17).
* Pray for the Jamie Lee family. They have recently moved to Champaign, Il and are in the early stages of starting the Bridge FWB Church here to help us fulfill our initiative; to reach a community, to reach a student, to reach the world.
* Pray for the start of the new Fall semester that we will meet students that will become interested in our sharing of the gospel
* Pray for our ability to connect in with other people and inform, engage, and encourage them to get involved with international students in their local colleges.