The Penn Family has been serving with IM for the last five years. They hold a unique ministry to international students at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. 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 have been able to connect with a registered student organization called the English Corner. Tyler serves alongside this organization as volunteer staff, running their conversation groups to over 100 different students, and planning and creating opportunities to share American culture with these students. This connection allows the Penn’s to invite these students into all different aspects of their lives from, holidays, to summer activities, to game nights. The whole family is such an active part of building relationships with these students. The kids make such a connection with them, as a matter of fact, we had a past student of 5 years ago wanting to ZOOM with Madden because they had been missing him. It is these relationships that open doors of conversations of faith and invitations of faith. The ministry is ever-changing because the students are always coming and going. Tyler is especially thankful for the once a week set aside times that he gets to teach the scriptures to these students. It does all of the hearts good to be able to teach people about Jesus who really knows very little.
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 starting of the Bridge FWB Church here in Champaign, Il. Pray that God would bring partners in gospel along side to help get the church established.
* Pray for the start of the new spring 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.
*Pray for Easter services this year. The Bridge FWB Church will have its first Easter service and also for Easter with English Corner students.