Enter the northwest doors of Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Urbana on a Sunday morning and you will encounter East Asia. River of Life is a Chinese congregation started in 2018 that meets in PABC’s building. Their mission is to share the gospel with Chinese students and immigrants who call Champaign-Urbana home.
The church exists because of the partnership of Illinois Baptists. And their story is one of four featured in the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, observed in many IBSA churches Sept. 11-18.
The University of Illinois is home to over 10,000 students from China. While Christianity saw a period of rapid growth in China, it is still rare to be a Chinese Christian. Most students have little knowledge of Jesus when they arrive on campus at U of I.
Thomas Li understands their experience. He was a self-described “strong atheist” when he arrived at Indiana State University in 1997 for Ph.D. studies. But God had other plans. “God was working in my heart, so that gave me the opportunity, but he humbled my heart, humbled me, so I was able to know him,” Li said.
“God put a burden on my heart to do the most valuable thing, that was to save the soul.” That led Li to seminary, then ultimately, to Champaign and its enormous population of Chinese students.
PABC has a long history of outreach to Chinese students, and through help and funding from IBSA and the North American Mission Board, River of Life Church was born. Pastor Li and his family have established roots here. They, along with a small core of committed leaders, are ready to share Christ with the new wave of students who arrive on campus each fall.
Learn more about their ministry at MissionIllinois.org. And encourage your church to pray and support state missions in the month of September.