On weekdays, you can usually find WILL KYLES doing Champaign City Council-related work or helping run the e-commerce business selling groceries, supplies and health and beauty items that he and wife Nikia operate.
But come Sundays, 10-year council member Kyles becomes Berean Covenant Assistant Pastor Kyles, who delivers the sermon on the last Sunday of every month.
Staff writer Tim Mitchell caught up with the 36-year-old combination council member/minister for a wide-ranging conversation.
What’s your earliest memory of church?
The pastor I work with here at Berean Covenant, the Reverend Willie Comer Jr., used to be my youth pastor back at the Salem Baptist Church in Chicago, which we attended when I was young.
I remember being 14 years old when many of us would go out to people’s homes, the Taste of Chicago and some of the city’s public housing to evangelize. We ultimately won 25,000 souls for the church.
How did you end up in Champaign-Urbana?
After high school (at Chicago’s Brother Rice), I attended Northern Illinois University. I ran into a couple of financial difficulties, so I decided to enlist in the Army Reserves to help pay for my education.
My unit was stationed on Main Street in Urbana, so I ended up moving here. I learned the cost of living is less here than in Chicago, and God blessed me with a job at Sam’s Club.
Right after boot camp, I went to Parkland College. One of the life-changing events for me was meeting Dr. Willie Fowler, a professor at Parkland College. He taught political science. When I got an A in his class, Dr. Fowler suggested that I run for the city council.
I had been a speech communications major, and Dr. Fowler touched my heart so much that I changed my major to political science. I transferred to the University of Illinois and earned a degree.
How did you meet Nikia?
I met my wife at a computer class teaching young African Americans how to code. I was 14 years old and used to take part in computer competitions offered by Black Data Processing Associates in which the participants did coding.
I went to Brother Rice, and Nikia attended Rich South High School. One day, as God would have it, I decided I wanted her to be my girlfriend.
She is the woman of my dreams. We got married 16 years ago and have two children. The oldest, Titus, is 14 and attends Central High School. Our daughter, Nyla, is 12. She goes to Franklin Middle School.
How did you get the call to become a minister?
I believe that God always put it in my heart, but I kept saying that was not for me. I preferred to be a servant and be behind the scenes.
When I moved to Champaign, I first attended Love Corner and the Harvest Church. When Pastor Willie Comer came down to start up Berean Covenant Church, he invited me to be a part of it. So I said I was down with it. I had always been serving the church.
One day, Reverend Comer called me up and said he had been praying about me. He asked me if I would accept the title of deacon. I knew that I was always called to serve in the church. So I said I would serve as deacon.
Then the Holy Spirit kept urging me to take a minister role. By that time, I was employed by Kraft as a sanitation auditor.
It was at Kraft that I worked with the Reverend Joe Wilson, who preaches at the New Generation Christian Fellowship. We talked about God a lot. After he was ordained, I talked to him a lot, and I realized I was supposed to be doing ministry.
When I approached the Reverend Willie Comer about it, he told me he always knew I was going to be a minister. He was just waiting for me to say it.
What ministry are you most proud of?
I am most proud of our church’s annual event called the Campference. We go to Garden Hills each July and put the basketball hoops up and put together an old-school block party. We play basketball and teach life-application lessons.
It is amazing seeing the kids having something to do. Through it all, our church is interacting with young people outside our walls. This is our third year doing it.
Do you have any hobbies?
My wife and I run. We did two marathons: the Chicago Marathon and the Indiana Marathon. In Chicago, I actually strained my ankle right before the race. We were running late getting there, and I had to run a full mile just to make it to the starting line on time.
There were tens of thousands of runners, and nearly everybody was running for a purpose. It inspired me. I didn’t think my ankle was going to hold up to the race. But I decided to go for it.
I remember trusting God as I walked a little bit and ran a little bit. Then I just ended up walking. My time was close to six hours. I learned that sometimes you have to persevere, even during tough times.
I am a vegetarian. I love the Beyond Beef Burgers.
How about a favorite movie?
“Remember the Titans.” I love it because I love football. The game of football changed a town that was literally divided and brought people together.
The team had to pull through, no matter what.