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When PERRICO ROBINSON was a boy, he didn't belong to a church.

Then he turned 13 — and says he felt the touch of God. Within a few years, he responded to the call to the ministry, a road that led to him being installed as the 30-year-old new pastor at Champaign's St. Luke CME Church.

Staff writer Tim Mitchell sat down with the Muhammad Ali fan shortly after his recent move from Point Pleasant CME Church in Athens, La.

Tell us about your conversion to Christianity.

I became a Christian at age 13. One of my cousins was attending a church in Selmer, Tenn. He invited me to church, and I decided I wanted to listen to the pastor.

One Sunday, he preached a message about grace, about how God is going to forget everything you've done in your past and is willing to forgive and completely forget everything sinful you've done.

I thought, 'Wow. That's an amazing thing.' ... I decided I wanted that grace he was talking about.

I did get saved that day. I walked down the aisle in tears because I thought about what was going on in my home environment. I did not grow up in the best of circumstances. I was raised in a single-parent household. To this day, I still haven't seen my father. I was in a home environment filled with drugs and a lot of things not conducive to a teenager. I was baptized perhaps a month later, at 13.

What did your mother do for a living?

She was a cook all her life. She worked at a restaurant.

What was her reaction when you said you wanted to become a minister?

Initially, I didn't tell her. I waited until after I announced it in church, and word got back to her.

She said: 'You trying to be a preacher?'

I responded: 'I guess so. I feel like God is calling me.'

She said: 'I tell you what. Don't be like the bad preachers.'

She just wanted to make sure I made the right decision and that I was not doing it for any other reason than God calling me.

Of all your ministries, which one are you proudest of?

In Pittsburgh, I took a church that had around 25 members and grew it to about 160 members.

Do you have any expansion plans for St. Luke CME?

We currently have 300-plus members. I think the church has the potential to have 500 people.

I want to revitalize and refresh our evangelism ministry. We are already involved with a food pantry and things of that nature. We have a computer lab where we teach kids how to read. We have an essay program for students.

But my main thing is to grow the church. I want the church to be as impactful as possible in the Champaign community.

Have a favorite sports team?

The New England Patriots. Back in 2001, when my Titans lost to the Rams, I decided to leave the Titans. I left them high and dry. It was too close of a game.

How about a favorite movie?

'Life,' with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. The movie was based in the 1920s and 1930s at a time when racism was much higher than it is now.

I like that it teaches you have to be careful about the choices that you make. The choices you make today can perhaps be detrimental for you tomorrow.