Reilly Fitzpatrick ’20 (left) interacts with a child in China.
Reilly Fitzpatrick ’20 (left) interacts with a child in China.

He Spoke and I Listened: Honoring God's Call to China

by Abigail Reed

“Even though I heard God telling me I would go to China when I was a little girl, I never knew exactly what that would look like as part of my future career as a professor. Through community, Azusa Pacific has equipped me to weave these callings together, reaching students locally and globally.”

At just seven years old, Reilly Fitzpatrick ’20 heard the voice of God. Gathered with her siblings for their daily family devotional, her mom read a book about a little girl in China without any parents. Leaning against their sliding glass door, Fitzpatrick heard God speak: “One day, you’re going to China.” Even at such a young age, His voice was unmistakable, a glimpse into her future calling.

Just four years later, Fitzpatrick traveled to China on a summer mission trip, working with orphans at summer camps. Today, she has traveled to China seven times—building relationships with the same children, leading more than 20 college translators to Christ, and laughing as they swam and ate ice-cream together. Eventually, one of the little boys she met in China became an adopted member of her family, her brother.

“Many of my early faith moments centered around missions—a significant part of how I relate to God is how I serve those around me,” said Fitzpatrick. “I knew God was leading me to China, but I also knew He equipped me to pursue my dream of becoming an English professor.”

Wrestling with the tension between these two paths, Fitzpatrick arrived on APU’s campus as an English major and Honors College student. Even though she had already completed a great books program in high school, the Honors College exceeded her expectations and introduced her to living and learning community which would transform her life. Whether living next door to classmates or attending discussion-based classes, Fitzpatrick developed meaningful friendships with her peers.

“God has taught me so much through my APU community,” said Fitzpatrick. “How to love those who are struggling, empathize with others in both joys and hardships, and advocate for those without a voice—all while leading them to Christ.”

As Fitzpatrick learned from close relationships with others, her uncertain future began to mold and take shape. When she discovered China has the highest number of students experiencing mental illness and suicide rates, Fitzpatrick knew she could use her deepened skills of empathizing and caring for others to reach the needs of Chinese students in addition to her future students in America. After she graduates, Fitzpatrick plans on attending a Ph.D. program to pursue her dream of becoming an English professor, while returning to China during the summers to work with high school students experiencing mental illness. The God who spoke to her many years ago has equipped and grown her to further His Kingdom, both near and far.

Abigail Reed is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a liberal studies major with an honors humanities minor.