If you had told Yucan Chiu a few years ago he was going to be living in New Jersey, he may not have believed you. He and his family were living in San Diego, leading a church he had planted, and were looking to plant again in an urban area near a major university. They were considering Toronto or Palo Alto or Los Angeles. When someone suggested Rutgers University, Yucan’s first response was, “What state is that in?” But almost three years ago, when he and the Ethnos Network scout team arrived in New Brunswick, NJ, they knew this was the place.
Rutgers is one of eight U.S. universities built before the American Revolution. The culture of the school is, like the school itself, old. With that comes professionals and PhDs aplenty. But New Brunswick is very diverse. Over 50% of the population is Hispanic. The city also has large African American and Jewish populations.
This mix of cultures is important to Yucan. He was born in Chicago to parents of Chinese descent. He grew up in an upper middle class environment going to a school that was half Latino. He learned early on that it takes intentional bridge building to bring together varying ethnic and socio-economic worlds, and that has become one of the core principles of his ministry.
Yucan explains, “The gospel calls us to reconcile, so Ethnos intentionally plants multi-ethnic, multi-socioeconomic churches.” Their church reflects the community well. On Sunday mornings, their congregation is made up of university staff, undocumented immigrants and, as Yucan puts it, “everything in between.” He continues, “The area tends to be very segregated politically, economically and socially. This reconciled community is turning heads in New Brunswick. People are definitely curious to see what is going on here.”
To create and maintain this diversity takes intentionality. Their staff and liturgy represent the diverse congregation. Yucan says, “We sing songs in at least three languages, and we have a spoken word piece. But it’s really all about bridge building and friendship. By God’s grace, we’ve had some key bridge builders—people who can be in between different worlds. And when we talk about friendship, we’re talking about actual familial relationships. We can host panels, but if the people coming to your dinner table Monday through Saturday are just like you, then you have not crossed that line.”
A church-planting friend introduced Yucan to CTC, and he recently attended a training session held at CTC’s office. He says, “What blew me away was not just the competencies – that’s obvious – but the true generosity. CTC just wants to bless you and equip you—to give you what they have with no strings attached and at no cost. It made me really want to give back. We brought those same values into our network—to not burden people with this or that requirement.”
Yucan loves the content he receives from CTC, but he appreciates the true friendships even more. And he’s been freshly encouraged through hearing the gospel message repeated. “The focus on the gospel was already there in my personal walk and growth, but the way CTC continues to make the gospel the focus—the way they keep coming back to it—that’s been a very important part of my journey.”
Yucan is encouraged with what is happening in New Brunswick. He says, “Like many northeastern cities, the majority of the population is not engaged in the church. We are definitely seeing a new and fresh experience of God and Jesus.”
Yucan and his wife live and serve in New Brunswick, New Jersey with their two children. The church is called Ethnos New Brunswick. Yucan started Ethnos Network in San Diego. Ethnos provides expertise to plant churches and a genuine relationship for the whole journey. The people who plant and lead Ethnos churches feel called to live in and serve the urban areas surrounding major global universities. In addition to San Diego and New Brunswick, they have locations in Los Angeles and Johannesburg with potential expansions in Dallas, Mexicali, Tokyo, Durban and Cape Town.