"Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples."
1 Chronicles 16:24
Bradley and I (Jessica) met while in high school, I was a senior and Brad a sophomore at Great Lakes Adventist Academy. From there we attended college at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. Brad began his program in aviation mechanics/business and I studied to become an elementary school teacher. After obtaining his aircraft mechanics license, Brad went as a student missionary to the jungles of Guyana, South America, and I stayed in the United States continuing my studies. While in Guyana, he helped to maintain an aircraft used primarily to help people in the remote villages get to and from medical help. Here his desire to serve as a missionary grew even deeper and it became a more pressing topic of conversation between the two of us. I remember hearing the desire for missions and love for the people he was serving in his voice during those longed-for phone calls from the jungle. We had always discussed from early on in our relationship going to serve as long term missionaries, but as I listened to the stories and heard of the hardships, I knew this was something he wanted more than anything. It isn’t that I didn’t want to go, but rather that it wasn’t something that I had ever experienced. I love people and wanted very much to have a job that focused on helping others and sharing Jesus with them. As I thought over our conversations and our future, I began to realize just how much of a reality missions would be for us as a couple, should we get married. I decided that I too, wanted long term overseas mission work to be a large part of our life.
Brad returned from Guyana, and four months later we were engaged, and 8 months after that we were married. I had graduated by this point with my BS degree (not a fully certified teacher, due to unforeseen circumstances, but a degree in Education non-the-less) and got a job on campus that would allow me to cover the costs of our apartment rent and other expenses, while Brad finished up his last year of school. In the process of this year, Brad also began to look into jobs for after graduation. Many an hour was spent in prayer, creating a resume, looking at job listings and applying. Of course, we found ourselves looking for jobs in locations that seemed attractive to live in. Applications were sent to places in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and several others. We waited and waited, but there was nothing but silence. Then one day things changed.
A family friend was at an Adventist Dakota's men's retreat and while talking with one of his friends, came to realize that a company (Bismarck Aero Center) in Bismarck, North Dakota, was looking to hire an Aircraft Mechanic. After some prompting, discussion and prayer, Brad and I decided to apply to this company. What could it hurt? Not expecting things to be that different from all the other positions we had applied for, we went on with our lives. No more than two business days later, Brad received a phone call from the CEO of the company and basically had an on the spot phone interview. They offered to fly both of us out for an in-person interview and to see the sights, this was a family decision and they wanted to have both of us involved in the process. We flew out sometime in April of 2016, had the interview, looked at a few apartments, prayed a lot, and signed on for the job.
Brad graduated with his business/aircraft mechanics degree in May of 2016. We packed up our belongings, said goodbye to family and friends, and drove out to Bismarck. Brad started work in June and I began searching for a job. After a few months I found a job working at a public school as a paraprofessional. During this time frame, we received a random and surprising phone call from one of Brad's friends, Eben, a missionary with Peru Projects. Eben had attended Aircraft Mechanics school with Brad and was calling to ask if we would be willing to come to Pucullpa, Peru as missionaries. Both Brad and I couldn’t believe that this had happened. This was a dream come true, but why this timing? We had just moved; Brad had told his work that he would give them about five years and then he planned on pursuing mission work. We had not even been in Bismarck for two months. What did this mean?
There were many days of prayer, discussion, facing fears, talking with friends and family, and asking questions, finally a decision was made. We believed that God was saying not now. This had however woken us up too many things, for me in particular. I began to realize how hard it would be for me to leave everything I know. To no longer being able to see family on long weekends, to call and talk with them whenever we wanted, to live in a place where we could talk with people who spoke the same language. These are all things that normally we don’t think about, things that are taken for granted. It allowed both of us to see that God was preparing us for something. What, we did not know. Was Peru in our future?
The past couple of years have passed. During that time Brad has continued to work for Bismarck Aero Center. Here he has been developing his skills and earning experience in his field. Whether for financial needs or the relocation of a job, I have worked as a paraprofessional, office manager, and a receptionist during our time in Bismarck. All of this time with the thought of serving as missionaries in Peru in the back of our minds, an idea that did not go away. As Brad’s contract with his job came closer to being fulfilled, we began to question what was next. Were we to stay in Bismarck, or was it time to accept a call to missions? But, what call?
After some time spent in prayer and discussion, we decided to reach out to Eben at Peru Projects and see if the call received four and a half years earlier was still an option. With one phone call it was clear that the option to go and serve in Peru was very much still there. The need was greater now than before. Eben was flying for the project, helping with the Bible college, maintaining the aircraft, and performing administrative duties. This meant little time with family and time away from other necessary projects. He said it would be a dream come true if we could come down. Brad would be able take over maintenance of the aircraft and help with other things as needed. While I would be helping with the community, maybe even teaching English. So began the process of asking questions, praying, and weighting the options. This was not a choice we wanted to make lightly.
It took a couple of weeks, maybe even a month or so, but the decision was made. Yes, we are going to serve as missionaries with the Peru Project in Pucallpa, Peru. I know that this story is long, yet how very summed up. We hope that you are able to get a feel for our story, our background. We hope that as you read the journal entries that we post, you will begin to get to know us better, get to know the mission and the people we are serving. Most importantly we want you to begin to feel the power of God at work, whether it is through a tough or encouraging situation shared. This is His call, His mission, His people, and we are His missionaries. We thank you for taking the time to follow our journey to see what He has in store for us as we leave the prairies of North Dakota and move to the jungles of Peru.
Bradley and Jessica Church