We get this question a lot.
Here’s the short answer:
Because it’s where we honestly feel the Lord is leading us.
And here’s the looooong answer:
I absolutely love the story of how we’ve come to be involved with HCJB Global. It started back in February 2007, when Tom and I were dating (although only weeks away from engagement, but I had no idea!) and went to MissionFest Manitoba. Already at that point in our relationship we felt God calling us to missions, so we eagerly searched booth after booth trying to find a good fit. It was a fantastic evening. There was (cheap!) food, an inspiring speaker, and many like-minded individuals. When we came across the HCJB Global booth, we thought we struck gold. They did radio and healthcare, which matches our skill sets exactly with Tom being an engineer and I just finishing up a degree in nutrition. We took their brochures and tucked them away in my filing cabinet for future reference.
Over the next few years, life happened. We got married, we moved to Montreal. I started grad school at McGill University and Tom started a new job. My studies at university brought us to rural Panama, but traveling to the field research site took us through the neighboring country of Costa Rica. While in Costa Rica we met local missionaries and fell in love with their mission in a small rural town in the mountains. God spoke to our hearts during that trip and we just knew we had to return. We did just that right after I finished up my master’s degree at McGill in the fall of 2009.
We went to Costa Rica as missionaries through our home church (Lakeshore Evangelical Church) in Montreal. We served full time for six months and although they were by far the most challenging months of our lives they were also the most fulfilling and we knew the Lord was bringing us to full-time missions.
As our time was wrapping up in Costa Rica, we began to set our sights on further mission opportunities. That mission organization we came across years prior (back at MissionFest) came to both our minds. Within a few days we had our application in to join them on the field in Ecuador for short-term service. At that time we had no employment to return to, no apartment lease, our stuff was still in storage, and our Spanish was as good as it was going to get in the foreseeable future, so we really felt that it was the perfect time to investigate service in the mission field with HCJB Global. We applied, were accepted, and found ourselves on a plane to Ecuador a few weeks later.
We took two weeks of language school (so I could brush up on medical lingo) in Quito before heading to Shell, Ecuador to serve for six weeks. (Shell is, of course, famous for Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and the other missionary martyrs.) We loved being in the field serving again so soon, especially in a manner that used both of our professional skills. Tom worked to update the communication system in the hospital and I worked with the ladies in the hospital kitchen to increase the nutritive value (and microbiological safety) of meals served.
While in Ecuador we also traveled into the deep jungle with Mission Aviation to visit the Huaorani tribe and I volunteered as a dental assistant for a day on a medical caravan to a remote community. We love opportunities such as these to fit in and help out wherever possible; it is amazing how offering yourself as a servant leads to so much joy! The Lord has provided us with incredible experiences during our times of service and we honestly feel that these are among our rewards for doing his work. He has truly fulfilled the desires of our heart during our times of missionary service, and this contributes to our drive to full-time missions.
When we returned home from Ecuador in July 2010 we had a ‘baby on board’ with us: I was due early March 2011. Although we were jet-lagged from all the recent travel and I was battling morning sickness, we still signed up for missionary training with HCJB Global in Colorado Springs for the month following. In Colorado Springs we underwent the formal in-person application process of becoming missionary appointees. After being accepted by the mission on day three (after numerous interviews), we underwent missionary preparation training.
Although we were quite excited to be accepted by the mission as appointees, and found the training to be extremely helpful, we were disheartened by the fact we had no idea where we were to serve. Although Ecuador was an incredible experience for us both, neither of us felt we were to return there for full-time service. We researched other regions were HCJB Global served, but again, neither of us felt a call to anywhere in particular. We when we left Colorado at the end of the training in August 2010, we really had no idea what we were supposed to do. We loved the organization and the work they do, but just didn’t feel any call as to where God wanted us. We were quite disheartened.
From Colorado we traveled to Winnipeg for Tom’s brother’s wedding. After visiting with family and friends we returned to Montreal. Tom was accepted back at his prior workplace after being away for a total of a year. I started working for a non-profit organization in Montreal as a research consultant and began working form home more and more as my pregnancy progressed. Although we were frequently in contact with HCJB Global as they sent us various potential service opportunities, neither of us found any of them to be ‘right’.
Jonathan was born at the beginning of March 2011; it was a great distraction from our spiritual unsettledness concerning what we were supposed to do with our lives. We continued to be certain that we were to be in missions, and we thought we had found the perfect organization for us, but for some reason something wasn’t sitting well.
In the fall of 2011 we decided to take a long road trip from Montreal to Manitoba. Tom took a few months of parental leave from work and we packed up the car with about as much as it could possibly hold and we drove. The baby loved sleeping in the car and we desperately needed a spiritual retreat and time to focus on what in the world we are supposed to do with our lives. We were unsettled staying in Montreal and thought a few months away would help clarify where we were supposed to be and what we were supposed to be doing.
To be honest, we both half-expected the chips to fall on Manitoba. We thought we’d be moving back permanently so we planned to stay for a few months to give us a feel for how it would be to live there again.
But the Lord had other plans.
While on our drive to Manitoba, we needed to stop in at the HCJB Global Canadian head office in Cambridge, Ontario to tie up some loose ends from our previous work with them. Basically, we felt that we had occupied enough of their time and resources, and with still no call, we should probably part ways. We were invited to stay at the home of the director and his wife while in town and took them up on their gracious offer. While visiting with them and discussing how HCJB Global may not be the organization for us, the director mentioned, “It’s too bad you didn’t get a chance to explore the Technology Center in Elkhart.” He explained to us what type of work is done at the Technology Center and how Tom would be of such great use to them. Up until this point we hadn’t heard much about the Technology Center and agreed that the type of work there did indeed suit Tom’s passions and skill level. But really, where in the world was Elkhart, Indiana?
We looked on a map and were astounded to see that Elkhart was DIRECTLY on the road we were planning to take from Cambridge to Winnipeg. Now I know this may sound silly, but it really did feel like God rearranged geography to put Elkhart on our path (but I understand that he actually had already arranged our path to cross with Elkhart). A phone call later from the Canadian director to the director of the Technology Center and we were on our way to Elkhart Indiana to visit the Technology Center.
We toured the Technology Center and met with the director and everything fell into place. Words cannot describe the bubbling feeling that welled up within me. After a year of desperately searching and yearning, all the pieces had fallen together. The overwhelming excitement, yet peace. The perfect fit, yet no one had seen it prior. Even the director of the Tech Center asked, “Why wasn’t I informed about you (Tom) last year when you were going through training and seeking tirelessly for where you should be stationed?”
The Lord reveals his plans at the perfect time. I have absolutely no doubt. There must be a reason why he led us through a year of searching and yearning. There must be a reason why no one thought of the Technology Center as a good fit for us back at our training in Colorado Springs. But now, a year later and in the middle of a road trip from Montreal to Manitoba to determine if that’s where we were supposed to live the Lord hit us over the head with a 2x4. And we just knew.
After saying good-bye and climbing into the car to head towards Manitoba, we were silent (and we aren’t exactly the ‘silent’ type of people). About 20 minutes later I looked at Tom and asked “That’s where we are supposed to be, isn’t it!?!” He smiled, and said “Absolutely.”
You see, we had travelled down to Shell with HCJB expecting that to be “it”. Tom was going to work in shortwave and I in the hospital. We loved living abroad and learning from other cultures, and Shell was a wonderful place where we could live and work for years and raise a family. But, for whatever reason, we just felt like God was saying “I needed you to see this, but this itself is not My plan for you.”
One of the passions that led us to HCJB Global was Tom’s love of radio, and HCJB had been transmitting out of Pifo, Ecuador since 1931. Upon arrival in Ecuador we found out that just a few months prior transmissions had ceased – the antennas had been taken down, and the transmitter was being reassigned to northern Australia. Tom really struggled with that, because he had so eagerly anticipated getting involved in that ministry, and it seemed like God had taken it away just before He provided the opportunity to visit the site.
As the tour was wrapping up on that first day in Elkhart, Tom already knew that’s where God was calling us. And, as only He can do, He gave Tom a little wink of confirmation. He was introduced to Herb Jacobson, HCJB’s 80-and-some year old chief radio engineer, who has been with the mission for over 60 years. (This will likely be the man that Tom will mentor under.) He said to Tom, “Let me show you what I’m working on. This… is the shortwave transmitter from Pifo, Ecuador. We’re fixing her up before sending her down to Australia.” For Tom, this was the “pot of gold” in God’s Kingdom that confirmed what was so clear on his heart. It’s as though God had put that passion on his heart back in Ecuador, so that he could recognize His plan when he saw it in Elkhart.
The next few months were filled with visiting friends and family in Manitoba and helping with harvest on my parent’s family farm. We headed back to Montreal a few months later and stopped in at the Technology Center again on our way through. This time we stayed for a few days to gain a better appreciation for the details and what life will be like there.
Since returning back to Montreal we’ve gone through the HCJB Global’s missionary training again, via Skype, considering it had been so long since we were in Colorado Springs. That really helped get us motivated and organized to start down the long road of getting to Elkhart permanently. We were officially accepted as appointees to Elkhart in late November 2011 and officially began the fund raising process in April 2012.
And allllll of that is why we feel led to serve with HCJB Global! 🙂