Part I: Purdys Meet World
While searching the streets of Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador for a vegan breakfast I stumbled upon Gringos Café. A group of backpackers were happily chatting by the counter and the smell of warm breakfast food turned up the volume of my already rumbling stomach.
I was seated by Bella Purdy –the owners’ daughter –who was visiting her parents during winter break from college in Nashville. While scanning the incredible menu, I asked what she was studying in school, to which she answered Theology, because she "wanted to learn more about God".
My ears perked immediately.
Wait, are you a Christian? “Yeah! Me and my family!”
What proceeded was a delicious breakfast at Gringos Café learning the Purdy family story.
FROM THE UNITED STATES TO THE WORLD
After 20 years of working unhappily in the pharmaceutical industry, and the early death of his father, Sterling Purdy decided to break the mold and quit.
“It was a wake-up call,” Sterling said, “You think, ‘Wow, what if that happened? You spend your whole life waiting, waiting to retire and then one of you is alone.”
So, the Purdy family chose not to wait, to leave everything behind and see the world.
Italy, Germany, Vietnam, Cambodia and Turkey are a few of the countries stamped in their passports. But more importantly than destinations, they said, each new experience unveiled another piece of God's plan for their lives.
In Istanbul, Turkey, they visited an English learning club organized by their missionary friends, and there they met an incredible couple named Pinar and Cem. Pinar and Cem invited the Purdys into their home for, Sterling said, one of the top three meals of his life and the best experience they had while traveling. The two families spent hours getting to know each other, sharing stories and laughing. They are still in touch today.
While in Vietnam, they met Sam, a young Australian man backpacking through the country. After a quick conversation they exchanged information, but didn’t speak again until Sam was hitchhiking through the U.S. a year later. At the time, the Purdys were back in Nashville, so they opened their home and table to Sam. What was meant to be a one-day crash became a five-day stay.
“One day, he and I sat for four or five hours and talked about his past, what shaped his beliefs, why he believes what he does,” Sterling said, “and how true Christianity is so different from what he left.”
To this day, the Purdys are in touch with Sam.
FROM THE WORLD TO ECUADOR
After a year or so of traveling, the Purdy family moved back to Nashville and decided to pursue an international missional life. They looked into living in China and Greece, however, an incredible encounter in England led them to the land of the Kiwis.
Fully anticipating New Zealand to be their new home, they booked a three-week trip to Queenstown.
While the country was beautiful, they were met with unbearable negativity. Sterling said every Christian they met discouraged them, saying Satan’s hand was too strong in the city to make a difference.
“It was the most bizarre thing” he said, “But all of the non-believers we met said, ‘Oh, that’s amazing! We need people to love on this generation’.”
The openness of non-believers in New Zealand was demonstrated in three friends they met while skydiving: Byron, Adam and Aisha. The three spent a lot of time with the Purdys during their stay in Queenstown. They ate meals together, went skydiving, cliff jumping and had many cookouts.
Sterling and Donna knew they simply wanted to be around a family, and that they could feel something different in the way the Purdys lived. And this –opening their lives to people and loving them well –is exactly their mission.
However, New Zealand, it became clear, was not home for the Purdys. While they were now certain that their mission was to open a hostel and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with backpackers, they headed back to the U.S. discouraged.
How, then, did they end up in South America? Read part two to find out!