When Malcolm and Ainsley Purdey met as university students in Adelaide, one of the first things they discovered was that each harboured a strong drive to visit South America.
A couple of years after they wed – after a whirlwind romance – the young couple spent six weeks travelling around South America, visiting Ecuador, Peru and Chile, an experience that only strengthened their affinity with the culture.
‘What is it about this place and what is it that God will have us do?’” – Malcolm Purdey
It was while they were surveying a street scene in Quito, Ecuador, from a coffee shop situated high in the tower of the Basilica del Voto Nacional that Ainsley confessed to Malcolm, “I could live here.”
“It was this big old Gothic church in the middle of the city. And we were just sitting there, thinking, ‘What does God want us to do here?’” Malcolm recalls.
“We just felt very drawn to this place. We sat there for hours just considering, ‘What is it about this place and what is it that God will have us do?’”
Nine years later, after a lot of prayer, Malcolm and Ainsley are preparing to move to Chile as missionaries with the Church Missionary Society (South Australia/Northern Territory). Malcolm has given up a brilliant career as a research scientist in chemistry at the University of Adelaide to take on the challenge of teaching the next generation of ministers at Centro de Estudios Pastorales (CEP) in Santiago.
“The college serves the Anglican diocese in Chile and also in the surrounding countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, so it’s quite strategic in that if people want to learn how to teach the Bible better, that’s the place to do that in South America,” says Ainsley, adding that the college also attracts students from other Protestant churches, including Pentecostals.
“So we’re really excited to be a part of raising up the next generation of gospel workers in Chile and the surrounding countries for decades of faithful gospel ministry.”
As they gather support for their mission before their departure early next year, the Purdeys feel excited about the path that God has led them to, honouring that first yearning to live in South America.
“We’re really excited to be a part of raising up the next generation of gospel workers in Chile and the surrounding countries for decades of faithful gospel ministry.” – Ainsley Purdey
Malcolm and Ainsley have also been a bit strategic in persuading their two small daughters, Elsie and June, that it’s their own idea to move to Chile. (The couple also have three-year-old twin boys.)
“It actually started before we had decided officially that we were going to apply with CMS,” Malcolm confesses.
“We got the CMS prayer diary and before the girls went to bed, as just part of their nightly routine, we’d pray for some missionaries each day. And we’d talk to them about people across the world needing to know Jesus.
“Then as we were starting to think, ‘Oh, actually we’re probably going to go to Chile’ we’d be praying for Frances Cook who’s over there at the moment, and we’d say ‘but they actually need more people at the Bible college – maybe we can pray for that. Do you know anyone who could go?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, we could go, Daddy, you could teach them’, and we just convinced them that it’s their idea and they’re on board with that.”
“We just convinced them that it’s their idea and they’re on board with that.” – Malcolm Purdey
While Malcolm and Ainsley grew up in Christian homes, they both went through a period when they asked themselves if this was a faith they wanted to live by for themselves.
“Both of us would probably say we never knew a day where we didn’t know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. But for me particularly, that stage from moving from high school to university was the time where I stepped out from my parents’ faith and started reading the Bible for myself and engaging with it. I was like, ‘Do I really believe this? Is Jesus really the Lord of my life?” says Malcolm.
“That was the time at which I felt God moving in my heart and pushing me towards ‘Actually, yes, he is and I want to spend the rest of my life serving him no matter what that looks like.’”
While Ainsley is grateful for having grown up in a Christian household, her faith experience in a Pentecostal church taught her more about how to act as a Christian than how to read the Bible. So when she met Christians at uni who engaged with Scripture and were excited about growing in their faith, she was impressed.
For her, the biggest turning point was going to Bible college in Adelaide in her mid-20s when she was already a parent.
“For the first time, I was learning about why the Bible was written and by who and for who and what it meant at the time and what it means to us now,” she says.
“I think for me that was the biggest shift in why it’s exciting to be a Christian and why the Bible is exciting and why I want to tell more people about it. For me, that’s why I’m so excited to be going into a Bible college scenario in Chile, because I had such an important time at Bible college, learning these things. And I just want to take that community and that learning period and be involved in growing other Christians across the world in that same way.”
“At the end of the day, staying was all about what we can amass for ourselves in this life, and going was about what we can amass for the kingdom.” – Malcolm Purdey
Reflecting on Jesus’ promise that anyone who leaves homes and families and fields for the sake of the gospel will be blessed in this life and the next, Malcolm and Ainsley say that concept is one of the biggest motivators that convinced them to go.
“At the end of the day, staying was all about what we can amass for ourselves in this life, and going was about what we can amass for the kingdom,” says Malcolm.
This is what makes the sacrifice of taking their children away from their grandparents and giving up the best possible Australian education for their kids worthwhile.
“We won’t be saving up money to buy a house, you know? There are lots of typical things that people our age are working towards and doing, but we’ve made the decision that those things aren’t what actually matters. And what we will be gaining is Christian Chileans and South Americans greeting us when we get to heaven because we went to train their priests,” says Malcolm.
“So as much as the sacrifice is very real, it’s for an eternal reward or an eternal blessing rather than a worldly one that we’re doing this for.”
Ainsley adds: “It sounds like some hero Christian concepts to say that, but at the end of the day, we’re just normal Christians, but we’ve got a super God who’s enabling us.”
You can connect with the Purdeys here.