The airplane circled high above the Siberian tundra, unable to land because a blizzard was rendering the Soviet-built runway invisible. Fuel was running out. Even if an emergency landing in the mountains were successful, the pilot said, everyone aboard likely would freeze before rescuers could reach them.
Jim Hulse, a builder of radio towers, hurriedly penned tear-stained letters to his wife and children, expecting his life to be over in a matter of minutes and hoping these last words to his family would be recovered from the wreckage. He asked his business partner, Bob Meier, if he was still praying. Meier replied that he’d never stopped.
Suddenly, the pilot announced that he had caught sight of a runway.
“We were so happy,” Hulse recalls today. “I asked the Lord to bring an angel to give us a little push since the fuel was almost gone. We landed but it was on a military airbase and were surrounded by Russian soldiers. However, we finally arrived where we needed to be.”
Despite the glacial winter and ongoing intimidation by men identified as KGB agents, Hulse and Meier completed their work in Magadan, where prisoners in the 1930s had been forced to mine gold in one of Stalin’s infamous gulags. Although Hulse’s reminiscence sounds more like a thriller novel than a missionary report, it’s practically just another day at the office for him and his ministry, Towers for Jesus.
More than two decades later, Hulse traveled with his wife, Connie, and Meier to the Caribbean island of Bonaire to assist with the major upgrade of TWR’s AM transmitter signal, the so-called Power Up project. He has worked on several other TWR projects, and this time, in the fall of 2016, he helped replace insulators on the guy wires to handle the massive increase in power.
TWR missionary Daryl VanDyken is the lead engineer on the Bonaire Power Up project and collaborated with Hulse previously in Sri Lanka. “Not many people have the level of experience and expertise needed to be able to accomplish the work in difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions," VanDyken said.
Hulse was born in Indiana and had a successful career as an entrepreneur building communications towers until the Lord turned his life upside down in the early 1990s. He recalls seeing a picture of people from around the world and God impressing upon him, “Jim, I am going to use you on the mission field. All these people need to hear about Jesus.”
At that time, the former soldier was dismantling 58 radio towers for the U.S. Navy. Permission was given for the old equipment to be reused for Christian broadcasting around the world, and Towers for Jesus was born.
For a while, the Hulses simply sold pieces of their communications equipment to finance their projects, but eventually they were running out of things to sell. Today supporters help raise the funds for the work, which is done at cost, Hulse said.
He and Meier have worked on 339 Christian broadcasting towers, many in remote locations. Those experiences have provided the raw material for what seems like an endless supply of fascinating anecdotes.
Another one of these stories illustrates how personally demanding the construction projects often are. When missionaries decided that radio was the best way to get the gospel to the hard-to-reach Aukan people in the South American country of Suriname, Towers for Jesus got involved building a station on a heavily forested mountaintop accessible only by helicopter.
The primitive living conditions took their toll, with Connie contracting an infection that led to blindness in one eye. But the couple put their trust in Jesus and committed to sticking it out even if the project cost their lives.
“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Hulse, now well into his 70s. “I will keep working for him. There is one word that answers it all, and that is ‘faith.’ We have had faith that somehow the Lord would take care of us, and he always has.”
As the Lord leads you, consider praying for the Hulses in the following specific ways.
- Praise God that the worst of Connie’s pain is gone, and ask him to continue providing for her medical needs, including the high costs of treatment.
- Pray for funds to build a small shop so the tower ministry can continue operating.
- Pray that stones can be obtained to improve the road to the Hulses’ office.
Photo 1: From left, Bob Meier, Lionel Cicilia, Jonas Fischer, Benny Sargoza, Jim Hulse and Kevin Baker take a break from work on the Bonaire Power Up project. Photo 2: Hulse operates the powerful winch that raised and lowered crewman and equipment for work on the radio towers.