Written by Juanita Fox
Walking through Bill & Hilda Bradney’s home gives visitors a glimpse of their life experiences. A small cart decorated with inlaid wood representing the native woods of Costa Rica sits in the living room; a Paraguayan harp rests in the corner next to the piano, waiting to be played and a collection of elephants from India speaks to Hilda’s childhood.
Bill and Hilda moved to Garden Spot Village in November 2016, after more than 55 years ministering in Latin America as well as the United States.
The couple met at University of Valley Forge in September 1958 on their first evening as underclassmen. They came from very different backgrounds. Bill was born in Renovo, a small town in upstate Pennsylvania, while Hilda was born in Calcutta, India, to missionary parents. Hilda spent her childhood and young adult years in Australia, India and England before immigrating to the United States. They began to date in 1959 and married in 1961.
After pastoring in Pennsylvania for seven years, Bill and Hilda spent 20 years in Costa Rica with their three children, teaching and equipping new believers at a Bible school. At first, they found the environment hostile for Christians, especially evangelicals who taught a conflicting message to the official state religion. Despite the opposition, they took advantage of the opportunities presented to them and when the state church encouraged their constituents to read their own Bible in their heart-language, they embraced the revival that followed. Hilda says, “The explosive church growth in Costa Rica was a direct result of tens of thousands of families reading the scripture for the very first time.”
In the early 1980s they moved to Paraguay, leaving established schools, churches and ministries in Costa Rica to direct a growing Bible School, open regional Bible schools and meet other needs. In Paraguay, the ruling dictator gave evangelicals permission to hold outdoor/indoor services as well as distribute portions of the Scripture adapted to different age-groups in every public school. Bill and Hilda supported the new believers, teaching and equipping them for ministry in their communities and abroad. They worked themselves out of a job, mentoring nationals to replace them in their leadership roles.
During each furlough, they visited former members of the first church they pastored in Pennsylvania: Edwin and Mabel Hurst at their home in Azalea Court. While living at Garden Spot Village, Edwin and Mabel attended their home congregation, Lighthouse Tabernacle Assembly of God in New Holland. These times were always refreshing and memorable.
When they returned to the United States in 2002 they began an assignment at University of Valley Forge as missionaries-in-residence, returning to the place they met more than 40 years earlier. They taught and lectured, “persecuting the saints” as Bill says with a grin. For several years Hilda chaired the Department of Intercultural Studies and together they taught and connected with the students, encouraging them in their vision for future ministry. Hilda still serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Valley Forge and coordinates international internships.
When it was time to retire and move to a new community they remembered the fond memories of Garden Spot Village and came for a tour. Bill says, “We were hesitant to move to a retirement community because we didn’t want to be surrounded by grumpy old people. But, the first time we visited Garden Spot Village, my feet were dancing because we realized this group knows how to party and we are going to have a great time.”
Since moving to Garden Spot Village Bill and Hilda have volunteered as connectors for Caring Connections. They regularly visit a gentleman and, Bill says, they leave each time blessed by their visit with him.
Hilda also plays her Paraguayan harp in the various care areas, as she is able.
And, they apply a lifetime of teaching as they offer English as a Second Language classes and one-on-one sessions with staff who are working towards citizenship and learning English. Hilda believes true happiness lies in pouring out your life for others. She says, “The happiest people are the ones who serve others.”
After serving overseas for many years, Bill struggled with the beauty and tranquility of their home at Garden Spot Village. He says, “We don’t deserve a home as wonderful as this. But God clearly said to me in a time of prayer and meditation, ‘You have lived behind high walls and barbed wire fences all of your life; I have given you this home as a gift for this season of your life.’”
Bill and Hilda continue to seek God’s will for their lives and look forward to increased connections to others at Garden Spot Village. Bill says, “If you want a real adventure in life, just follow God’s leading.”