Spoiled for the Ordinary: David and Brenda Petrescue

April 1, 2024 | 14 minute read
The Alliance Canada


“I’m afraid she’s too girly and fragile to be trekking around the world with a 30-pound backpack for the next nine months!” Dave’s dad exclaimed. He was trying to reason with his 24-year-old son, who had his mind set to take me, his bride of two years, on an extended trip overseas. Dave’s purpose was for me to experience frontline missions firsthand. 

In Mali, Africa, four years earlier, God gave a clear call turning Dave’s heart towards mission-focused ministry. For the first few years of marriage, we laid in bed at night, and Dave would tell moving stories from his trip. My interest grew; it was not long until I set out to prove this “girly” type was up for the challenge! 

During the year 1977-78, we took every mode of transportation imaginable and visited 24 countries. We did our best to help missionaries with a variety of tasks, all while asking lots of questions, listening to incredible stories, praying, laughing, crying, and singing our theme song from the bottom of our hearts, “Let Me See This World Through Your Eyes, Dear Lord.” By the end of that trip, we had been changed forever. 

Our Early Years 

Dave Petrescue was a Canadian of Romanian and Ukrainian descent. His childhood was spent on a farm in southern Saskatchewan, where the daily chores and many tasks instilled a solid work ethic. Even as a youngster, he sought out challenges, whether it was the biggest stone to lift, the highest tree to climb, or the toughest ram to ride. 

When Dave was nine years old, his parents had a miraculous conversion experience. His dad was healed of alcoholism and saved from an attempted suicide. The subsequent miracles Dave witnessed in their home created a deep spiritual awareness in him. Still, from the age of 10 and onwards, he grew streetwise in Regina, Saskatchewan, with increasing involvement in vandalism, theft, and crime. His early teen years were loads of fun mixed with a lot of pain. At 16, Dave was dramatically saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. He immediately began to win friends and others to Jesus as he modelled a living, vibrant relationship with Him. 

I grew up in a loving and supportive Christian home in Regina. As my teen years were approaching, Dad and Mom made one of the most challenging decisions of their lives. They left their longtime “extended family” church to attend a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) church, which provided ministries for their two young daughters. I will be forever grateful for the sacrifices they bore among family members because of that decision. 

It was in Regina at the Hillsdale Alliance Church youth group that Dave and I met. Through the ministry of our leaders, Bob and Sandi Kinnie, many lives were dramatically impacted for Jesus. In later years, we took count, and approximately 70 percent of the youth group from that time were in some kind of full-time ministry. What a testimony and tribute to this couple, to our parents, and of course to the Holy Spirit’s great moving during those revival years. 

Dave and I graduated from Canadian Bible College, Dave with degrees in Christian Education and Theology, and I with a Bachelor of Religious Education. The Friday night missions meetings were when I first started to realize Dave’s passion for missions. Often after a guest missionary spoke and gave a challenge, Dave was face down at the front saying, “Anywhere, Lord!” 

This left me glued to my seat in fear. By this time, our relationship was getting serious, and I could not help but project into the future. I visualized someday saying goodbye to my school-aged children, putting them on a plane to an MK (missionary kid) boarding school. Testimonies of missionaries being captured or martyred consumed me with fear. 

One night Betty Hunt, a Vietnam missionary, ministered to my fearful heart. She told me God never promises His GRACE for our thought life and all the ‘what ifs’ in our future. He promises His GRACE when we need it, and at that time, it will be exactly enough. I never forgot that. It would become an important reminder to me many times throughout the years. 

Dave’s life verses were Psalm 40:2-3, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…” I cannot recall ever observing Dave singing, “Amazing Grace, that saved a wretch like me,” without tears filling his eyes. His heart was incredibly grateful for being rescued from his past. 

My life verse is Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” As I reflect on the sovereignty of God and His loving plan for me, I am encouraged. 

Ministry at Unionville Alliance Church

While on our world adventure, Dave accepted an invitation to be the Senior Pastor of Unionville Alliance Church in Toronto, Ontario. From 1978-1991 we ministered there and experienced phenomenal growth both personally and in our church family. Dave was blessed with continual confirmation of his spiritual gifts in evangelism, preaching, and pastoring. Missions was a priority focus in our church. As a result, it was one of the top Canadian churches in giving to further God’s Kingdom mandate worldwide. 

During those early years in ministry, we were blessed with the arrival of our three children—Janelle, Tim, and Michelle. Between family and ministry, we were convinced that life could not get any better. We even survived and stayed serving after a massive church-building program! 

Dave was a fantastic combination of leader, husband, and father. He modelled a transparent, on-the-grow, faithful follower of Jesus. Believing in giving until it hurt, we tithed faithfully during some pretty lean times in life. 

I recall when Dave challenged the church family to dig deep during our new church facility’s fundraising. He came home after the service and asked if I would support giving all that we had. Even with the responsibility of two little ones at the time, we gave our all, cleared our account, our wallets, and even a small piggy bank. The following day someone stopped by to drop off a jug of milk. That week a cheque came in the mail from an unexpected source. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, proved Himself faithful once again! 

After twelve years at Unionville Alliance Church, I hit the most humbling season of my life. Due to over-commitment and heavy responsibilities, I experienced clinical burnout and was basically out of commission for close to a year. Later, I would often look back on this time and thank the Lord for the nuggets of truth I learned. It was a sobering life lesson to realize my own human limitations. 

In the thirteenth year of our ministry, Dave faced his first staffing crisis, and it pulled the rug out from under him. Although the district was very supportive and helpful, Dave found his energy diminishing. We began to wonder if the Lord was directing us to move in another direction. After all, we initially had come to Unionville to do our two-year home service and then go overseas. Now 13 years had gone by. God spoke to Dave using the same message He said to Abraham thousands of years earlier, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8). So, we left Unionville. About the same time, a challenge came from my 81-year-old mentor, who encouraged me to begin praying, “God, just surprise me!” 

Maadi Community Church 

With a rewarding sense of completion to our ministry in Unionville, we left, with three young children, in June of 1991. We were invited to do an interim pastorate at the Kelowna Alliance Church for the next six months while we waited on God’s direction. During our backpacking trip years earlier, we had told the Lord “anywhere but the Middle East!” I’m sure God had a smile on His face when we arrived in Cairo, Egypt, on January 1, 1992. Little did we realize how many wonderful surprises would be in store. 

Our children took most of their schooling in Cairo and graduated at the foot of the Sphinx with the pyramids towering in the background. I was privileged to have a teaching job at the same school the kids attended, and with a lot of hard work and incredible family support, I received my Master’s in Education in 1998. Dave was the senior pastor of the Maadi Community Church for 15 years. During this time, we kept our credentials with The Christian and Missionary Alliance and were officially called missionaries on special assignment. 

The Maadi Community Church (MCC) is an international, interdenominational, English-speaking, independent church ministering to foreigners living in Cairo. When we arrived, the city’s population was about 17 million, growing to 22 million during our 20-year tenure. Cairo is both the political capital of Egypt and the centre of Islamic education for all of North Africa. It traces its roots all the way through the Old and New Testament. It was even the home of Jesus when his parents fled Bethlehem to save His life. 

The church averaged about 70 attendees when we first arrived in Maadi. We rented a quaint, beautiful little Anglican chapel to meet in. Within two years, we had moved outside to the courtyard under a tented canopy battling heat, swatting flies, distracted by horns honking, and dogs barking, BUT we did church like we never had before! With 50 denominations and over 40 nationalities in attendance, Dave repeatedly commented, “This is just a foretaste of what Heaven is going to be like.” 

For several years we had five weekend services, and the church grew to about 1,500. In addition to all the typical church ministries, Maadi Community Church had: 

  • a cell group ministry involving over 200 small groups; 
  • 30 ministry partners that teamed up with the Development and Outreach arm of MCC; 
  • a dynamic youth internship program; 
  • local ministries which invested into the Christian nationals of Egypt; 
  • Victory Bible School, which was initially for Africans, but presently has several continents represented (after Dave’s death, they changed it to Petrescue Bible Institute (PBI) in honour of him); 
  • and various ministries to refugees. 

Hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees have fled to Egypt over the many years of war in Sudan. They arrived in Egypt hopeful for a new beginning, only to discover they were a drain on an already depressed economy. Egypt felt they had enough pressure with their own declining economy and unemployment without helping others. Thankfully, along with several other organizations, MCC reached out tangibly with funding and leadership for schools, health care, education, and church plants, practically demonstrating ways that communicated value and love to the people. 

A unique characteristic of an international church is its invisible revolving door. Diplomats, business people, teachers, and refugees are continually moving in and out. We lost 30 percent of our congregation every summer. Early on, God gave Dave a vision from Samson’s story tying up the foxtails, lighting them on fire, and sending them out to burn up the crops of the enemy (Judges 15:3-5). 

Dave’s vision based on this passage was, “Bring the people in. Lead them to Jesus. Get them filled up and fired up. Then bless them and send them out so they can likewise do wherever they repatriate all over the globe.” He firmly believed that from the very beginning to the end of time, the Bible makes it clear that God’s number one plan is to reach the nations with His good news and with His love. This is His unstoppable plan and purpose. He wants to reach people from every tongue, tribe, and people group with His loving grace. We were honoured to play a part in that grand plan. 

In Cairo, our primary purpose was to pastor the foreign community, but doors opened when Egyptians asked why we came to their corner of the world. We established friendships with business and government leaders, which in turn led to unique opportunities to share Jesus’ love for them. In an inspired way, Pastor Dave had a practical outlook on the everyday challenges life frequently throws at us. He was known to be a gifted artist who used words as a medium to make you laugh, cry, or question. The church family and community at large loved Pastor Dave! 

At one point, Dave received an email from our then president of the C&MA, Arnold Cook, saying, “People are asking when Petrescue is coming home. I’m telling them I think he’s spoiled for the ordinary. Am I right?” Dave’s reply was, “Arnold, I couldn’t have said it better!” Two phrases I often heard Dave use during his years at Maadi Community Church were, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!” and “Does it get any better than this?” 

The Church in the Middle East was the centre for Christianity for many years. In fact, the intellectual centre of Christianity was in Alexandria, Egypt. God said He plans to use the Middle East as a primary source of His blessing for the whole world. Certainly, as we hear the news of recent years, the Middle East is a hotbed for the persecution of Christians. 

But God says, “In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance’” (Isaiah 19:24, 25). 

For years, the Middle East’s spiritual dynamic has been perceived to resemble its landscape: barren and unfruitful. Yet God declares that He will use this region to bless the entire world in the last days. 

In a sermon Dave preached during 2005 called “Lord, Surprise Me,” he made the following comments, “When I come back here to North America and see the stereotypes in the media and hear the hearts of many Christians growing cold towards the Middle East, I am saddened. At the same time, God is firing up the hearts of people around the world who have a sense for what God is doing, a sense for His plan, and a sense for His prophetic time clock. God gives various ministries a vision to participate in what God is doing to transform this region for Christ. The Maadi Community Church continues to be one of them. 

Amid this area of unrest, where persecution and hardship are common, thousands are coming to Christ. Supernatural dreams and visions appear to be a common means God uses to draw them, followed by being discipled and then going out to boldly impact their world. After all, Jesus did proclaim that He would build His Church and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)! 

Dave, an ordinary farm boy, was thrilled and surprised to have a small part in this plan! He frequently asked, “Have you ever noticed that God often asks us to do things that are outside our comfort zone? God asks you to do things you can’t do. He asks you to give things you don’t have. He asks you to try things you can’t dream of accomplishing. God moves us outside the box of our comfort zones so that we learn to depend on His strength and not our own. As author Rick Yancy says, “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” The Bible declares that our eyes haven’t seen, our ears haven’t heard, it hasn’t even entered into the heart of a man, the things that God has prepared for him (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

The contract Dave signed with the Maadi Community Church was for three years. However, those three years turned into 15 explosively exciting years of ministry. The church had become a ministry movement. Dave had finally gathered what he referred to as his dream team in ministry. He was two months short of receiving his doctorate in ministry through Asbury Seminary. He had been re-visioned and re-tooled for the opportunities he thought were yet to come. 

But God… 

On September 1, 2006, he stepped up to the outdoor pulpit at MCC and preached from Romans 11, “God’s Chosen People.” Later, when he came down to stand beside me in that 40-degree heat, I gave him his water bottle and whispered in his ear, “Oh my gosh, Honey, that was incredible! I thought your feet were going to lift right off that platform, and you were going to go to Heaven without me!” 

That was his last sermon. He was 53 years old and seemingly at the peak of his ministry. On Tuesday, September 5, 2006, Dave fell to his death from our 10-story apartment building roof. For the first eighteen hours, it was dealt with as a crime scene. When all evidence was taken into consideration, authorities, both foreign and national, deemed it an accident. Dave was locked out of our ninth-floor apartment and was implementing a plan to get to our balcony to let himself in. Questions remain around his death. It was utterly shocking and horrifying for us, his family, as well as for loved ones all over the globe. 

In time, the Lord comforted my heart with numerous verses, one of them being, “…the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2). 

My best friend, husband, lover, counsellor, and pastor was gone. The one who called me his ‘queen’ and believed that I could do anything I set my mind to was no longer there to affirm me. After 31 years of marriage and 28 years of full-time ministry, I was alone. In a unique vision, immediately following Dave’s fourth memorial service, God gave me two words with three dots: BUT GOD… 

They mark the banner I hold over my life. I return to these words frequently for encouragement, challenge, and declaration. Part of the vision God had revealed to me was that Dave’s legacy would move forward even after his death. What our enemy meant for evil that September day God has redeemed and turned around, He has already and will continue, to bring about good for His name’s sake. 

Our children are amazing; my three best friends! All three live within a half-hour of each other in the Greater Vancouver area. They grieved, trusted, affirmed, and stayed in close contact with me during the five years following Dave’s death as I felt God impress upon my heart to stay in Cairo. I continued to teach at Cairo American College and attend Maadi Community Church. 

God spoke clearly that the 2010-2011 school year would be my last in Egypt. In January 2011, the Egyptian Revolution began. Tanks were rolling down my street, gunshots ringing in my ears, prisoners from the high-security prison two blocks away had broken free, and volatile protests were happening daily. This eventually led to my evacuation. Amazingly, I had every confidence that God was holding me in the palm of His righteous right hand, and I should fear not. After three weeks in Canada, I returned to Cairo, finished out the academic year, and repatriated to Langley, B.C., in June 2011. Oh, what joy it was to become a grandmother three months later! 

In his book Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen made a comment that so describes my feelings during the past two years living back here in Canada. “As I grow older, I discover more and more that the greatest gift I have to offer is my own joy of living, my own inner peace, my own silence and solitude, and my own sense of well-being.” 

The following excerpt is taken from the brief biography Dave wrote for his dissertation: 

God has regularly used people at strategic times and places to prune and shape me according to His design. Words of encouragement, rebuke, warning, counsel and affirmation have been fertilizer spread lavishly over the depths of my character. Many have spoken into my life truths that have profoundly shaped me, adding colour and texture to my person and producing bountiful fruit from my life. 

My primary input has come from God Himself through His written Word. From establishing my life’s focus and purpose (Matthew 6:33; Psalm 37:4) to providing my personal security (Psalm 139) to directing my financial affairs (Luke 6:38; Proverbs 13:22), to drawing me deeply into His heart and revealing His secrets (Proverbs 3:32), to being the source for dynamic discipleship for the nations (Jeremiah 1:4-10), God has spoken intimately and profoundly to me. My relationship with Christ has grown close and sweet, creating an unbreakable bond and a continuous flow of life (John 15:1-8). God’s word is truth, and I have grown to love and cherish His wisdom. Unfortunately, it is often when I am the busiest and, therefore most in need of God’s enabling, I drift from my spiritual disciplines and dry up spiritually. Out of my hollow, I then turn to the Lord and find Him ever faithful. 

As I have sought to abide in Christ, he has indeed allowed me the awesome privilege of seeing abundant fruit produced in and through my life. My public ministry has developed a cycle of significant change and advances about every 12 years. Each time God calls me to something more challenging, I come face to face with my inadequacies, only to be reminded that it’s not about me but rather all about Him. As I stay close to Christ, He continues to overwhelm me with new measures of enabling grace I couldn’t have imagined. 

Although I am a reluctant leader, God continues to affirm my leadership and place me in positions requiring my absolute dependence on Him. Although always somewhat hesitant and careful when looking inward, I joyfully advance with God’s aggressive agenda knowing that “The one who calls [me] is faithful and He will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24) 

Craig Bundy, in his forward to the book, Pastor Dave’s Reflections, made a comment that “Dave was ever passionate about his wife, Brenda, his children, Janelle, Tim, and Michelle, and the church, but even they would concur that his primary passion was the person of Jesus Christ. He clearly understood the difference between promoting religion and promoting Christ. He chose the latter and actively searched for ways to direct others to discover the same.” 

Amy Widener, our youth pastor at MCC, wrote, “Dave will be remembered as an eternal optimist, seeing the best in every person and situation, as well as an encourager, possessing the powerful ability to honestly express the depths of his emotions, whether through bursts of excitement, heartfelt tears, an intoxicating smile, or a big tight hug. Many adjectives will be ascribed to Dave, but of all, ‘passionate’ will best summarize the life he lived: passionate about his family, passionate about life, passionate about Christ and the advance of His kingdom!” 

Janelle, Tim, Michelle, and I continue to miss and reminisce about this wonderful man. His life appeared to be taken from us prematurely, but what an incredible impact he made with the life he lived! 

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 1. Download your free copy today.



Find more posts about:


The Alliance Canada

The Alliance Canada is people in churches sharing the love, truth, and hope of the Gospel with people worldwide who may never have heard the name “Jesus” before.
Learn more

Support the mission

The Global Advance Fund (GAF) is a pooled fund that supports our workers in Canada and around the world to share the Gospel with people who haven't yet heard the name of Jesus. Your continued generosity equips and sustains our workers and their ministry.



Leave a Reply