MORGANTOWN, Penn. (Christian Examiner) -- A young David Nyce was driving a tour bus to Florida when he noticed the sparkling smile of a teenage girl seated halfway back; she was part of the high school band he was transporting.
Intrigued, he went to the school office upon return, and asked to see a yearbook to find out her name.
"We married 13 months later," Nyce said. "We started Pilgrim Tours in 1987 because I felt led to be in the Christian tour business.
"God calls some to be Christian businesspersons," Nyce continued. "It is not a lesser calling to want to serve, encourage and edify God's people."
Nyce had been in the tourism business for a dozen years when he and wife Wanda started Pilgrim Tours as a specifically Christian tour company. But he said that the first year was kind of lean and a challenge to stay Christian-oriented.
"God has a sense of humor," Nyce said, explaining that a few secular businesses kept their business with him even though he was changing his business model to focus on Christian tours.
"They helped pay the bills," he said. "Our largest tour the first year was from a local bar/restaurant that asked us to arrange for a large group movement to Las Vegas."
His business has since grown to about 300 tours a year.
Pilgrim Tours specializes in trips to Israel, Jordan, Greece and Italy with an emphasis on the historical and cultural experiences that bring an in-depth spiritual component to the trip.
"We try to concentrate on areas that are biblical in nature, rather than attempting to be everything to everyone.
"It is difficult to escape from the power of the Word of God in the lands of the Bible."
Those who have been to the Holy lands get lost in their memories as they view the website; those who haven't yet been get excited about the prospect, said Tim Nyce, a former pastor, owner's son, and national sales manager for Pilgrim Tours.
David offered a caution about the tour industry in light of developments abroad.
"With the Mideast situation, the recent war with Hamas, the upcoming election and now the Ebola situation, we see a great change in this business," Nyce said. "I would warn clients to be very careful who they send their money to, especially foreign tour operators. I predict there will be a number of companies defaulting in months to come."
That won't happen with Pilgrim Tours because it is long-standing and built on a solid financial foundation undergirded with prayer and trust in God, the owner said.
"The tour business has a history of companies going bust, and I had seen this happen on numerous occasions in my early career," Nyce said. "The main reason this happens is that this industry collects money in advance of their expenses. ...
"I determined from the outset that I was not going to use client money to fund past expenses.
"Following 9/11, the downturn in the tour industry was devastating to many companies, and Pilgrim was no exception," the owner continued. "I had borrowed against all my property and we were right on the line of having to use advance client funds to pay our bills. It was a very difficult time and the most discouraging time in my business career.
"We know that God is good in all things, but applying that knowledge is sometimes not as easy as we would hope for," Nyce said. "The thing I remember the most, and was the turning point for me, was when my wife came to me and said, 'Honey, I love you and I am with you, no matter what. God will take care of us.' Since that time, God has brought the increase on a yearly basis. I do not expect that we will ever be near to this condition again."
Led by Tim Nyce, daily prayer times at Pilgrim Tours involve praying for "our vendors and the prayer needs of many of our clients," the owner said. "This time continues to be the most important time of our day."
David said the life-changing experience of going to the Holy Land is particularly impacting on pastors.
"One cannot deny that this experience is one of the most important parts of anyone's training, pastor or layman," Nyce said.
But he particularly encouraged churches to consider a trip as a gift for their pastor.
"I like to encourage churches to apply the I Timothy 5:17 principle and send their pastor away."
Nyce puts his money where his mouth is, offering pastors special rates whether they bring church members or not, and tours often have multiple pastors traveling without any others from their congregations.
"We are ministry-oriented and evangelical in nature, first and foremost," Nyce said.
"With this as our base, we offer a large variety of programs to pastors, missionaries and Christian professors without requiring large numbers of passengers in order to make it affordable for them."