Jenny Bushkell was on top of her game. The Knoxville native had a degree in logistics from the University of Tennessee and was the nation’s top sales rep for freight company USF Dugan. But she had a secret she was keeping from her coworkers: God was calling her to do something different.
“In my sales position, I was having to rely more and more on Him,” she said. “I prayed before I made sales calls. My relationship was tied to Him, my future and everything. I felt God was calling me to leave and be more available to Him to do some ministry, but I didn’t know what it was really,” she said. “My identity wasn’t in my sales rep position. It was in Jesus.”
So leave she did.
“When I submitted my resignation, it was horrible. I was the top rep in the company and they said ‘You can’t. You can’t quit.’ Most of my friends didn’t understand why I would leave this career and being on top and enjoying it so much to do something that was totally unknown to me.”
The first day without a job she woke up and thought, “What have I done? God, what do you want me to do? It was kind of a shock because I was such a worker to not have a plan for my life now. It was kind of shocking. I remember looking out the window and thinking ‘This is crazy.’”
That was 17 years ago. Now she has a ministry schedule that’s crazy busy, but it didn’t happen overnight.
A couple of weeks after leaving her job she was at Cokesbury United Methodist when pastor Steven Sallee asked for volunteers to work with a Sudanese family.
“I just remember my hand went up,” she said, “but I don’t remember ever making a decision. I thought, ‘I’m going to teach the wife, Muna Tutu, how to speak English.’”
About the same time, she became the president of the Knoxville Nativity Pageant, where she served on the board for five years
“I went on Bob Bell’s show on WRJZ about 11 years ago to be interviewed about the Nativity. As I was leaving, the producer said ‘Have you ever thought about doing radio?’ I said, ‘I have an accent buddy.’ A year later I called the station to get the next president on and they asked me if I was coming with her. I said, ‘Well yeah,’ and they said, ‘Well good, because we’re still waiting for you to say yes.’
“God had been confirming to me that I was going to do radio. I had someone walk up to me who was doing a prayer walk before the Nativity. She came downstairs and said, ‘I think God wants me to tell you something. I think God wants you to be on the radio.’ I burst out crying. I said, ‘There’s not any need for me to fight this, I think I’m going on the radio.’”
Shortly after that, church staff member, Gill Smith, asked her to do a radio show called “Talking Recovery” with him and friend, John Gargis. Eventually, Smith moved to Florida and Gargis felt called to become a pastor.
“The show sort of dropped into my lap,” Bushkell said. “I changed the name to ‘Let’s Talk Recovery.’ I didn’t think I could do it, but
if Jesus was putting me in there, I had to trust Him. I have
the opportunity every week to hear hope and how Jesus has restored lives.”
She started as the cohost of the Bob Bell Show on Monday mornings in 2006, and gets up at 4 a.m. to head to the station. On Fridays at 5 p.m., she’s on the air again.
“I don’t get paid for either show,” she said. “My work is all volunteer.
“It wasn’t until about 25 years ago that I really renewed my relationship with Jesus Christ, got back into church and had a strong desire to really know Him.”
Not only is she a radio personality, she’s a speaker. Over the last several years she’s spoken to women’s groups all over the area and even in Nicaragua. Just a couple of weeks ago, she addressed an audience of about 150 at Carson-Newman University.
“I talked about living out your purpose and not being afraid to step out of your comfort zone,” she said. “One of the big things is, don’t settle at the halfway point. God has gifted us with gifts unique to us for achieving His plan and His purpose in your life. We can either let God pour out of us or we can sit back and let someone else do it.”