A Short Ministry Biography
Tom Palmer arrived in the Territory of New Guinea September 16, 1953, and Corinne Mansker on July 9th, 1954. They were married on April 19th, 1956 in the Hamtai tribe, where they both were serving.
Initially their main task was to learn the Hamtai language. Corinne took over the linguistic and language work from their field leader, Chuck Driver, when he moved to the highlands area. Tom and others discipled the new believers and led them in outreach. Corinne prepared a spoken language course in Hamtai to help the new missionaries learn Hamtai. Then she and Jerry Sherman, the widow who accompanied her to the field and was her coworker until Corinne married, began a literacy class to test the orthography that had been worked out on this previously unwritten language. Then, for many years Corinne was involved in preparing primers and literacy materials and training literacy teachers besides raising four children on the field, three of whom became missionaries, two to Papua New Guinea and one to Russia.
Tom learned the language well and began translating some New Testament books. Later on, while Palmers were serving in leadership at headquarters and then left for an extended furlough, Ted and Jerry Fitzgerald completed the translation of the Hamtai New Testament. Five thousand copies were printed in Hong Kong and were made available to the people in 1975. Coincidentally, that was the same year The Territory of Papua & New Guinea gained its independence from Australia and officially became Papua New Guinea. In the same way, the Hamtai church became more independent of the missionaries, with the New Testament in their own language!
When they returned to PNG in 1977, Tom was made the language consultant for the whole field. In that capacity Tom and Corinne traveled to all the tribes in which NTM had missionaries and gave them language checks and helps for them to progress. Corinne helped in the checking and also typed up the reports, etc. During the other 50 percent of their time they ministered in the Hamtai tribe. It was around that time that the other remaining members of the Hamtai church planting team moved to other areas of PNG to fill leadership positions in new areas of NTM work. So from then on Tom and Corinne have been on their own.
Two different times for three years Tom served at field headquarters as Chairman of the Field Committee. He continued to visit the tribes giving language help and personal counsel in addition to his responsibilities as chairman. Tom was also chairman of the Language Consultants Committee. Corinne was his secretary for both committees. Tom also did surveys to open new areas for new missionaries to enter. When he was not the chairman, he was still serving on the Field Committee for most of his years on the field. That involved time away from home – a couple days of travel to and from the tribe to headquarters plus the meeting time plus committee responsibilities. He resigned from the Field Committee and the Highlands Regional Committee in 2001 to concentrate more on our translation project.
In 1990 they moved from the missionary center in the Watut Valley at the edge of the tribe over the dividing range to Hipaku village, in the Kapau Valley, which is more in the center of the population of the tribe. In 1991 and 1992 thirty men and their wives plus four single men came there for two years of Bible teaching. They represented 22 village churches. During that time Tom and Malcolm, his translation coworker, team-taught every morning Monday through Friday through the Bible chronologically. In the afternoons Corinne helped the students improve their literacy skills and taught in modules – Bible Study Methods, Christian Family, a child training course, and Church History.
In 1995 and 1996 they served in the capital of Port Moresby as the field’s representative to the government. They did all the required paper work to get visas and passports and work permits for all NTM missionaries and other folk visiting the field for various reasons. They also did the same for several other missions who did not have a representative in Port Moresby.
Then they returned to Hipaku and concentrated on translating the chronological Bible lessons into Hamtai for the churches, which had now multiplied to 72 village churches with their own leaders. Today, some of these are vibrant, but some are small and still struggling.
In 2003, the field leaders advised them to move out of the tribe and to locate in the coastal city of Lae as part of withdrawal from the tribe to make the people less dependent upon them and upon their vehicle. The committee felt they would have fewer interruptions and demands on their time so that they could concentrate on the revision of the Hamtai New Testament, which had been out of print for several years. So since April, 2004, Palmers have been renting one of the flats at the New Tribes Mission guest facilities in Lae City.
Living in Lae has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that Tom does not have to make a supply trip every month to Lae over the road to the tribe. The road has deteriorated to the point of being almost impassable. On their last trip in to Hipaku for teaching and some translation checking, both going in and coming out, they had to use their winch to pull the vehicle through some knee-deep muddy areas.
They have amenities living in town – access to doctors, pharmacies, stores, etc. The heat and humidity are disadvantages which necessitate running an air conditioner in their office to preserve their computers, slides, and tapes. Additional expenses include the cost of renting living quarters. The main disadvantage is not being near the people to be immersed in the language and having people nearby for checking translated portions.
Malcolm and his wife moved to Lae in order to continue working with Tom on translation. They are living four miles out of town in a house owned by the Hamtai churches, that was built for church workers. However, many in the tribe consider it their guest house when they come to Lae, putting a real strain on Malcolm and Meriai, as they do not have a garden but must buy all their food.
When the church pickup truck comes out of Hamtai they still come to Tom and Corinne for help in certain areas. Sometimes the driver and some passengers sleep at Malcolm’s, but sometimes Palmers put them up in their house. They must park the truck at the guest house for security reasons.
So they press on with the revision. Rather than staying for four years, after two years on the field in May 2006 they made a 2 ½ -month visit to the U.S.A, mainly to visit with Tom’s 94-year old mother and other family members. They also visited churches and family members on the west coast. They returned to PNG in July of 2006, and they plan to continue working as long as it takes to finish the revision of the New Testament and the checking of Old Testament portions that Malcolm has translated and get them ready for printing. Then they will phase out of the Hamtai work altogether. Since they are both in their 70’s, they may then retire to the NTM retirement homes in Sanford, FL They praise the Lord for the privilege of serving the Lord in PNG these 50+ years and desire only His will for the remaining years of their lives.