Tom’s Story

I was born January 7th, 1934, in Forty Fort, near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was raised nearby on “Palmer Hill.” My grandfather had divided out his land to 4 of his sons. When I was about 7 years old, a layman from a neighboring town came and started a Tuesday night Bible class, alternating among the homes of my parents and my uncles. Through this man’s burden and ministry my parents became Christians. Soon after becoming Christians they started attending a good Baptist church, where they were taught well in the Word. I clearly remember the day at age 8 when my father caught me red-handed in a lie concerning some of my brother’s playthings. Among other salvation verses, Dad read to me Revelation 21:8, “…all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” It was then that I realized that Jesus died for me that I might have eternal life, a new kind of life. So, with his help, I claimed the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Savior. Things were different after that, and from that day on I have never doubted my salvation.

After a few years my father sold his successful woodworking business and our big house and moved the family to Florida in our homemade house trailer. Dad felt it was a step forward in his desire to serve the Lord with his life. It was during our short stay in Florida that the Lord began to work in my heart about missionary work. I was 12 when I saw the film, “The Man Who Forgot God.” The man neglected his spiritual life, preferring the cares of this world…until God got hold of him through a family disaster. I learned that the only thing worth living for in this life is making sure every soul on earth hears the Gospel. From then on my only plan in life was to be a missionary. My parents’ dedication to the Lord and their desire for people to come to know the Him always had a great influence on me.

It was at this time, too, that our family came in contact with New Tribes Mission. After receiving Brown Gold magazine (now called NTM@Work) for a while, my father answered a call for workers to help rebuild the New Tribes Institute “boot camp” in Fouts Springs, California, after the big fire of 1946. He was accepted as a carpenter in the rebuilding program, so off we went to California. My parents later enrolled to take the training but left the mission and went into Jewish mission work in San Francisco.

However, I stayed on after high school to take the NTM missionary training course. My missionary vision would never die in that place! There were lives steadily moving out, and the needs of the fields of the world were constantly before me in the “Hold-the-Ropes” prayer meetings. Also, for six months I was part of a quartet that traveled with Ken Johnston, then secretary of NTM. Ken’s messages and the films he showed continued to challenge me. The Lord used one film that Field Leader Chuck Driver made about New Guinea to impress on me that that was the field where I was to serve. It was also during this time that I took 2 Corinthians 5:14 and 15 as my life verses:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

ImageI sailed for what was then called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea via Australia in June, 1953. I had to remain in Australia for two months until I had sufficient funds to fly on up to New Guinea, arriving there on the 16th of September. I joined Chuck Driver, and his wife Jean, actually living with them for a while. They were a real blessing to me and to other new workers. Later I and my partner, Peter Banfield, moved two days’ walk interior in the tribe and began learning the Hamtai language (pronounced Hahm-day). Corinne Mansker, who arrived in July 1954, and I became better acquainted when I came out for breaks or for conference. We became engaged in May of 1955 and were married on the field on April 19th, 1956.