There are people who, during the course of life, leave footsteps in sensitive hearts which cannot be erased; people who have the capacity and moral and spiritual authority to straighten twisted lines; those who write with readable script and indelible ink; people who leave impressions forever. They are pilgrims, whose passage through our lives cannot be ignored. They are scribes, whose letters are unmistakable, and whose message is inscribed on parchment to proclaim their message.Their conduct, their words, their memory will continue to mold generations to come (“The memory of the just is blessed” Prov 10:7, KJV). I had the privilege of knowing and working together with Neal and Alice Thomson, in the work of the Lord in Venezuela.
I was only 5 or 6 years old when I got to know our brother Neal. This beloved man of God travelled in his vehicle until he could go no further, and then walked some six kilometers up a hill to a small mountain village called “Cerro Libre.” The first impression I had of a missionary, was that of a man of God, dedicated to seeking souls and to edifying the people of God. On that occasion, our brother Neal was visiting my parents who had recently arrived from a denomination and were attending meetings at an assembly gathered unto the name of the Lord.
Additionally, we knew his nobility and faithfulness as a husband. No doubt, Neal found in “Doña Alicia” the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10, but at the same time, Alice found in Neal the “faithful man” who is sought in Proverbs 20:6. On one occasion, my wife and I visited the assembly in Merida and the Thomsons were our hosts. My wife, Carmen was very sensitive to the loving behaviour that Neal showed towards Alice, demonstrated in frequent phone calls (even while in the same city), sweet words towards her, and a hug and a kiss when he arrived. On another occasion (1979, Sincelejo, Colombia), I was walking beside brother Neal toward the site where the new gospel hall was being built. Mr. Thomson suddenly began singing a hymn “Dark was the night, without Thee Lord,” but instead of “Lord” he substituted his wife’s name. He sang, “Dark was the night, without thee, Alice; and far away, without thee, Alice.” I wasn’t able to laugh at his “joke,” because I noticed that, as he sang, he was crying. He had to remain far away from her for 21 days for the construction of the hall. Neal and Alice were a powerful witness to what a couple should be, according to the profile given by God in the Holy Scriptures.
Neal taught us by example that spiritual authority cannot be decreed. It is gained with spiritual weapons among the beloved people of God; nobody could accuse him of being a dictator. We came to love him as a true spiritual father among us, and his rod never caused fright, but led us to holy fear, to an acknowledgement of the solemnity of the Bible truths which he sought to teach us. My experience with our brother is expressed in the words of the psalmist: “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (Psa 141:5, KJV).
Another relevant aspect of the life of the Thomsons was the goodness of their hearts and the generosity of their hands in helping the needy among the people of God. There was a dramatic occasion when a believer insulted brother Neal in my presence. In response, Neal began to weep, and his response touched the heart and the memory of the offender, who began to mention all the good that he had received in his life from brother Thomson. He remembered the day when his infant daughter was crying because of a lack of infant formula, and recalled that it was the Thomsons who arrived to supply the need. He recalled the occasion when a vehicle had knocked over the fence of his humble abode, and that Neal had arrived to help him fix it. The brother ended up begging forgiveness from Mr. Thomson for the harshness of his words. Certainly, the Thomsons were consistently exercised in “stretching out their hands to the poor, and reaching forth their hands to the needy” (Prov 31:20, KJV).
Another aspect that always impressed me in relation to our brother was his tremendous capacity to orient himself in the geographic sense. I always had the impression that he was born with a GPS implanted in his brain. He knew the height of the highest peaks in the country, where each river’s headwaters were, where they ran to, and he knew the roads of the country better than most drivers. He was a geographic encyclopedia on wheels.
In relation to his activity as a laborer in the Lord’s vineyard, brother Thomson showed the same care, teaching with precision the Word of God, and revealing details that most would pass by unnoticed. He often taught using a 3D relief map of the Bible lands which he had made, enabling us to better understand the events related in the sacred text. He taught spiritual truths illustrated in the tabernacle using a large model, complete with a cloud and a literal flame on the brazen altar. Whoever didn’t understand the Thomson-brand explanation on the Tabernacle wouldn’t have been able to understand it even if Moses explained it to him. Certainly he was a workman, trying diligently to shew himself approved unto God, with nothing in this respect to be ashamed of, for he rightly divided the word of truth (2Tim 2:15).
Finally, we thank the Lord and the Thomson family for allowing us the honor of writing these lines, in which something of the value of the lives of Neal and Alice Thomson can be expressed.
Please refer to the Home-Calls section in July for the obituary of the Thomsons.