Tommy Thompson – Tribute (1)

My first close connection with Tommy Thompson was in March of 1977 when we were together for gospel meetings in Vancouver, B. C. We rejoiced with the believers there in prayers being answered as a number of precious souls trusted the Savior. This close bond continued through the years. On at least two other occasions we joined together for gospel meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, and again, God blessed in salvation. Some of the fruits of that effort are now in fellowship in Wasilla where another assembly was planted a few years ago.

Tommy was a man of sterling character, with no façade and a more than usual desire to be totally committed to the work of the Lord. He was an earnest gospel preacher as well as a great visitor, often visiting people he had heard were in various hospitals. He sometimes traveled many miles, even days, to visit. As he brought the gospel and the claims of Christ before them, numbers were brought to know the Savior. One outstanding case was his personal physician to whom he witnessed during appointments in his office.

Shortly after he was saved, the oil company that he worked for in Belfast, N. Ireland transferred him to South Africa. He and his wife were in fellowship where the brother of W. E. Vine was and Tommy used to tell that he learned assembly truth from him. Soon he was actively engaged in gospel preaching in his spare time and saw testimonies gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus.

A brother sent him a copy of Assembly Annals, a magazine with an article by two sisters from Colorado who had been laboring in an Indian village called Chitina in the interior of Alaska. They made known the need for a young couple to replace them as they were getting older. Unknown to each other, both Tommy and his wife became burdened about this need and eventually made their exercise and desire to serve the Lord in Alaska known to each other. When they spoke to the brethren about this, they were discouraged; a missionary who was visiting at the time told the brethren, “There is nothing there but bears and Eskimos.” So the brethren did not feel free to commend them.

Tommy sent this news to a brother in the USA and he replied: “The bigger the man, the more the devil can use him.” Tommy showed this letter to the brethren and they immediately and heartily commended them to Alaska. When they arrived by boat in New York on their way to Alaska, they had their two little boys and only $6.00 to their name.

Some will know that brother David Zuidema, Sr., an esteemed elder from the assembly in Midland Park, NJ, met them. After spending the weekend there, they received a gift from the assembly enabling them to travel by train to Chicago. As a result of another gift, they were able to buy an old 1948 station wagon from a brother in the 86th and Bishop Street assembly who had a used car business. With several tires tied to the roof, they made their way to Oregon where brother William Rae joined them for the long drive of several days to Alaska. They moved into an old lumber camp bunkhouse, put up an “Eternity to Eternity” chart and began to preach the gospel. He did not know if they were understanding what he preached until one night there was a knock on the door and the Indians arrived with food to meet the family’s needs. They told him they “wanted him to be their missionary.”

Now he knew they were accepting him. He not only met their spiritual needs but carried a little sewing kit and often had to sew them up as a result of knife fights during drunken bouts. Later on he built a log cabin using a saw from his son’s tool kit. There were many hardships such as melting snow for water during the winter, cutting wood to keep warm, as well as opposition from some early settlers in the area.

Tommy and his wife were unknown to the assemblies in the USA and Canada, but they proved God who met all their needs. After about 18 months, a number who had professed to be saved were baptized and an assembly began. Through the years, the younger people gradually moved to larger centers for employment and older believers went home to heaven. As a result, the assembly moved to Anchorage where it continues today seeking to carry on in Scriptural simplicity.

It was a sad day on July 31, 1984 when Tommy’s beloved wife, Sadie, died as a result of cancer. He faithfully cared for her after the diagnosis until the Lord took her home. On May 17, 1986, I had the joy of uniting him in marriage to Marjorie Curran from New Jersey. She has proved to be a true help-meet and is totally involved in the work in Anchorage. She is loved by all and a most gracious hostess.

As I think of Tommy, my mind goes to the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21; “For to me to live … Christ.” Dean Alford translates this: “All my life, all my time, all my energy is His.” May God raise up men with the same vision as Tommy for a perishing world.