My life was changed by the man pictured above. This is from February 6, 2013.
Tom Tune died yesterday. Many people talk about living; Tom lived. He did things and went places most of us only imagine. He dreamed dreams that came true and had visions which have come to pass. He changed lives on multiple continents and the ripples started by his wake could cover the oceans. Tom was unlike any missionary I've ever met but that's a limiting statement. Tom Tune was unlike any person I've ever met.
I was introduced to Tom roughly twenty years ago in Tennessee. His son, Mike, was my preacher and I taught his grandsons. At the time, Tom was doing mission work in a unique way. He sailed the Pacific Ocean in his boat, the Dorcas Sue, and as a self taught optician, prescribed glasses for the folks of the Cook Islands, teaching them about Jesus in the process. He came and spoke to my students at Friendship Christian School and after he went back to sea, the kids wrote him. Here's what's amazing: Tom wrote every child back and answered their questions in detail. We are talking close to 100 letters, mind you, but he was always faithful to respond. About ten years ago, Tom moved to Vietnam and settled in Can Tho where he established a church from scratch. He had mentioned my coming and helping him so in the summers of 2011 and 2012, I spent each month of July with Tom in Vietnam. What an experience! Although I'd been on fourteen previous missions, with one exception, all had been with a group. For the first time, I saw mission work on the ground floor. I witnessed the highs and lows, the encouragement and the heartbreak, and I learned lessons you don't absorb in a pew.
Tom could do about anything. He was a sailor, a ship builder, a tailor, a carpenter, a surveyor, and I'm sure there were other things he never got around to telling me. He was educated in the Gospel but maybe more self educated than any minister I know. He knew more stories than anyone I've spent time with and he could go years without repeating. His overwhelming passion was that the work of the Lord in Vietnam would go on. He was well read on many topics but he had tunnel vision when it came to spreading the word of God in a difficult land for it to take root. He loved the kids in the church in Can Tho and he was their surrogate grandpa. He NEVER stopped thinking of ways to make the church in Can Tho grow stronger. I thought many of his ideas were impractical but maybe that's because my thinking is too much confined by reality and not by the possible guided by the hand of the Lord.
I have a confession to make; sometimes, I'd get frustrated talking to Tom and I am sure I disagreed more with him than anybody I've ever talked to in my life. Maybe that's because I talked to him for extended periods more than anyone in my life. I rarely said anything about my feelings- my folks hammered respect for your elders into my psyche- but the funny thing is, I often came to see the logic of his logic. Tom was never neutral on any subject which makes me uncomfortable but I now wish I had a little more of that genetic makeup. Let me give an example. Once, when speaking to one of the wonderful girls in the church, I mentioned that she could help me learn Vietnamese. Tom told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't there to pick up a second language- I was there so they could learn English from me. So they could do better in school. So they could get a better job. So they could make more money. So this church in its infancy could survive financially when he was gone. And now he's gone. Tears are being shed in this country and in Asia. But the work will go on because Tom very carefully put the pieces and young people in place for it to survive. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that,
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
The work in Can Tho won't perish; Tom took care of the vision part. But we're sure going to miss him on the journey he laid out for those he loved. When I left Can Tho on July 31, I told him I'd see him next summer. There's no more summers for Tom- but he got the best end of the deal. We just have to deal with the sorrow.
Applicable quote of the day:
"When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org