Remembering Our Brother Tom

I have many fond memories of working with my fellow-laborer, our brother Tom Woody. He had already been in the work a few years when I started, and he was a great benefit for me as I began my work. Over the next several years I was privileged to work with Tom under varying circumstances. I traveled with him to a number of church meetings as he allowed me to accompany him. I recall in 1988 Tom, Louis Garbi and I began an evangelistic effort in the community of Baden in St Louis. We worked for a couple of years as we tried to start a new church from the community that only lasted a short time. However, that period was a great learning opportunity for me, and much of what I learned came through observing Tom’s godly spirit and desire to serve the Lord and the brethren.

Certainly as I moved west to continue my work I remained close to Tom in spirit. I felt there was a lot about Tom that was worth emulating. His emphasis in regard to his family was always foremost, and his enthusiasm for the Lord’s church and His Word was always an encouragement to me. Tom was very steadfast in his faith in the Lord and his desire to serve others. He will certainly be missed, but the influence he had on me and others will certainly be seen, possibly until Jesus returns. I am confident, that just as what happened to Lazarus in Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:19-31, the angels carried Tom to His Lord and God when he passed. Those of us in the Lord will indeed see Tom again when Jesus returns.

~ Jay Graham

I suppose I have known Tom Woody as brother, coworker and friend for just about four decades. When Tom was training to be an evangelist, he came to California with Brother Tom Dennis, and while Tom and Ann stayed with my parents, young Tom stayed with Sue and me in a tiny house that belonged to my grandmother. Tom was very amiable and easy to talk to; he had an easy going manner that has been a blessing to many over the years of his service to the Lord. In those early days of our acquaintance Tom was gracious in his acceptance of the limited hospitality we had to offer, and in subsequent travels when we were together in various homes opened to us for food or lodging in the U.S., and also in the Philippines, he always was a gracious guest, appreciative and easy to be with. In subsequent years Tom and LuAnn have also been gracious hosts to us on several occasions, generously and pleasantly opening their home and hearts to us, always comfortable to be with.

No one was more serious about teaching and following the word of God than Tom, but Tom certainly had a love for silliness too, within bounds of course. He had a bright imagination and a creative flair that sometimes turned up in comic skits or campfire settings, or conversations, but always with a view to having fun that was happy and harmless.

Fifteen years ago Tom and I were in the Philippines, at Sonny Tobias’ place. During a very busy meeting we had a break, and a young woman sitting alone was singing in English, “Jesus Paid It All.” Her singing was soft, and lovely. When she came to the chorus she sang the soprano part, “Jes-sus-died-and-paid-it-all-yes-…” We had been talking together but decided to move over and sing with her. The three of us spent the remainder of time until lunch was ready conversing about her life experiences and singing. She was a 25 year old widow with two young children, preparing to go to the Middle East to earn money to support her family, the children she would leave behind with relatives. Her circumstances were in some ways all too common, though her response to them was not. In the difficulty of a situation beyond her control, she found joy in the Lord, and comfort and release in singing praises and gathering with Christians. Conversing with this young impoverished Filipina widow, Tom was at his best, personable, thoughtful, compassionate, encouraging. Tom has been, of course, a capable speaker and teacher and writer, but even more he has had a wonderful gift of being at home with people. Tom has treated people as though they matter, because he knew people really are important, great or small, young or old. Tom knew who he served, and had his priorities in order. “… as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:16-17).

~ Charles Fry

In the early nineties, I began to spend time in Bible study with Tom when he visited the Kansas City area for vacation Bible studies. In those years, he was regularly conducting evening VBSs at both 25th and Oakley and Claycomo. At least some of the time, I would drive over early to have the pleasure of studying with him before the evening’s events began. It was during one of those studies at 25th and Oakley that one of many precious memories was made.

Tom was taking me through a portion of Romans, I believe, and at one point remarked, “God wants to see in our lives that we want to be with him more than anyone else.” I was too immature at the time to deeply appreciate these words, but they stayed with me over the years. Little did I know that 20-some years later Tom would show me and everyone else, in unmistakable fashion, how much he wanted to be with God.

In November of 2013, Tom said to me during a private Facebook exchange: “I am looking at life more clearly—get [sic] my mind set for Heaven—a thankful heart is always willing to do whatever Jesus wants, knowing that He knows what is good/the end from the beginning—I want to FIT IN up there (emphasis Tom’s)!”   Tom had his eyes on the prize. He was living with the end in mind. He was fitting himself for a heavenly home.

Tom now dwells among the spirits of just men made perfect. It brings tears, but it also brings a smile. I’m sure he fits in quite well.

~ John Morris

When Tom made his decision to do the work of an evangelist, I had seen him at various meetings of the church but had not gotten to know him. We became acquainted at a basket dinner. It didn’t begin with friendly chit-chat. It started with “Why are we doing this?” I don’t remember what “this” was. It is my term for a more specific line of inquiry. His question wasn’t disrespectful. There was no scorn in it. Nor was the question an attempt to justify himself in light of some alternate point of view. It was the expression of one who did not take things at face value. “Why are we doing this?” Often our conversations would turn toward examination of teaching, practices, and ourselves.

I did not see the characteristic of calling things into question as an “us versus them” mentality. There may have been a little of this as we were branching out of the final stages of youth, but Tom didn’t take himself too seriously. He respected the church. As a result, he was able to call things into question with great effect. Such an underpinning attitude can be found in these verses:

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Unity is not found in blithely congratulating one another. Nor is it found in looking the other way when things are going astray. The unity of the Spirit is found through facing the truth in humility. This was fundamental in Tom’s ability to arbitrate disputes, to ordain elders and deacons, and to encourage small congregations.

We will miss Tom, but let us not make the mistake of giving him too much credit. Let us not hold to his memory in the manner of the scribes and Pharisees who adorned the monuments of the righteous. Tom’s attitude was/is for us to follow Christ. If we would honor Tom’s memory, let his memory be an added encouragement to study our Bibles and be the people our Father wants us to be.

~ Louis Garbi