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Cancer fight didn’t deter missionary’s call

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Theresa Thompson never did anything half-hearted. Not even dying.

Instead of returning to the United States when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer last year, the then 40-year-old Southern Baptist missionary chose to remain in Germany so she could continue her work for the International Mission Board. And her parents, Gene and Marilyn, chose to come live with her and help her continue ministering.

Thompson died in Munich July 10.

“She came to Munich and fell in love with the city and the people,” said Thompson’s sister, Sheila Wilbanks, who serves as an IMB missionary in Paris, France. “Even though the Lord allowed her to have cancer, He wasn’t finished with her. Theresa didn’t want to go back to the States without accomplishing all that she could on the field. She was determined that she was going to stay here and receive her treatments.”

During her two and a half years in Germany, Thompson served the IMB in a variety of different roles. As research coordinator, she collected statistical data that allowed missionaries to track the status of the Gospel’s spread across Europe. Recognized for “phenomenal” organizational skills by her managers, Thompson also served as an administrative assistant.

But it was Thompson’s role as a strategic mobilizer that best captured her passion for missions. She found particular joy in leading high school and college students to greater missions involvement. Earlier this summer, Thompson was instrumental in bringing a group of more than 30 students from California Baptist University to Germany to serve as missions volunteers.

“Her heart was mobilizing young people to do missions,” said missionary Mark Wagner. “Missions became her life. She was committed to ministry until her very last breath.”

Born in Warrensburg, Mo., Thompson’s passion for evangelism began in college. She reached out to international students at Central Missouri State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education. Thompson also received master’s degrees in divinity and international studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Theresa was a listener, who with a single look could crack you up or urge one on in sharing,” wrote friend and fellow missionary Derek Webster. “She was reliable. She was quiet, but a strong encourager of others. Theresa exhibited a grace and beauty rarely seen.”

“Her illness never changed her view of who God is,” her sister said. “She saw the bigger picture — that God is in control. Through her life and through her illness, she wanted God to be glorified.

“In the midst of pain and suffering, her desire was still to reach out to people, even to the hospital staff.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the International Mission Board for a scholarship fund that’s being created in Thompson’s memory at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. All gifts should be designated for the “Theresa Thompson Scholarship Fund.” The IMB’s address is P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230-0767.

*Name changed for security reasons. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.

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