BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (BP) — “Our hearts are broken” but the Voice of the Martyrs “will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters,” the ministry stated after the death of its executive director in mid-April.
Tom White, 64, who led VOM for more than two decades, died in what is being described as a possible suicide on the heels of a molestation investigation by local police.
White was reported missing on Tuesday night, April 17. Police found his body Wednesday morning in a warehouse at VOM’s headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla.
Police reported that a note was found in his vehicle that suggested he was suicidal or possibly fleeing to avoid investigation into alleged molesting a juvenile female.
VOM released a statement April 20 concerning White’s death and the allegations.
“Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life,” VOM stated. “None of those in leadership at VOM, including our board of directors, were aware of these allegations at the time of Tom’s death.”
Under White’s leadership, VOM had become one of the most recognized persecution ministries.
Founded in 1967 by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand after both were imprisoned in communist Romania for their faith, VOM focuses on assisting believers in countries where they suffer persecution and raising awareness of their plight.
White worked personally with the Wurmbrands and was imprisoned himself in Cuba. Communist troops captured him in May 1979 after the plane from which he was dropping Christian material crash-landed. A 1982 memoir detailed his year and a half imprisonment and torture at the hands of his Cuban captors and catapulted him into greater prominence in persecution ministry.
VOM, in its statement, noted, “There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there’s no doubt that he cared about VOM. We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken.
“However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters. We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom’s family during this difficult time.”
A medical examiner and local police have not yet disclosed the specific cause of White’s death.
The president of a fellow persecution watchdog group, Jeff King of International Christian Concern, noted in an April 23 statement:
“We would like to voice our support for [VOM], which had nothing to do with the leader’s scandal. We are calling for prayer for the staff, as well as any potential victims.
“We greatly admire and respect VOM-USA. For 50 years, they have done great work in serving and building the persecuted church and will continue to do so,” King said.
Compiled by Aaron Earls, a freelance writer in Wake Forest, N.C.