Tommy Thompson Bio 1 Start of the Journey

CHAPTER 1

The Start of the Journey

From my earliest upbringing in a Christian home, the sovereignty of God was at work preparing me for the future. In Galatians 1:15-16, the apostle Paul spoke about his ministry of the gospel and traced God’s work all the way back to his mother’s womb. This is a great encouragement to me as I review my own life.

I was born on January 31, 1925, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the third of four children born to Thomas James “Jimmy” and Agnes Crooks Thompson. I was named after my father, but was called “Tommy” to avoid confusion. My brother Andrew and sister  Eileen were older than me, and George came a couple years after me. Both my parents lived for Christ and raised their in an atmosphere of reverence for God.

The Great Depression impacted my family when my father I his job. Growing up in these hard conditions taught me lessons about God’s provisions in answer to prayer. I often  heard my parents pray to God to meet some particular need and He provided in ways that convinced me of His rea1ity.

God revealed Himself even in my own life during a dark time. As a young boy, I was stricken with meningitis. The doctor told my parents that he was sending me to Newtownards Hospital; only afterward he said it was “to save you from seeing him die”

“Lord, you know how much I love my wee Tommy,” my mother prayed. “But if you want to take him, Thy will be done.”

My father had to travel from Bangor to visit me. After eight days, in the mercy of God my fever went. A nurse inquired of my dad, “Are you baby Thompson’s father?” Expecting the worst, he cautiously replied that he was. The nurse exclaimed, “Bring his clothes as soon as you can. He is better!” In my teens when I misbehaved, mother would say, “I never asked for you back.” This always made me sorry for being her “black sheep” boy.

Even though we lived in the city, for some reason I became obsessed with wanting a donkey. Boldly and with childlike presumption, I asked my parents simply to buy me one. Of course, they couldn’t, and told me so. Undeterred, I prayed to the Lord for a donkey. I wasn’t surprised when, the next morning, a donkey stood in our backyard! It had escaped from its rightful owner and I could not keep it, but that experience still stands out today as a time when the Lord answered my childish prayer.

I loved to work. When I was 11 years old, I asked Mrs. Windrum if I could help her brush the pavement outside her grocery shop. She kindly consented, and soon that wee job progressed into helping her in the shop daily after school. When I left school at age 15, her husband gave me a job in his wholesale business.

While working for the Windrums, I also became indentured to marine work in the famous Harland &Wolff shipyard in Belfast. That was where the legendary SS Titanic was assembled many years before. I was assigned after five years to be a “marker off” on the HMS Eagle. I attended Belfast College of Technology, “The Tech”, three nights a week. I never missed a day during my training.

In 1944, when I was 19 years old, I met Sadie Scott. She was Born on December 12, 1927, in Belfast, the middle child of Sam Margaret Scott. Bill was her older brother and Betty was her younger sister. Sadie was a lovely, bright, happy girl, and we fell in love. Sadie and I got married on March 30, 1946, when I was 21 and she was 17. Neither of us was saved at that time.

 

Shortly after we wed, the post-World War II economy and dearth of job opportunities in Northern Ireland caused us to make plans to emigrate to South Africa where the economy seemed more prosperous.

About this time, however, the Lord saved Sadie. This produced in me a profound awareness of my own sinful condition. I had been brought up by believing parents, but had never confessed Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. In contrast, Sadie’s parents were good people who raised their three children within the Church of Ireland, but they were not saved. Sadie was always virtuous and morally upright, but salvation made her more truly “a new creation” than ever before. For several months I was deeply convicted about my godly heritage in contrast to Sadie’s, causing a deepening awareness of my sinnership before God.

One day at work, the conviction of my sins forced me to take a break. I got down on my knees in a toilet and asked God to save me. Two scriptures I had learned in my childhood gripped me: Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and Job 33:14, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” There on my knees I realized that my prayer got no further than the ceiling. I had always known I was a sinner, but after rising up from my knees in that place, I felt with renewed conviction that I was really lost. These verses were fulfilled in my life and I turned away God’s grace. I knew I was on my way to hell, and never again would God speak to me.

Disturbed beyond imagination, I made my way to the Scotts’ home where we were living to save up money for emigrating.

By this time I was refusing to attend church meetings with Sadie. At dinner, she asked her father whether he would go to a church meeting with her that evening.

“Don’t ask me,” he replied, “Ask your husband.”

“He won’t go,” said Sadie.

“Go on, ask me!” I said to my young wife.

I asked her to go up to the balcony, because in my agitated mind I thought I would be with Christians and nearer to heaven than I would ever be. Conviction by the Spirit of God had brought to me real hopelessness of self, ever since my prayer that day at work. During the meeting I never heard a word the preacher said, for I was in agony of despair. As I sat beside Sadie little did she realize what was going on beside her. The battle for my soul intensified. The Evil One whispered to me, “Don’t get saved now; just wait. Besides, they will laugh at you in the shipyard.”

But God spoke in grace. “This is your last chance. Choose now for heaven or hell.” I then simply cast myself into the arms of Jesus my Lord without saying a word and I knew I was saved forevermore. The date was January 14, 1947. Sadie cried with me as I told her of my conversion.

We went over to tell my parents. I knocked on the door and Dad opened it. “What are you doing here so late, Son?” he asked.

With maternal prescience, my mother shouted from the kitchen, “He is saved, Daddy!”

“Are you Tommy?” Dad turned to me.

“Yes I am,” I declared. “I have come for that Bible you said you had for me when I got saved.”

Sadie and I were both baptized and then gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus with believers who met in Victoria Hall assembly in Belfast. What joyful relief had entered my soul, and after all these years it remains as fresh as ever. Each morning of my life I go back to that moment when God saved this lost sinner by His grace. I have never once doubted this great transaction which brought me salvation, for it was so real.