It was the ultimate nightmare for anyone. Tom and Elly Streeter met when they were young, single missionaries. Elly had arrived in Monaco from the United States just one month earlier when she learned a fire had destroyed almost everything she owned, materially that is.
Unfazed, Elly kept her trust in God. This great loss of everything she owned led to gaining more than she could imagine: her husband, children, life experiences and service in Europe with her new TWR family.
It’s a warm Carolina day and the Streeters are meeting with me in the newest conference room in TWR’s Americas headquarters. It is striking, this dichotomy between Tom, the TWR missionary who set sail to serve in Europe on a ship 50 years ago and the newness of the third-floor conference room.
Tom and Elly have a steadiness and contented presence that is admirable, making it easy to spend time with them.
Growing up in a Christian home with missions-minded parents, Tom was accustomed to having missionaries visit them. During his years at Wheaton College, he felt the call to serve in missionary radio. He earned his degree in radio and TV production at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. While there he learned about Trans World Radio. He began his TWR missionary journey in 1971.
Tom reveals a confident faith and demeanor as he shares how God supplied his ministry funding without prompting him to ask for support.
“Make it clear: This is not everyone’s experience,” he says. “I made a covenant with the Lord that I would only talk about money if people asked. It is a different model and a different world all these years later. We praise the Lord for our supporters who gave because the Lord prompted them, not us. It is clear to me that faith is the foundation of five decades of service.”
Within a year, Tom set sail by ship to Monaco to serve with TWR. He was one of the last missionaries to sail to their country of service. A year later, his future bride, Elly, became one of the first missionaries to fly to her service destination. Through God’s providence, they served in the same office.
Elly tells me her clear call to missions came during her days at a Christian college as well. Others were not so confident about their hometown young woman traveling across the world, but her deep peace led her in 1973 as it does today.
In her sweet and confident manner, she shares about her early days. Her first challenge was the flight across the world solo, pre-technology. What joy she expresses at the memory of her arrival in Nice, France, customs to see a sign that simply read “TWR!” Prayers were answered and it was on to Monaco.
Now, Elly says she “just” had to wait on her shipment to arrive. One morning when Director Bill Mial said he needed to meet with Elly, she knew her things had not made it.
Bill confirmed her intuition: Everything she owned had never left the warehouse in New York. There was a fire, she lost everything to her name. “In that moment, God gave me a peace that it was going to be OK. He was with me!”
God responded through the kindness of her TWR family. Bill, who is still with TWR, shared his recollection fondly. “I knew Elly loved elephants (her collection was destroyed in the fire), so I gave her a miniature elephant figurine,” he said.
Her elephant collection began again. God’s love and care in this great loss was tangible.
Tom recalls how God placed them together through their missionary assignments, bringing them both to Monte Carlo. “God took us halfway around the world to introduce us to each other,” Tom says. “The Lord made it clear that we were to serve him together, and we were married in 1974. God blessed us with two daughters, Jennifer and Rachelle, both were born in Monaco!”
Tom proudly shares that God provided for their wedding through the miracle of an unexpected insurance payment for the loss of Elly’s belongings, even though no receipt was available. The truth of God’s goodness is still evident in their lives today.
They exude such joy while reminiscing about 33 years of service in Monte Carlo. The world watched and participated during Monaco’s robust years with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the helm. All the while, God was doing a great work through TWR Monaco spreading the gospel through southern Europe and beyond.
As ministry director of South Europe, Tom developed new radio and internet ministries. This opened the doors to Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Portugal. These partnerships are thriving today.
The ministry of TWR is complex. It was Tom who developed a production team and a board of directors in each country. In each case, the first project was to produce the Thru the Bible radio series. “Language by language by language, God provided for TTB to spread the gospel in these five countries,” he says. “The U.S. immigrant community funded the ministries, wanting the gospel to be translated in their heart languages to their people in these countries.”
“Today, TWR distributes Thru the Bible in 227 languages around the world,” Tom says. Many of those radio relationships were founded in these early years.
Elly lights up when she talks about her relationships with staff and community in Monaco. “It was truly family.”
Like the Streeters, Marvin and Landrie Heath served in Monaco and still serve in TWR’s Americas region. The Heaths reminisced with great fondness about their friendship with Tom and Elly. Marvin recalled Elly as “one of the gentlest women of God I have ever known. She believed in us, and I will always be grateful. They made living in Monaco doable by becoming our friends.”
Landrie recalled memories with the Streeters. “Thanksgivings preparing turkeys, choir and worship, trying new foods at our first meal in Monaco at their home … they showed us love, were so gracious and they will always have a special place in our hearts.”
The Streeters again showed a willingness to go when TWR asked them to serve in the Netherlands office. Changing countries did not shake them. They closed the doors to their beautiful and comfortable life in Monaco, which was a multifaceted process.
Their final TWR move took them to America to serve as a powerhouse hospitality and renovation couple in our lodge. They prepared it for missionaries needing respite while on furlough.
After managing and refurbishing the lodge, they passed that torch. Today, Tom works with our TWR360 app. It thrills him to know individuals can log on to TWR360 and hear the gospel in their heart languages on phones in the palms of their hands. It’s a far cry from the many miles he logged in Europe pioneering the way for radio partnerships and broadcasts.
Today, Elly faithfully organizes and archives our TWR history meticulously. It’s important to Elly that the story of God’s faithfulness be recorded and preserved. Fire may have destroyed all that she owned, but God gave Tom and Elly more than they could have ever asked for or imagined.