Tom Eggum led us through Hungary, Romania and Russia through, as Dave put it, the back back door. Not only are his leadership skills exceptional but his knowledge of the countries and ability to take you to places you would never see on a typical tour group adds tremendously to your experience on a Hope4Kids mission trip.
Tom has been in the ministry for 30 plus years and his ability to lead and his compassion for people is incomprehensible. Everyone on the trip remarked at how he makes the journey go above and beyond any expectation one might have had.
Tom celebrated his 55th birthday in Russia as well as it being his 55th trip. To watch Tom with the people and how they love him back is inspirational. People don’t forget him and flock to him. For example, Sasha whom Tom has known for a number of years wanted to give Tom more gifts before we left Russia. Tom told him we were leaving the hotel at 4AM. The metro is still closed at that hour but that did not stop Sasha from carrying gifts to Tom-he walked! The walk was about an hour each way but Sasha thought it was worth it to give Tom one more hug.
We all gleaned so much from the stories Tom told of his early years in Russia when he smuggled Bibles and met secretly with Christians and what it was like to be there when communism fell and the new freedom to speak about Christ and to distribute Bibles. We eagerly paid attention when Tom reminded us of his early days in Romania and the attitudes toward the gypsies even by Christians and how that is slowly changing to at least the Christian community valuing the gypsy and reaching out to them. He introduced us to people he trained as teenagers and are now serving in the church and connecting with those who are hurting physically, emotionally and financially.
Although Tom has struggled with cancer this past year and still suffers from the effects of radium seeds he does not allow it to detour him from his calling. He survives on little sleep and makes certain the team is well cared for. He chooses opportunities of great need as well as cultural highlights for the team to experience. He models Christ’s love and inspires us to go beyond our comfort zone to reach out to others. He doesn’t just talk about the God he serves but demonstrates God’s love each time he meets someone whether it be a high official or a poor gypsy who is outcast by society.
It’s a privilege to serve alongside him as he leads, not to control, but to allow you to experience what God has for you. He has guidelines without constricting your freedom to make a difference in what you feel led to do. I think that balance along with his compassion and passion to make a difference is part of why Tom is so successful in leadership.