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Thelma Bushong

Supporting faithfully behind the scenes
"...three years in a very remote area 'back in the bush.'"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2014

Thelma was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, the youngest in her family. She accepted the Lord at an early age and was involved in her church’s missionary society during her teen years. She met Burnis during her freshman year at Vennard College. They both studied Bible-based majors but felt strongly that they were not called to the mission field. But one night after an evening service, Thelma felt God directing her to serve Him as a missionary. She went to tell Burnis of her calling to missions (and to break off the relationship), only to discover that Burnis had also received a call that night. Three weeks later, they were engaged.

Burnis and Thelma married in June 1946, and three months later, they moved to the Texas/Mexico border to serve with The Churches of Christ in Christian Union. During that time, their three children were born: Lois, David, and Robert.

In December 1951, Burnis and Thelma were asked by World Gospel Mission to serve in Honduras. They spent the first three years in a very remote area “back in the bush.” Burnis eventually became field director, and the family moved to the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Thelma served as field treasurer, taught in the Bible school, and served as an outstanding hostess to the many guests and work teams coming in and out of their home. In all their travels afterwards, Thelma always had a special place in her heart for Honduras.

In 1964, Burnis and Thelma moved to Bolivia to help coordinate an Evangelism in Depth campaign. They spent a year on the campaign, with Burnis traveling all over the country. They also conducted daily radio programs in Spanish. After a successful year in Bolivia, Burnis and Thelma were offered positions at WGM headquarters, and they moved to Marion, Indiana. Burnis was appointed vice president of Field Ministries, and Thelma worked as his secretary. She worked behind the scenes, editing his sermons, articles, and books. She always demonstrated a faithful, positive spirit and had a wonderful sense of humor.

The Bushongs semi-retired in 1994, and they took on a new responsibility as pastors to retired missionaries, traveling across the U.S. to visit WGM retirees. In 2001, they officially retired after almost 50 years of missionary service.

The couple settled in Avon Park, Florida, where they were surrounded by friends and fellow WGM retirees. Thelma continued in her supportive role, helping Burnis with projects for the Rotary Club and the Avon Park Holiness Campground. She and Burnis were married for 68 years, and she doted on her six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

World Gospel Mission joins with Thelma’s friends and family in celebrating her life and rejoicing that she is with her Lord and Savior today. Matthew 25:23 testifies of her life, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

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