Tom Ecker, pastor of GCI’s congregations in Beaumont and High Desert, California, has been affiliated with GCI since birth. “The year I was born my mother started listening to the WCG radio program, and for several years after I listened from my high chair. My mother and dad did not agree on religion, so I went to church with my dad until shortly after my parents divorced when I was 16. After that, I did not attend any church for about three years.”
Tom’s family moved from Kansas, to Beaumont, California, when Tom was five. As Tom tells it, he almost didn’t come with them. “I ran away from home, but stopped two blocks away when I ran into a huge dog. I stood there and cried until my mom came and chased me all the way home. It was good that I stayed around for the move to California as my parents chose to live in an area where we had two beautiful orchards with fruit trees, where I spent many happy hours playing with my friends.”
“I attended all twelve years in the Beaumont Unified School System, and enjoyed football, basketball and track. God blessed me with speed, so I lettered in varsity track all four years. I received good coaching from a man who taught me never to quit when things get tough. I was the starting halfback on the only football team in Beaumont history to win the equivalent of a state championship. I was also captain of the track team and set school records that held for a couple of decades. In my senior year, I was elected student body president. All these experiences taught me the value of hard work, the joy of being part of a team, and the importance of friendship.
After high school, Tom attended California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) in Pomona for two years. “During this time my mother became very ill, and a lady in the church took her into her home and nursed her back to health. This impressed me so deeply that I was led to check out the church in more detail. I began reading The Plain Truth during lunch breaks. I read the article, “The Man Who Could Not Afford to Tithe” and my mother was surprised when I gave her my tithe check. She wisely handed it back to me and said, “You should send it in yourself.” I did, and began attending church about three months later. I applied for Ambassador College, and was accepted for the fall of 1970.”
Tom had many sport and leadership opportunities at Ambassador, which he said, “put ingredients in my life that led me to appreciate our collective calling. As a senior in 1973, I was asked and enthusiastically agreed to become a ministerial trainee, not knowing the great joys and sorrows that lay ahead over the next 41+ years. I was married to my first wife in June 1973 and arrived in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in July 1973. I served in a variety of locations in Canada for 21 years and now am in my 21st year of ministry in the USA, now in California.”
Tom and Alberta (Awana) have been married for over 18 years. “We met in a prayer group at the old HQ Auditorium—the first group on campus led by a woman, Alberta. She received permission to be leader from Joseph Tkach Sr. We prayed together in a group before we ever dated. Nine months later we were married by Joseph Tkach Jr.” Tom notes that Alberta continues to serve actively in ministry to this day.
Tom and Alberta have a large family. “Alberta has five children: Robert, Rose, Jerry, Jennifer, and Eugene. I had one son, Ryan, from my first marriage. Sadly, he is deceased. We have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, scattered all over the United States.”
When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, Tom said that he and Alberta “enjoy the ongoing variety of serving God and ministering to his precious called-out-ones through five ministries that he summarizes with the acronym VASES: Visiting, Administrating, Socializing, Evangelizing and Speaking. “The acronym reminds us that in serving God in these ways, ‘the all-surpassing power is from God and not us’ (2 Corinthians 4:7).”
When asked what he values most about GCI, Tom said, “Alberta and I appreciate being in a church that is willing to change and grow—not afraid to learn something new, and one that appreciates the redeeming qualities of all cultures.”
Though Tom has had numerous memorable moments in ministry, he mentions one type in particular: “Attending or officiating at over 200 funerals. Each time I am reminded of how a funeral is a tribute to our great God, who has carried out his purposes and applied the fruit of Christ’s redemptive mission in the life of that person. This is both humbling and a cause for rejoicing, as I view funerals as a ‘graduation,’ knowing that this believer has died in the faith.”
When asked about his passion, Tom said it “is to bear witness to the amazing Trinitarian theological truth that the Father, Son and Spirit are involved together in the mission of Jesus Christ. This passion leads us to encourage people to recognize, realize, internalize and personalize the reality of the life of Christ Jesus as being their true life.”
Tom says he feels closest to God when practicing the various spiritual disciplines. “One of the blessings that Alberta and I share together is reading daily in the One Year Bible. Doing so provides us with a wonderfully balanced spiritual diet.”