NYM alum has spent the past nine years in Thailand

By Chad Koenen


Kyle Tumburg

All signs were leading Kyle Tumberg to become a missionary overseas, he just may not have seen them right away. But after continually starting and stopping the missionary process, and running into the man who had such an impact on his life, Tumberg and his family have spent the past nine years of their lives spreading the word of God to people half way around the world. 

The 2001 graduate from New York Mills High School has spent the past nine years working as a missionary in Thailand. Tumberg took a call for the first time in November 2012, after continuing to feel a tug to leave the borders of the United States and become a missionary abroad. He was working at a boarding school and christian academy when he heard John Baxter speak for the first time about the need of additional missionary workers abroad. 

“When I was working at a school in Arkansas I heard a speaker about the great needs in the missionary field,” he said. “A vast majority of the people there have never heard the word Jesus.”

With no children or debt, he knew that he could serve for a few years and bring the word of God abroad. 

“We could theoretically give several years of our life to it,” he said of becoming a missionary.

Though he felt that immediate desire to go overseas, the process of becoming a missionary took several years. For starters, Tumberg had never been overseas and joked that the idea of going overseas seemed foreign to him, while also being unsure if living abroad was the right move. A few days after hearing Baxter speak for the first time, he tried calling his office and was told to call later in the week to visit about becoming a missionary. 

“But I never called him back,” said Tumberg.

You see, life happens, as Tumberg got busy and just never called Baxter. About a year and a half later, Tumberg and Baxter crossed paths again at a convention in Louisville, Kent. Tumberg walked right up to the booth that the speaker was stationed at and talked to him for about 20 minutes.

“I asked all of the questions I was going to ask him when I called him,” he said. 

If that conversation wasn’t enough to push Tumberg into the missionary field, the NY Mills graduate eventually picked up a magazine that again featured Baxter. With all of the signs virtually banging against his head that he should consider becoming a missionary, Tumberg once again started to look into becoming a missionary. 

After hearing about places overseas with little to no Christianity, as well as starting and stopping the application process for becoming a missionary twice before, Tumberg prayed and spent a week fasting with no supper. He prayed that God would point him and his wife Cindi in the right direction. While they didn’t feel at peace staying stateside, Tumberg said they wanted to make sure that living abroad was something his wife and he were both comfortable doing. 

“We didn’t really see a good reason not to do this,” said Tumberg. “We will go as far as (God) takes us.”

Finally at peace with the decision to become a missionary, Tumberg completed the application to become a missionary—or so he thought. 

Just two weeks before orientation, Tumberg was told he didn’t have enough time to get all of the background information completed and he would have to wait until the fall. When another door seemed to have slammed shut for the time being, Tumberg turned to prayer and the next day he received a phone call from Baxter, the man who was so instrumental in getting him to become a missionary in the first place. The phone call offered a glimmer of hope. 

“He said I can come, but I need to know by noon to buy the plane ticket,” said Tumberg. “We prayed Lord we will go as far as you will take us.”

Part of the background process meant that representatives from AFM, the organization Tumberg was applying to, had to come visit each person to make sure they would be a good fit to work overseas. That coordination can take time, but Baxter saw something in Tumberg that he couldn’t overlook in filling a mission role overseas. 

Tumberg’s wife and he completed their mission training and that’s when the real work began. The trip had to be self-funded, meaning the Tumbergs had to raise their own money to live on in Thailand. Tumberg began fundraising while his wife worked full-time to pay the bills. When the money was eventually raised, the family set out for Thailand in November 2012.

“We saw repeated doors open, but we had some challenges along the way,” he said. 

Tumberg currently serves as a project leader of his mission in a church in Khon Kaen. He said he more or less serves as a pastor by giving sermons, Bible study and helping with a new building project. The church is an international church with members from the Philippians, as well as Thailand. 

His family has grown during his time overseas as his oldest daughter is 5 1/2 years old and his youngest daughter is just 2. His oldest daughter was born in America, while the family was on a furlough, while his youngest daughter was born in Thailand. 

Even though raising a family overseas can be a challenge, Tumberg said they have a great support system. In addition, their children will have an experience few children their age will ever get while living in Thailand.

“Thai culture is a very nice culture. They really value beauty like aesthetics and arts. They people are very friendly to tourists and Westerners,” said Tumberg. 

A mostly developed country, Thai people also shop from a number of roadside vendors in even the biggest towns like Bangkok. For example, Tumberg said people will just randomly stop on the side of the road to purchase something from a print shop or specialty shop. 

There are over 66 million people living in Thailand, which is on a peninsula spanning just 198,000 square miles, or roughly just over twice the size of Minnesota. By comparison, 5.64 million people live in Minnesota. Kohn Kaen has just under 115,000 people living in it and is located in the north eastern side of the country. 

Tumberg is the son of Daryl Tumberg and Susan Sherack. His family is currently on a furlough and will be returning to Thailand later this year.