Tom & Corinne's History

A Short Ministry Biography

Tom Palmer arrived in the Territory of New Guinea September 16, 1953, and Corinne Mansker on July 9th, 1954. They were married on April 19th, 1956 in the Hamtai tribe, where they both were serving.

Initially their main task was to learn the Hamtai language. Corinne took over the linguistic and language work from their field leader, Chuck Driver, when he moved to the highlands area. Tom and others discipled the new believers and led them in outreach. Corinne prepared a spoken language course in Hamtai to help the new missionaries learn Hamtai. Then she and Jerry Sherman, the widow who accompanied her to the field and was her coworker until Corinne married, began a literacy class to test the orthography that had been worked out on this previously unwritten language. Then, for many years Corinne was involved in preparing primers and literacy materials and training literacy teachers besides raising four children on the field, three of whom became missionaries, two to Papua New Guinea and one to Russia.

Tom learned the language well and began translating some New Testament books. Later on, while Palmers were serving in leadership at headquarters and then left for an extended furlough, Ted and Jerry Fitzgerald completed the translation of the Hamtai New Testament. Five thousand copies were printed in Hong Kong and were made available to the people in 1975. Coincidentally, that was the same year The Territory of Papua & New Guinea gained its independence from Australia and officially became Papua New Guinea. In the same way, the Hamtai church became more independent of the missionaries, with the New Testament in their own language!

When they returned to PNG in 1977, Tom was made the language consultant for the whole field. In that capacity Tom and Corinne traveled to all the tribes in which NTM had missionaries and gave them language checks and helps for them to progress. Corinne helped in the checking and also typed up the reports, etc. During the other 50 percent of their time they ministered in the Hamtai tribe. It was around that time that the other remaining members of the Hamtai church planting team moved to other areas of PNG to fill leadership positions in new areas of NTM work. So from then on Tom and Corinne have been on their own.

ImageTwo different times for three years Tom served at field headquarters as Chairman of the Field Committee. He continued to visit the tribes giving language help and personal counsel in addition to his responsibilities as chairman. Tom was also chairman of the Language Consultants Committee. Corinne was his secretary for both committees. Tom also did surveys to open new areas for new missionaries to enter. When he was not the chairman, he was still serving on the Field Committee for most of his years on the field. That involved time away from home – a couple days of travel to and from the tribe to headquarters plus the meeting time plus committee responsibilities. He resigned from the Field Committee and the Highlands Regional Committee in 2001 to concentrate more on our translation project.

In 1990 they moved from the missionary center in the Watut Valley at the edge of the tribe over the dividing range to Hipaku village, in the Kapau Valley, which is more in the center of the population of the tribe. In 1991 and 1992 thirty men and their wives plus four single men came there for two years of Bible teaching. They represented 22 village churches. During that time Tom and Malcolm, his translation coworker, team-taught every morning Monday through Friday through the Bible chronologically. In the afternoons Corinne helped the students improve their literacy skills and taught in modules – Bible Study Methods, Christian Family, a child training course, and Church History.

In 1995 and 1996 they served in the capital of Port Moresby as the field’s representative to the government. They did all the required paper work to get visas and passports and work permits for all NTM missionaries and other folk visiting the field for various reasons. They also did the same for several other missions who did not have a representative in Port Moresby.

Then they returned to Hipaku and concentrated on translating the chronological Bible lessons into Hamtai for the churches, which had now multiplied to 72 village churches with their own leaders. Today, some of these are vibrant, but some are small and still struggling.

In 2003, the field leaders advised them to move out of the tribe and to locate in the coastal city of Lae as part of withdrawal from the tribe to make the people less dependent upon them and upon their vehicle. The committee felt they would have fewer interruptions and demands on their time so that they could concentrate on the revision of the Hamtai New Testament, which had been out of print for several years. So since April, 2004, Palmers have been renting one of the flats at the New Tribes Mission guest facilities in Lae City.

Living in Lae has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that Tom does not have to make a supply trip every month to Lae over the road to the tribe. The road has deteriorated to the point of being almost impassable. On their last trip in to Hipaku for teaching and some translation checking, both going in and coming out, they had to use their winch to pull the vehicle through some knee-deep muddy areas.

ImageThey have amenities living in town – access to doctors, pharmacies, stores, etc. The heat and humidity are disadvantages which necessitate running an air conditioner in their office to preserve their computers, slides, and tapes. Additional expenses include the cost of renting living quarters. The main disadvantage is not being near the people to be immersed in the language and having people nearby for checking translated portions.

Malcolm and his wife moved to Lae in order to continue working with Tom on translation. They are living four miles out of town in a house owned by the Hamtai churches, that was built for church workers. However, many in the tribe consider it their guest house when they come to Lae, putting a real strain on Malcolm and Meriai, as they do not have a garden but must buy all their food.

When the church pickup truck comes out of Hamtai they still come to Tom and Corinne for help in certain areas. Sometimes the driver and some passengers sleep at Malcolm's, but sometimes Palmers put them up in their house. They must park the truck at the guest house for security reasons.

So they press on with the revision. Rather than staying for four years, after two years on the field in May 2006 they made a 2 ½ -month visit to the U.S.A, mainly to visit with Tom's 94-year old mother and other family members. They also visited churches and family members on the west coast. They returned to PNG in July of 2006, and they plan to continue working as long as it takes to finish the revision of the New Testament and the checking of Old Testament portions that Malcolm has translated and get them ready for printing. Then they will phase out of the Hamtai work altogether. Since they are both in their 70's, they may then retire to the NTM retirement homes in Sanford, FL They praise the Lord for the privilege of serving the Lord in PNG these 50+ years and desire only His will for the remaining years of their lives.

Tom's Story

I was born January 7th, 1934, in Forty Fort, near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was raised nearby on "Palmer Hill." My grandfather had divided out his land to 4 of his sons. When I was about 7 years old, a layman from a neighboring town came and started a Tuesday night Bible class, alternating among the homes of my parents and my uncles. Through this man's burden and ministry my parents became Christians. Soon after becoming Christians they started attending a good Baptist church, where they were taught well in the Word. I clearly remember the day at age 8 when my father caught me red-handed in a lie concerning some of my brother's playthings. Among other salvation verses, Dad read to me Revelation 21:8, "...all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." It was then that I realized that Jesus died for me that I might have eternal life, a new kind of life. So, with his help, I claimed the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Savior. Things were different after that, and from that day on I have never doubted my salvation.

After a few years my father sold his successful woodworking business and our big house and moved the family to Florida in our homemade house trailer. Dad felt it was a step forward in his desire to serve the Lord with his life. It was during our short stay in Florida that the Lord began to work in my heart about missionary work. I was 12 when I saw the film, "The Man Who Forgot God." The man neglected his spiritual life, preferring the cares of this world...until God got hold of him through a family disaster. I learned that the only thing worth living for in this life is making sure every soul on earth hears the Gospel. From then on my only plan in life was to be a missionary. My parents' dedication to the Lord and their desire for people to come to know the Him always had a great influence on me.

It was at this time, too, that our family came in contact with New Tribes Mission. After receiving Brown Gold magazine (now called NTM@Work) for a while, my father answered a call for workers to help rebuild the New Tribes Institute "boot camp" in Fouts Springs, California, after the big fire of 1946. He was accepted as a carpenter in the rebuilding program, so off we went to California. My parents later enrolled to take the training but left the mission and went into Jewish mission work in San Francisco.

However, I stayed on after high school to take the NTM missionary training course. My missionary vision would never die in that place! There were lives steadily moving out, and the needs of the fields of the world were constantly before me in the "Hold-the-Ropes" prayer meetings. Also, for six months I was part of a quartet that traveled with Ken Johnston, then secretary of NTM. Ken's messages and the films he showed continued to challenge me. The Lord used one film that Field Leader Chuck Driver made about New Guinea to impress on me that that was the field where I was to serve. It was also during this time that I took 2 Corinthians 5:14 and 15 as my life verses:

"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."

ImageI sailed for what was then called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea via Australia in June, 1953. I had to remain in Australia for two months until I had sufficient funds to fly on up to New Guinea, arriving there on the 16th of September. I joined Chuck Driver, and his wife Jean, actually living with them for a while. They were a real blessing to me and to other new workers. Later I and my partner, Peter Banfield, moved two days' walk interior in the tribe and began learning the Hamtai language (pronounced Hahm-day). Corinne Mansker, who arrived in July 1954, and I became better acquainted when I came out for breaks or for conference. We became engaged in May of 1955 and were married on the field on April 19th, 1956.


Corinne's Story

I was born in Seattle,Washington, August 9th, 1929. My parents separated when I was four. At that time my mother obtained my custody and that of my new baby brother, while my father got the custody of my two older brothers. Occasionally at Easter my mother would attend church, and I would accompany her. I also attended various Sunday schools at different times. I even attended Sunday School at Emmanuel Bible Church (our present home church) for a while when invited by a friend during an attendance contest. Though the Gospel did not sink in at that time, I am still thankful for having memorized all the names of the books of the Bible and some Scripture passages while attending Sunday School.

In 1942 my mother won the custody of the boys. During the time of the custody case, my brother Dick visited his and my maternal grandparents. Our uncle paid his way to a Bible Camp. It was during that week at camp that Dick came to know the Lord. He immediately wrote a card to his mother and one to his dad telling how his life now belonged to the Lord and quoted John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

So Dick moved in with Mother and me just after being saved. He faithfully gave the Gospel to me, but I was indignant that he would call me a sinner. He was the one always getting into trouble, not me!

After about a year Dick decided to move back to live with Dad. During the year that he was away the Lord began working in my heart in answer to his prayers. Then when he came for a visit, my heart was ready for the Gospel. When he told me the way of salvation it seemed I had never heard it before. When Dick asked me if I knew I was a sinner and that Christ died for me, I said "yes." That was it! In that moment of time, I passed from death to life. But in saying "yes" I knew I was aligning myself with people and a message that I had once ridiculed. That "yes" was also a complete surrender to Jesus as the Lord of my life.

A few days later while at Bible Camp as a new babe in Christ, I heard a missionary to China speak of missionary work. I realized that the Gospel had delivered me from an eternal hell, and I felt I was a debtor to those who had never heard. From that moment on I set my face towards the mission field. I graduated from summer school on my 17th birthday.

ImageMy brother Dick had heard Paul Fleming, founder of New Tribes Mission, speak and had preceded me to NTM. It was through Dick that I heard of NTM and decided that that was where the Lord was leading me. So in February, 1947, I entered New Tribes Institute "boot camp" training in Fouts Springs, California. After the summer break in 1947 instead of returning, I went to Prairie Bible Institute in Canada for four years. One of the summers I spent in mission work in rural Idaho and another summer, after graduation, in rural British Columbia. Then that winter I worked in an office to save money for further training. In the summer of 1952, I attended the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Norman, Oklahoma. Following that I returned to NTM's training camp for a year in preparation for working in New Guinea.

Jerry Sherman and I sailed to New Guinea in June of 1954, arriving on the 9th of July, one year to the day that Jerry’s husband had burned to death in the forest fire that claimed the lives of 15 men who had been fighting the fire. I was excited to be beginning my lifetime vocation.

You can be a part of Tom and Corinne's work. Though they are semi-retired, they can still be helped by your prayers and interest and financial support if you are led to help in that way. It is a trying and stressful ministry at times and they would deeply appreciate your involvement in their lives.

Their e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can write to them at 416 Greenland Ct.; Sanford, FL 32771

New Tribes Mission has changed their name to Ethnos360. The mission address is now


312 W. First Street

Sanford, FL 32771

* Menu items marked with an asterisk will take you to another site in a new browser window.
© 2016 MMOL - My Missionary On-Line
Go to top