Cover photo for Stephen Paul Thomas's Obituary
1947 Stephen 2023

Stephen Paul Thomas

September 20, 1947 — June 4, 2023



Stephen Paul Thomas, age 75, of Willmar, died peacefully in his sleep at home on Sunday June 4.


Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. followed by the celebration of life service at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, September 1, at the First Presbyterian Church in Willmar.  Arrangements are entrusted to the Peterson Brothers Funeral Home.


Stephen was born September 20, 1947, in San Antonio, Texas.  He was the youngest child born to Rev. J. Melton and Letitia (Tish) Thomas, Ministers in the Church of the Nazarene. The family of five had many homes as Rev. & Mrs. Thomas pastored in Texas, Alaska, Ohio, Alaska, Oklahoma, Washington, California and New Mexico.  Stephen claimed the family moved to Alaska, “because Texas wasn’t big enough for me.”


In 1965, Stephen graduated from Norte Del Rio High School in Sacramento, CA. He won First Prize for a Vocal Solo and sang in multiple choirs.  During the Summer of 1964, he was one of 50 teens, that traveled and sang nightly coast to coast with Tex Yearout.


Stephen had a Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Philosophy, 1969, Summa Cum Laude from Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho.  He was active in Debate Team, played Richard Rich in the drama, “A Man For All Seasons,” and Lancelot in “The Merchant of Venice.”  As editor of the Oasis 1968, Stephen earned an award for excellence in college annuals.


While completing a master’s degree in international relations, in 1971, at Occidental Presbyterian College, Los Angeles, California, Stephen had a roommate from Thailand.  This year of learning Thai food, language and culture began his lifelong love of Thailand.


Stephen, a Conscientious Objector of the Vietnam War, served 4 years in the Peace Corps as Alternative Military Service.  He spent 3 months in Afghanistan, and the balance of his service in Thailand.  He was assigned to be the Head of the Department of English Language, at Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand.  In August of 1973, Stephen suffered a massive TBI in a motorcycle accident.  After 40 days in a coma, and 25 surgeries, he recovered and returned to the USA.


Stephen was married for 13 years to a woman of Asian descent before divorcing.  He graduated from Western Evangelical Seminary with a master’s degree in Missiology, the study of presenting the Gospel message to various cultures.  Stephen founded the Southeast Asian Refugee Mission at Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene, pastored Son-Rise Sanctuary in the International District of Seattle, WA, and pastored Grace Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, Missouri.


Stephen, an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene, married Linda Wordsworth, a childhood friend, on August 1, 1993, in Kansas City, Missouri. Their daughter, Letitia Chrystell, was born in Thailand, 1997. They served as missionaries in Thailand as Nazarenes in Volunteer Service, NIVS, English teachers with Church of Christ in Thailand, CCT, and as Directors of World In Need, WIN, Thailand. They also lived in Boise, ID, Kuna, ID, Nampa, ID, Benson MN, and Willmar, MN.


He was preceded in death by his parents; and one brother, Rev. Jackson Thomas of Benson.


He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Linda Thomas of Willmar; one sister, Kathy Slamp, (Dr. David Slamp) Vancouver, Washington; daughter, Letitia Thomas-Skalicky (Spenser Skalicky); grandsons, Joseph and Leland; step-daughter, Jennifer Gulley of Boise, Idaho; sister-in-law, Irene Sophie Thomas of Kindred, North Dakota; brothers-in-law, Mark (Vickie) Wordsworth of Redmond, Oregon; and Dave (Colleen) Wordsworth of Marysville, Washington; sister-in-law, Beth Wordsworth McCarty of Seattle, Washington, and sister-in-law, Gayle Wordsworth Nelson, (Norm Nelson) of Ontario, Oregon, and nieces and nephews.


His legacy will carry on through his passions and his jokes.  He left a great impact on all that he met mostly unbeknownst to him.  He passionately loved a variety of cultures, languages, music, poetry, serving the Lord, and being in nature.  He was always quick with a joke or to put a smile on any one’s face.  He loved talking to anyone that would listen, especially those that where different and didn’t pretend to be normal.  He made it his mission to tell everyone that they were loved and important.



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