Leet woman ignores dangers, travels world to share ministry

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Theresa Troncale Newell's monogram is TNT — three letters that describe her perfectly, said her husband, Bruce.

The Leet woman has been traveling the world sharing the “good news” of the Bible and Jesus, and spreading comfort where she can for more than 40 years, and the 72-year-old said she has no intentions of slowing down.

“Actually, it takes all the energy I can muster just to keep up with Theresa,” said Bruce, 81, retired from his jobs as admiral in the Navy, assistant dean at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and St. Stephen's Church staff member in Sewickley, where he teaches a men's Bible class.

His wife of 23 years has traveled to more than 20 countries, many with Bruce, who also participated in a mission trip to Honduras in 2012 with a St. Stephen's Church group.

She has comforted others in war-torn areas in Rwanda, where one of her group members later helped to rebuild a hospital; helped to set up a nursing school in Uganda; taught biblical classes; studied Jewish history and taught church history in many countries; dedicated a library named after her in India; led more than 50 biblical study tours to Israel, and sometimes just listened to and prayed for people.

Newell helped to establish Israel study tours, called Shoresh (a Hebrew word for root) to “show the Jewish roots of the Christian faith” through Church's Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ). The ministry is a more than 200-year-old, nonprofit evangelical Christian organization that has a mission to “witness to both Jews and Gentiles of God's love and faithfulness,” according to the CMJ website.

Today, thousands of people around the world participate in similar Shoresh tours, she said. She will lead her next study group in Israel in May for which registration deadline is the middle of this month. Usually 20 to 30 people attend.

Newell, mother of four, stepmother of four and grandmother of 28 (with twins on the way adopted from the Caribbean) opened the first American office of the ministry in Virginia. She served as its director from 1980 to 1985 and now is chairman of the board.

The office moved to Ambridge in 1989. A year after, her husband accepted a job at Trinity, where Newell received a master's degree in biblical studies and a doctor of ministry degree.

“I love sharing the Bible with people, and doing it in the land where it all happened is off the scales exciting for me. I see light bulbs go off in people's heads as we walk the land with the Bible open.

“Seeing the actual places where the stories of the Old and New Testament happened and taking time to process it on the spot just can't be described until it is experienced.”

Keith Kirkland of Sewickley who went on a study trip with Newell's group in November last year said he learned a lot of factual information and a lot of history, and the trip made “everything you read about in the New Testament more real.

“You could visual where they went and how far it was, the climate, how dry or green it was there. It was like coloring in a black-and-white sketch. It make if more meaningful,” he said.

Newell scheduled other trips through the travel study program at Trinity, which she initiated after being hired as Extension Ministries Office director. She retired as director of the travel study program in 2012 after 17 years.

Through the program, she took groups abroad, mostly to study church history and many times with Trinity professors.

Other trips were church-related or attended by only she and her husband to study Jewish history.

Newell said that on a bishop-led trip to Rwanda, her group's job was to assess the civil unrest there, find out how they could help and to comfort the people. Five years after the 1994 genocide, fighting continued.

They saw people in the streets “carrying what they could carry” and fleeing from the rebels who had killed many people and destroyed homes.

“We put our hands up to them so they would know we meant them no harm. They wept when they saw us, because they knew there was someone who hadn't forgotten about them. We were overwhelmed by the heart of the people there,” she said.

Newell, who grew up in Alabama, has been a teacher at a small Christian school, a reporter and executive director for a prayer ministry; traveled around the country with her husband to raise $6 million for Trinity, written Jewish and Bible-focused articles, some with her husband, along with book reviews and papers; has been a member or head of local and international boards, committees and groups; and was a delegate to a worldwide mission conference in Bangkok, with the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization in 2004.

Newell's husband believes she was called to this ministry.

“She has responded faithfully to Luke 12:48, ‘Everyone to whom much was given, of him (or her) much will be required, and from him (or her) to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.'”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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