Moved by Compassion: A Heart for World Missions
Remembering the life and ministry of Trula Cronk.
Tribute From a Friend
by Sandra Fender Hall
When I remember my friend Trula Cronk, I think of compassion, friendship, missions, love for education, wisdom, love of nature, and dedication to family. She was a woman who walked with God.
Born June 7, 1924, Trula Gunter grew up in the Camp Creek area of East Tennessee, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Nolichucky River. As a child, she loved the outdoors—playing in the river, swinging in grapevines, and enjoying God’s creation.
The small Presbyterian mission school she attended as a young child fostered a love for learning she pursued throughout life. She loved to read for educational and spiritual enrichment as well as pleasure. In May 1939, during her high school years, her search for knowledge led her to live and study at the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home in Greenville, Tennessee. She was the first resident in the home that now bears her name: Trula Gunter Cronk Home for Children.
Trula’s desire to serve as a missionary to India developed at a young age. Her Sunday School teacher and pastor’s wife, Mrs. Brown, frequently shared with the class about her 15 years of missionary work in India. This testimony, along with the song “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go,” placed a burning desire in Trula’s heart to serve, and she surrendered to God’s call while at the children’s home.
During her senior year of high school, Trula visited Nashville, Tennessee, and met Daniel Cronk who also felt called to work in India. The two attended Free Will Baptist Bible College and were married in 1945. They moved to Columbia College (now Columbia International University) in South Carolina to further their education and departed for India September 8, 1948.
After 29 long days of traveling, they reached India and were met by Laura Belle Barnard. They served as pioneer missionaries (pictured below with an Indian couple) for Free Will Baptists for 24 years, 1948-1972.
The Cronks were blessed to see many people from various sects come to know Christ as personal Savior. They spent much of their time developing friendships with the Indian people, teaching the Bible, and instructing in evangelism. They focused on teaching the Indian people to develop indigenous churches within their communities.
I had the honor of meeting Mr. Cronk in the late 1970s while a missions student at Free Will Baptist Bible College. He was the professor directing the mission program. Mrs. Cronk taught school and worked in the Social Security office in Nashville. During my training, Mrs. Cronk became ill and was hospitalized. My first memory of her was the visit a friend and I made during this difficult time. When I left the hospital that day, I commented that although I had come to minister, she ministered to me. Later, I learned this was an enduring trait.
Mrs. Cronk was truly an example of the Proverbs 31 woman. She loved her son Randall, granddaughter Anka, and Anka’s mother Golf. She faithfully provided for their needs in any way she could. She was a respected asset in each of the communities where she lived. She was an active long-time member of Horton Heights FWB Church as an advisor, friend, leader, and teacher.
Trula enjoyed a close walk with God and knew Him as her Father. Her diligent study of the Word made her a great source of biblical knowledge and a wise counselor. She faithfully cared for her husband during his illness. After his death in November 1997, she talked about him often and missed him greatly.
In 2003, a stroke resulted in a long, demanding recovery period and Trula sustained permanent mobility damage. It was during this time I began to spend more time with her and came to know her as my friend and mentor. We are both from the Smoky Mountains—she from the Tennessee side and I from the North Carolina side. We fondly called them “our mountains.”
Blessed to fulfill her love of travel with trips around the globe, Trula’s favorite destination always remained the beautiful mountains of her youth. We became traveling companions. When I journeyed to visit family and friends, she joined me as far as Greeneville where she spent time with her own family and friends. Along the way, she livened up the trip with stories of her life and friends who lived in the area.
Though Mrs. Cronk had many friends in the States, and especially in the Nashville area, as she grew older and her health declined, she felt a strong urge to spend more time with her son Randall, a resident of Thailand. In preparation, she relocated to Greeneville, Tennessee, cherishing the unique beauty of each season in the mountains one more time.
It was a joy for my daughter Rachel and I to visit her little home. Rachel looked forward to seeing Mrs. Cronk and hearing her stories. Trula had the gift of hospitality. In spite of failing health, a warm meal always awaited us, bedcovers were turned down, and Rachel always heard a story about Trula’s life before bedtime. We woke to the smell of a country breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits, coffee, and all the trimmings. In Trula’s home, everyone ate together at the table. After breakfast, she shared a devotion seemingly custom-prepared for my needs.
Everyone who visited with her remembers tea-time in the afternoons. She called everyone together for tea, a sweet snack, and a short fellowship time.
Mrs. Cronk moved to Thailand in August 2005. Rachel and I were blessed to visit her in November 2008. Randall had created a comfortable home for her, surrounded by the beauty of nature that she enjoyed so much. She greatly enjoyed her time with him but missed her friends and family. Unfortunately, her health continued to decline.
God granted her wish to be reunited with Mr. Cronk and to meet her Savior face to face on Monday, December 21, 2009. She is greatly missed, but my life and the lives of many others were richly blessed by our time with her.
One of her favorite verses was “O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good; because his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).
About the Writer: Sandra Fender Hall is a 1981 graduate of Free Will Baptist Bible College. She served as a short-term missionary to Japan from 1981-1982. She received her Master's degree from Oxford Graduate School in 2009.