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How we got started - Founder, Lester Buttram, heard from God in 1926, a very clear instruction - "Print My Word!"
Lester was born premature and weighted only 11/5 lbs and with a shoe box as his bassinet which was kept in the kitchen oven for warmth. He served as a teacher in a one-room country school near Springfield MO. He felt the need to train to be a missionary to China. One Sunday evening after church, he lay at the alter seeking the will and voice of His Heavenly Father. It was in his willingness to hear, listen, and obey that the LORD called him to start printing Gospel Tract. Lester told the LORD that he knew nothing about print. In his obedience to the LORD’s call, the LORD placed certain conditions on how the Word would be printed and distributed.
First, he was to never sell the Gospel Tracts and he was to never set a price or cost to be placed on any of the Gospel Tracts because the Good
News is freely given by God.
Secondly, Mr. Buttram was never to promote a particular denomination, church, or doctrine. Just print God’s Holy Word in plain truth.
From these simple, yet direct guidelines, The Gospel Tract Society was formed. Within hours of hearing from God, Mr. Buttram withdrew his entire savings of $7.10 from his bank account and went to a print shop in Springfield, Missouri. He boldly told the owner of his burden to publish Gospel tracts and asked that she print as many tracts as she could for that small amount.
Moved by his enthusiasm and sincerity, she replied, “You’re really serious about this aren’t you, Lester?” “Oh yes, Ma’am. I’m very serious.” The owner smiled: “Lester, I’m going to double your order and give you $15.00 worth of tracts.”
This offer from the print shop owner showed Lester that God was already speaking to hearts about this new publishing ministry. Soon these newly printed tracts were mailed out as soon as Mr. Buttram earned the money, he bought stamps. Immediately, responses began to come back through the mail, for men and women across the country wanted his free Gospel Tracts. Some enclosed a small donation—most did not.
Then, a financial breakthrough came when Mr. Buttram received a check for $100.00 from William Dyke, a wheat farmer in Montana. To a struggling young man in the 1920s, this seemed like a fortune.
His mother urged Mr. Buttram to return the money: “Son, this man doesn’t know you or that you just have a few tracts printed at a time. Return the money and thank him for his help.”
Mr. Buttram reluctantly did as his mother asked. However, in a few days, the check arrived back. In rather terse terms the man wrote, “Mr. Buttram, I sent you the check in the first place because God told me to. Now here it is, and use it to print the Gospel.”
With part of that money, Lester purchased a little hand-operated Kelsey press along with a supply of ink and paper.
The forward steps continued. By faith, Mr. Buttram worked two jobs during the day and printing Gospel Tracts at night. He continued to improve his methods and update his equipment. When discouragement arose, it was defeated by the prayers of Mr. Buttram and his family. God honored the prayers, fasting, sacrifice, and dedication through the years. Finally in the early 1960s after taking in three orphaned sisters, the ministry grew to the point that Mr Buttram could work full time in the publishing ministry.
Mr. Buttram married Ethel Berneice Viola Theimer in 1940, and together they raised four boys: David, Paul, Tom, and Phillip. Lester Buttram passed away in December 1990, and his wife Ethel (Mom B) took his place as president of GTS until her passing in October 1992.
From October 1992 until January of 2006, Lester and Ethel’s eldest son David served as president of Gospel Tract Society. Upon David’s passing in 2006, ministry leadership was guided by David’s younger brother Tom. Tom retired from the ministry in 2013 and the youngest son, Phillip, heard the call of the LORD and began leadership in January 2014 and still listens to the Voice of God in his role as President/Director.
Frequently Asked Questions
We hope to help you understand more about us through this page, but we welcome the chance to talk with you if you have a question not answered here!
A: While the name sounds old-fashioned, it is—but at the same time, we haven’t been able to improve on it. Gospel means “good news.” It is the message of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection that is our only hope of getting through this life and spending Eternity in Heaven with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus, the Christ.
A Gospel Tract is like a “tract” of land, it is a portion or parcel of the whole message of God and Society represents a group of people who share the same belief, calling, or purpose. Thus, GTS is a group of people who surrendered to the mission of sharing hope, by publishing and distributing portions of Biblical teachings.