When Pam Tebow was a young girl, just 12 years old, she decided she would walk to church one Sunday morning.
She can’t recall after all these years why she would make such a decision, but she remembers getting her 8-year-old sister out of bed and the two of them walking down the street together to the church near their home in Charleston, South Carolina. Their dad, a U.S. Army colonel, was playing golf, and their mom was sleeping in. At the end of the church service, the pastor asked anyone who wanted to receive Christ as Savior to come to the front of the sanctuary to pray.
“I didn’t know anyone in that church except my sister,” Pam says. “I still can’t believe I had the courage to go up to the front all by myself, but I did. And I prayed the prayer along with the pastor.”
Pam calls this a God story, something that’s impossible apart from the power of God. She didn’t grow up in church. She’d never even heard a Bible story.
“I look back and I just can hardly tell that story without tearing up,” she says, her warm voice sounding clear through the cellphone speaker from her home in Jacksonville, Florida. “I think, O God, You loved me so much …”
And even though her parents didn’t allow her to go back to the church where she received Christ, she knew what she had experienced. The ripple effects of that decision have stretched over the decades of her life, starting at the University of Florida, where she met her future husband, Bob Tebow, a young man whose greatest desire was to serve God wholeheartedly.
They married after college, and they now have five adult children, all of whom are involved in ministry and leading others to Jesus; and nine grandchildren who are also being raised under the banner of Christ. The faces of her children and their families smile back at her from a favorite portrait that hangs on the wall of her office. Christy and her husband, Joey, and their two children, who are missionaries in a South Asian country; Katie and her three daughters; Robby and his son, Liam; Peter, his wife, Casey, and their two sons. (A new baby girl, Charlotte, isn’t pictured.) And, finally, their son Timmy—otherwise known to the world as Tim Tebow, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback, and, as of January, husband of Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, former Miss Universe 2017.
Pam has always known she wanted to influence others, and her first ministry is her children. She homeschooled them before homeschool was a word. She served on the mission field with them. She instilled Scriptures in them, putting tunes to Bible verses to cement them into their hearts—to guard and keep them, and to help them deal with issues like fear and pride.
She can attest to these real-life issues, as can all parents, she says. She often shares the story of how a burglar came into the room where she and her four kids were sleeping, as they were beginning their service as missionaries in the Philippines. This was before Timmy was born, and Bob was away securing a home for them on another island.
Because Pam followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting to hide their cash in a safe place, the burglar didn’t take anything except a few pesos from her purse. The kids slept through the incident, but the next morning they were terrified to learn what had happened. Pam got her Bible and went to Psalm 56:3-4, and she made up a tune to go with the words: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust” (NASB).
“I didn’t want my kids to be afraid,” she says, “because we faced a whole lot more than the burglary while we were in the Philippines. There were wars going on and tanks going down our streets at different times. Plus, we want our kids to be courageous, to stand up for the truth, for what’s right, in a world that doesn’t necessarily value our God.”
Biblical values, particularly the sanctity of human life, weighed heavy on Bob’s mind. While visiting a remote village in the Philippines, Bob became overwhelmed, like he often does, for the number of babies that are lost to abortion in America, and immediately he started weeping and praying, and he said: “God, if you’ll give us another son, we’ll name him Timmy, which means honoring God, and we’ll raise him to be a preacher.”
He came home and shared that story, and the family began to pray. Pam was nervous because she had almost died the previous year when she’d been stricken with amoebic dysentery, a severe condition normally transmitted through contaminated drinking water. She knew the medical facilities on their remote island were not the best.
But she gave in and started praying. Before long, she was pregnant. She started bleeding almost immediately, and when she went to the doctor, she was told that Timmy wasn’t a baby. “The doctor said he was a mass of fetal tissue and that I needed to abort him immediately in order to save my life. Of course, we knew we weren’t going to abort him. We were going to trust God.”
She carried Timmy to full term, and he was born on Aug. 14, 1987. “He was a little malnourished, but we prayed he would grow big and strong, and of course, by the grace of God, he did. We prayed for a preacher, but we never thought he would have the platform he has had to share his faith. It’s a story that only God could write.”
Tim says of his mother: “Not only did my Mom give me a chance at life, but through her example, she also gave me a chance to live my best. She cared for me and my four siblings through her love for Jesus. She engrafted the Word of God into our hearts by singing Bible verses to us. She loved us selflessly, even when life was hard. Mom was always encouraging me, cheering for me from the sidelines, encouraging me after losses and humbling me after wins. … No words can adequately express the depth of her love, the power of her example, the strength of her spirit, the beauty of her soul, and the commitment to God in words and in action.”
Just as Pam had put a tune to Scripture after the burglary, she put tunes to other verses; for example, Proverbs 27:2, to help especially her boys to deal with pride in their athletics.
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; let another praise you, not your mouth, a stranger, and not your own lips” (Cf. Proverbs 27:2). “Our kids sang that over and over again, and it changed them. They weren’t allowed to brag about themselves. If somebody asked them, ‘How did you do in yesterday’s game?’ they could say, ‘Well, I hit a home run.’ But they had to say it in a humble way.”
As Pam speaks around the country, Bob continues to make mission trips to the Philippines, where his ministry, the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, focuses on evangelism, church planting, pastor training and managing their orphanage. The ministry has a goal of preaching the Gospel in every village in the Philippines in the next five years.
Timmy continues his ministries, including Night to Shine, which provides an unforgettable prom experience for more than 100,000 special needs kids each year, and he is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ more and more, sometimes speaking in the same stadiums where he used to play football.
All of the family’s ministries are ripple effects of the seeds that have been planted for the Gospel. But like Pam tells her audiences across the country, it’s the little things that are so important. Her favorite ripple effect story happened several years ago when her two daughters were having a birthday party for one of the grandchildren.
“There were five grandchildren together,” she says. “It was a crazy day of partying, cake, ice cream and rowdy kids.”
By the end of the day, her daughters were drained, and they said, “Mom, why don’t you put the kids to bed for us?”
All five cousins wanted to sleep in the same bed, so they curled up together and said, “Grandma, tell us a story and sing us a song.” And she automatically started singing Isaiah 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You … ”
And without missing a beat, all five kids joined in. They knew every single word.
When they fell asleep, Pam went to her room and sobbed happy tears.
“This was a ripple effect,” she says. “I love that Scripture. I taught it to my kids, and they taught it to their kids. And hopefully it will affect their kids. Because of God and His Word, they don’t have to be afraid.”
Pam keeps her faith, her love for her family and her passion for sharing with women close to her heart. And she is thankful for the ministry God has given her.
“God is gracious, isn’t He? He takes us through the blessings and the trials … to point us to Himself, a loving, sovereign God,” she says. “It’s a good thing to look back on our lives and see what God has done. You realize what a great God He is to weave together all of our life experiences in such a way that He gets the glory. And as we recount, we want to be careful. We don’t want to forget that it’s His story. We just get to act it out, but He’s got the script.”
The Scripture marked NASB is taken from The Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible.
Above: Pam and Bob Tebow with their children and grandchildren.
Photo: Courtesy of Pam Tebow