Tom was born and reared in Kingsport, TN. He grew up within the Presbyterian Church (PCUS) and after high school volunteered for a year’s service to the Presbyterian mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was there that God used Tom’s experiences on the field and his relationships with the missionaries to call him to salvation. It was also in Congo that God began to develop within Tom a heart for missions, especially for Africa.
After the year in Congo, he entered King College in Bristol, TN where he graduated in 1970 with a degree in economics. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he greatly benefited from the Navigator ministry. For the next 8 years, he was involved with the Navigators at Ft. Bragg, Ft. Benning, and Vanderbilt University. During these years, involvement with missionaries and ministering to foreign nationals increased his heart for missions, which developed into a sense of call. In 1980 he entered seminary at Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions at CIU. Tom and Ann met while they were both studying there. In July 1983, they were married after Tom graduated with an M. Div. in cross-cultural studies. Later that year they were accepted as career missionaries by Mission to the World, and Tom was ordained by Palmetto Presbytery.
The Austins arived in Nairobi, Kenya in April, 1985. From 1987 to 1995, Tom was on loan to the Nairobi International School of Theology. There he taught missions, leadership development, church growth, management courses, and other practical theology courses and was heavily involved in the school administration. During this period, he earned a D. Min. in urban missions from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In late 1995, MTW asked Tom to help develop a new model of theological education for Africa. This challenge involves developing a multifaceted ministry in theological education on the continent. In addition in mid 1999 Tom was asked to take the position of principal of the Bible Institute of South Africa, an MTW partner institution located near Cape Town, South Africa. He held this position until the end of 2004, taking the college through a period of transition and development in which the 83 year old Bible college became African in its vision and focus as well as in its staff and its student body. Tom is now serving MTW throughout sub-Saharan Africa concentrating on coordinating, facilitating and guiding MTW ministries in theological education.
Ann was born and reared in rural Chester County, S.C. and grew up within the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church there. It was while she was in college that she came to know Christ as her Lord and Savior. She received a degree in speech pathology in 1972 from Columbia College in Columbia, SC and was a public school speech pathologist in Berkley, Chester, and York counties of South Carolina. While living in Athens, Greece, she worked with a TEFL program for the U.S. Navy. With a view toward missions, she and her first husband entered seminary at Columbia Graduate School (CIU). After her husband died in 1981, she and daughter Anna (then 4 years old) remained at CIU, and Ann entered the M. Div. program. There she met Tom and in July 1983, they were married.
While living in Nairobi, Kenya Ann taught Bible courses to the wives of the M. Div. and M.A. students at the Nairobi International School of Theology. She taught such courses as Exodus, a survey of the New Testament from Acts to Revelation, and the Life of Christ every year in the Women’s Program at NIST. She also led a women’s Bible study and helped with teacher training at their church, Community Presbyterian Church, Madaraka. Since their moved to South Africa she has been involved in a variety of ministries. When they were ministering with the Bible Institute of South Africa, she led the faculty wives in developing a ministry to the women at the Bible college. She also began a ministry of speaking to women’s groups in the area, which is ongoing.
Tom and Ann are the parents of two daughters: Anna, who is married to David Von and Rebecca, a student at Covenant College.