Our History

Founder Lester L. Buttram heard from God in 1926 a very clear instruction — “Print My Word.” Then the Lord placed certain conditions on how the Word would be printed and distributed.

First, never would a price or cost be placed on any of the literature because the Good News is freely given by God.Secondly, Mr. Buttram was never to promote a particular denomination or church doctrine.

From these simple, yet direct guidelines, The Gospel Tract Society was formed. Within hours of hearing from God, Mr. Buttram withdrew $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 that God was already speaking to hearts about this new ministry. Soon these tracts were mailed out and Mr. Buttram earned the money to buy stamps. Immediately, response began to come back through the mail, for men and women across the country wanted 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, a little hand-operated Kelsey press was bought along with a supply of ink and paper. Mr. Buttram’s father was sympathetic to his cause and provided a work area for the new ministry. He removed a cow stall in the barn and built partitions. Lined with tar paper to keep the wind out, shelves and tables were built from orange crates and Gospel Tract Society had moved forward.The forward steps continued. By faith, Mr. Buttram 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 of those early years.

Mr. Buttram married Ethel Berneice Viola Theimer in 1940, and together they had four children: David, Paul, Tom and Phillip. Lester Buttram passed away in December, 1990, and his wife Ethel (Mom B) took his place as president until her passing in October of 1992. From October of 1992 until January of 2006, Lester and Ethel’s eldest son David served as president of Gospel Tract Society. Currently, our ministry is guided by David’s younger brother Tom Buttram.The core values begun by Lester Buttram in 1926 remain today. We still print and distribute God’s word through the printed page and make these materials available to anyone who can genuinely use them—and we still rely on financial gifts from our constituents to continue our operations.

Ministry to Haiti

In 1966, GTS founder—Lester Buttram visited Haiti as a side trip to a crusade he attended in Jamaica and found both poverty and spiritual darkness like he had seen nowhere else! In his prayer, he asked the Lord if He was calling him to earnestly advance the Gospel in this place. When he returned to his office the first day, there was a letter from a member of this ministry family and a check for $5,000.00 with this message: “The Lord has shown us that you are to do a work in a foreign land. We don’t know anymore than that but we trust that you do.” Lester immediately booked a return trip and managed an audience with then President-for-life François Devalier. He informed “Papa Doc” that he wanted to build a church and school in Haiti. Papa Doc asked him if he had any money and the 65 year old Lester replied, “Oh yes, my Father is very wealthy!” The president’s eyes brightened and he replied, “I will send you with my surveyor to the area of Fonds Parisien and he will mark out the portion of land you want for your project. Now, the call of the Lord was confirmed and every member of the Buttram family would be in different ways, inextricably linked to Haiti.

Before a massive heart attack brought Mr. Buttram’s ability to travel, to a halt, he had traveled to Haiti over one hundred times; building over fifty-five churches, fifteen schools and one Bible School. The only son who had not been working full time in the ministry was the one whom the Lord called to pick up the torch and continue this work of help and of evangelization. Many times He has revealed His faithfulness and steadfastness concerning this mission. Time after time Haiti has found itself in political and natural disaster, but this ministry has maintained continuity and forward faith, knowing that this is the Lord’s will and heart that we not forsake the people of Haiti whom He loves.

Twenty-five years and one hundred-twenty trips later, churches number seventy-seven and schools–– twenty-seven; as son Tom strives to fill some mighty large footprints left by his father on the soil and rocks of Haiti.

This ministry to Haiti is very unique to humanitarian and religious ministries in that- the money raised for the mission in Haiti, is fully used for this outreach. It is not used to fund other activities or for administration costs, and while there is seldom more money than immediately needed, we have somehow managed to meet most obligations.

The poor of Haiti have for centuries, been imprisoned by spiritual darkness, political oppression, and ignorance which is compounded by prejudice on the part of the outside world. Yet, it is hard to find a people who have any sweeter or gentler spirit than the Haitians. While their occasional desperate behavior is often seen as “uncivilized,” by those unacquainted with Haiti, others who know them find enduring qualities not developed by world citizens where life is easier and less threatening. While the physical condition of the church and school facilities blend with Haiti’s brokenness, the spirit of the pastors and church members shines as a beacon and the success of our educational projects surpass those of the sparse national schools. This mission is one that you can participate in knowing integrity, stability and faithfulness are marked responses to the clear calling by our Lord to love beyond our borders and to give where it is difficult to be a benefactor.