In January, 1977, David arrived at The School of World Evangelism in College Station, Texas.
Within weeks, David encountered a radical pioneer missionary to Papua New Guinea, Joe Cannon. Joe was on a mission; He was looking for young missionaries to join him on the unreached front lines of New Guinea.
Joe sauntered into the classroom with bows, arrows, spears, and bird feather head dresses jutting out from his hands and the Melanesian Pidgin language spouting out of his mouth. Joe was tall, lanky and loud. He bounced when he walked and was quick to laugh at his own (corny) jokes. He was eager to give the students a little taste of New Guinea culture and language. Joe proceeded to give a passionate plea that some of the students would turn their attention to the unreached, interior tribes of Papua New Guinea.
Between classes, one afternoon, Joe cornered David with a text and a question.
The text was Romans 15:20. “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
The question was personal and to the point! “Brother, there are whole tribes of people in New Guinea that have never, ever heard the name of Jesus. Some of them are cannibals and headhunters; some of them have bones through their noses and wear grass skirts. Many of them are wild and reckless and dangerous people. But they need the gospel of Christ!”
“Come with me, brother. I will teach you. I can mentor you. There are not many who will go with me into the jungles and rugged mountains to find them. Come with me, brother. Let’s go get some of them for Jesus.”
David’s life was set on a course for mission from that moment.
Eight months later, just one week after his 20th birthday, David left for Papua New Guinea – October 3, 1977. He departed Corpus Christi with a suitcase, a bible, and a surfboard!
Several of the early tribes David encountered did indeed practice cannibalism and were entrenched in violent tribal warfare. Even so, Joe and David (and a few others) endured much hardship to get the gospel established among these remote mountain tribes. Churches still remain in most of these places today.
In 1979, David returned to Texas. God was gracious and quick with his answer to David’s prayer for a wife! Within months he met, courted and married (June 27, 1980) Tommi Anne Moses from Harlingen, Texas. Theirs was the first wedding ever performed at the Chapel By The Sea on South Padre Island.
Over the next decade, David and Tommi worked together to make disciples and plant churches in remote regions of the highlands and swamplands of Papua New Guinea. A government problem with visa renewals in 1990 prevented the Sittons from returning to PNG to live.
From 1990 -1993, David served as director of The Institute of Tribal Studies, a ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission located in Pasadena, CA. In 1993, David and Tommi relocated to the South Texas town of Los Fresnos, strategically situated just fifteen minutes from the Mexican border.
34 churches have been established through this ministry since 1977.
These days, David continues church-planting and leadership training in Papua New Guinea through regular short-term ministry trips and travels extensively speaking at many churches and mission conferences around the world. A prominent theme in his preaching is that the fame of Jesus’ Name will be brought to the remaining unreached peoples through the persecution and frequent martyrdom of those that carry the gospel message.
David and Tommi founded To Every Tribe Ministries where he currently serves as president. They also founded The Center for Pioneer Church Planting, which began in January, 2006. This missionary training program is dedicated to recruiting, training and launching pioneer church planters into the far-flung regions where Christ is still unknown.
Moreover, Tommi is a precious helpmate to David. All who know Tommi recognize her sacrificial service to the To Every Tribe community and her invaluable encouragement and assistance in nearly every aspect of the ministry.
David and Tommi have three grown children and two beautiful grandchildren.
I wasted away my teen years in the early 1970’s in Corpus Christi, Texas, rebelling against the expectations of established society. Surfing was the thing I was most devoted to in those days and I aggressively embraced the surfing sub-culture, including drug use and the cruising and carousing lifestyle. It was a fun and exciting way to waste my time.
But God began to step into my life through the friendship of a high school girlfriend and her family. Through their lives and testimony I was drawn towards Jesus. I sometimes say that I embraced Jesus and the gospel. The truth is that Jesus did the embracing. He took firm hold of me and radically rescued me from sin, rebellion and a ruined life in 1975.
Conversion, for me, was over a six month or so process. I don’t remember the exact moment of grace in which I was saved. But as I began to believe in Jesus, my life values and morality began to change very quickly. My surfing and party-life friends jokingly called me the “hippie preacher” as I tried to persuade them with arguments for Christ and the gospel. Though radically saved, sadly, complete deliverance from the “dark side” came over a longer period of time for me.
Life was good. 1975-76 was spent buzzing around in my 65’ blue Mustang; full of surfboards and surf buddies heading to Bob Hall Pier or the Fish Pass Jetties on Padre Island. But now I carried a bible and a love for Jesus. And there was an idea developing in my mind for what I might want to do next.
I graduated from W.B. Ray High School (Corpus Christi) in 1976 and almost immediately left to attend the School of World Evangelism in College Station, Texas.
After my parents divorced, I moved to Harlingen, Texas between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. Being new kid on campus, I didn’t have a lot of friends. A young lady named Lori befriended me. Through her friendship, Jesus was revealed to me. The Lord saved me during that summer. I became involved in my church youth group and was eagerly growing in my walk with Christ. My plan at that time was to go to college and get into the medical field. However, during my senior year of high school a missionary that our church supported came through town and spoke at our Sunday night youth meeting. That missionary was David Sitton! His passion to serve God and his stories about his first term in New Guinea excited me. We began corresponding by ‘snail’ mail and short visits over the next six months. We were married in June 1980, three weeks after I graduated from High School. Two months later, we arrived in Papua New Guinea! Over the next 9 years we had 3 children (Joshua, Barbara and Jimmy Don) and moved 14 times. Along with raising a family, I taught children’s and women’s bible classes as well as literacy. My primary focus has always been our home. David traveled a great deal evangelizing and visiting churches in the “bush” to train national leaders.
From 1990-1993, we lived in Pasadena, CA at Providence Mission Homes (PMH) while David worked with the US Center for World Mission, heading The Institute of Tribal Studies (which we later named To Every Tribe Ministries). PMH is a ministry that was started many years ago by Jacques and Mercedes Gribble. PMH provides affordable, fully furnished temporary housing for furloughing missionaries. The day we arrived in Pasadena was the last work day for the previous manager. She asked if I wanted the job! That should have been my first clue! I accepted and it became one of the most demanding, challenging, but fulfilling ministries I’ve had the privilege of doing. God has given me a heart to serve those who serve Him and that job was an amazing outlet for that gift. It was the perfect job for me because I was able to watch our children, work out of my home and minister to missionaries in very practical ways.
Since 1993, the ministry of To Every Tribe has been based in South Texas and has grown to include The Center for Pioneer Church Planting. My official title is Office Manager, but my main responsibilities include handling our student’s and missionary’s finances and helping to coordinate short-term mission trips. We have two incredible grandchildren, Elijah and Emily, who keep us laughing.
By God’s grace, we will continue in this task He has given us – to help mobilize a new generation of missionaries to go to the unreached with the gospel. We have been blessed to be a part of this work for all these years. We have had faithful and generous people behind us every step of the way. For that, we are grateful to God.