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One Life at a Time: Christmas at Mission Arlington®

A Crowded Christmas Store on the very first day the store opened for Mission Arlington Bible studies and congregations.

A Crowded Christmas Store on the very first day the store opened for Mission Arlington Bible studies and congregations.

It’s Christmas time at Mission Arlington®.  Our front room is full of working families, just needing a little help to get by. Because you give, we can help.

Our dental and medical clinics are brimming with people. Volunteer doctors and dentists are here, using their gifts to make a difference. Our donated trucks, filled with furniture, are leaving here every fifteen minutes, taking what you have given out to homes of hard-working families in need.

Volunteers are here. Individuals, families, and various kinds of groups – from civic clubs to corporations big and small, to church groups of most every size and shape.  These volunteers include people of all ages – from young children, to teenagers, college students, and adults – some in their 90s.  Even more of you are driving in, donating Christmas toys, food, furniture, and so much more. Streams of cars fill our driveways almost every hour of every day. In these days before Christmas, we start early, leave late, and love every minute in-between.

When you add to this the number of children – over 7,000 – who have received Christmas gifts from the store so far, then it is easy to think about Mission Arlington® in terms of volume, crowds, and big numbers. We love the experience of being surrounded by so many people helping and being helped, especially because we know that our Lord is in the mix.

Five year-old Natalie received her bike, and a special bike helmet this past Saturday. It isn't about the bikes, but about each child that receives one.

Five year-old Natalie received her bike, and a special bike helmet this past Saturday. It isn’t about “the bikes,” but about each child that receives one.

At the same time, Mission Arlington® has always been, as Tillie likes to say, a “ministry of ones.” Motivated by our sense that “whosoever” is the most important word in John 3:16, we’ve never been able to consider anyone among us as less important. We are coached here daily “not to miss a life,” to the point where it has become the representative culture of our place.

This past Sunday morning, just prior to an early prayer meeting in Tillie’s office, sounds of gentle sobbing emerged just outside the doors. A young mom was in distress.  Her son had recently been in an accident,  and this mom didn’t have money or means to acquire the medical equipment he needed. As a few gathered around to listen, one staff member bolted to our medical equipment closet and brought back crutches and a walker.  Through the tears, the mom told those gathered in a circle around her that she was a believer, and that she not only knew she would receive help here, but that we would pray with her.

The day before, there were thousands in the Christmas Store. That morning, only one. Every life matters to God, and every life matters to us.

We are so thankful for each of you who walk along side of us in these days. Your support encourages and inspires us to faithfulness, so that each person who crosses our path every day will experience the love of Christ here.

Thank you for your constant prayers, gifts, and support. You are making a difference here.

Date Published: December 14, 2015

Christmas Store Opens Today

People waiting in line on a cold morning, on the opening day of the Christmas Store last year, in 2014. 32,000 children received toys last year. Strong crowds are expected again, starting today.

Because you have given so faithfully and generously all year long, and especially in these weeks leading up to Christmas, we are ready for opening day. More than 3,000 people will go through our Christmas Store today, representing several hundred families.

Parents concerned about taking care of their children have lined up early. Some of them were here all night long.

The heart of the Mission Arlington® family today  – staff and volunteers – is not only to support each family with Christmas gifts – we want children to have something under the tree on Christmas day – but also to receive people warmly, to listen to their stories, to learn the names of their children where we can, and to provide genuine, authentic care.

A childcare is open here today, so that those parents who don’t have anyone to care for their kids will have a loving, safe place for them while the parents search for gifts in the Christmas Store.  Each parent coming through the store will also have a volunteer assigned to them as a “personal shopper,” helping them find the right gift for their children. The final stop is a wrapping station, filled with donated wrapping paper and scotch tape, so that a family can have their gifts wrapped, as if they were purchasing these gifts in a department store.

We have prayed for, and worked hard at making the store a place where people needing help can feel special and loved.  Anyone can hand out toys, after all, but our heart is to treat people with dignity and respect.  The volunteers who come from across North Texas, North America, and our own community do just that.

Our favorite part of this free Christmas store is the Christmas story.  We often hear from people coming through that while they loved and appreciated the gifts for their family, they were truly touched by the story.  We have the great privilege of being able to share Luke chapter 2, the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ, with every adult who comes through the store.  This past year, we were able to tell the story in six (6) different languages.

By the end of this day, the parents of thousands of children will have wrapped gifts hidden away somewhere which will go under the tree on Christmas Day.  We are so grateful for the way each of you have given, so that children and their families can truly have a Merry Christmas.  We are grateful for you.

As the store opens today, if you aren’t here helping, would you pray with us? Pray that each one coming through the store will receive the kind of care our Lord would want for them. Pray that the Mission Arlington family will be faithful, and that God will receive the glory in it all.

It is going to be a wonderful day.  We’ll keep you posted!

Date Published: December 12, 2015

On the Move: Christmas Store gets ready for opening day!

Assembly line, moving boxes of toys from storage into the Christmas Store across a couple of parking lots.

Assembly line, moving boxes of toys from storage into the Christmas Store across a couple of parking lots.

We are only days away now from the public opening of the store.


Last year, more than 32,000 children received toys.  Opening day of Mission Arlington®‘s  Christmas Store is this Saturday, December 12th. The store stays open through December 23rd – every day, except for Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and it is completely free.


Fifth and Sixth graders from Oakridge School in Arlington move toys into position.

Fifth and Sixth graders from Oakridge School in Arlington move toys into position.

A beautiful, hard-working, group of people have been getting the store ready since it closed last Christmas Eve.  All-year, the mission staff and volunteers collected the donated toys you gave, and placed them in the store which had emptied of toys by Christmas day.

Even though we work for twelve months to get the store ready, preparation picks up in intensity the week or two prior to the pubic opening. This morning, around 100 fifth and sixth graders from the Oakridge School in Arlington have been here. Standing side-by-side in an assembly line, these bright, energetic young people moved toys out of trucks, across parking lots, and into the Christmas Store – one box at a time.

We are so grateful for the groups of people all year long who give and/or organize toy drives, so that this “store” will be filled and ready on opening day.

This community truly comes together to help:

Two fifth and sixth grade young ladies smile while moving boxes of toys through an assembly line into the Christmas Store.

Two fifth and sixth grade young ladies smile while moving boxes of toys through an assembly line into the Christmas Store.

It has been inspiring to watch children ask their friends to bring gifts for the Christmas Store, instead of something for themselves on their birthdays;

a team of ladies works on the restoration of dolls all year long, assigning each doll a scripture and a name. The dolls currently line an entire shelf – ready for moms and dads to pick them up for their children;

civic groups, neighborhoods, and so many more, have toy drives, gathering gifts for the store;

Employees in some companies provide resources from their checks each month, then employees purchase toys and send them on ahead. So many of you drop by with Christmas toys every day.

These are just a few examples of the sacrificial, generous giving of this community.

We are humbled to serve our Lord in this time and place. Your generosity moves us here every day. We give credit to our Lord for the way He puts all of this together, and we are thankful for you.

Date Published: December 9, 2015

Turning the Corner to Christmas

We are turning the corner, moving from Thanksgiving to Christmas

The opening of Mission Arlington’s annual (free) Christmas Store is “just around the corner.”

It is interesting to observe in our culture the various ways that people prepare for Christmas. There are Christmas “countdowns,” “tips for simplifying and getting organized,” “ideas about getting ready,” “ultimate Christmas guides,” and so much more. We haven’t linked to the sites online in this article, because often the connections lead its readers to advertisements, self-promotions, or gimmicks of some kind.  Add to this the discussions of “Christmas Creep,” and “Christmas too soon” conversations, and it is no wonder that people feel stressed  in this season. Holy days have become holidays after all.

On the other hand, there is a sense at “Mission Arlington® that it is Christmas here every day and not just for a season, but all year long. The star which tops our main offices reminds us daily of the “Bethlehem star” which pointed the way to the Christ child.  On one hand, we remember the kind of people we are supposed to be.  On the other hand, we see incredible gifts, donated generously and freely, given to people in need. Because it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), we watch the smiles which start from deep within the heart on the faces of those who give. We also experience here each day the expressions of thanks, tears of joy, and hugs of appreciation from those who needed precisely what was given – not for extravagance, but for every day living.  Truly the spirit of Christmas, if not Christmas itself, lives in our place each and every day.

Preparation for the CHRISTMAS STORE begin each year on December 26th.  We receive new and/or nearly new toys all year long in preparation. Teams of volunteers work periodically throughout the year to get the “Store” ready, and more intensely as Thanksgiving passes and Christmas looms. This free “store” allows parents to choose the gifts for their children, and have them gift-wrapped, then carried to the car.  Each adults coming through the store also hears the Christmas story, told in multiple languages from Luke chapter 2.  Our Christmas Store still needs a few more toys in it, of course, but in general, we are ready to go.

This is an exciting time at Mission Arlington®.  We have turned the corner from Thanksgiving toward Christmas. We are so pleased to be walking this journey together with you.

Date Published: December 2, 2015

A True Day of Thanksgiving

6,000 volunteers gather at Mission Arlington prepared to deliver Thanksgiving food to people in need. What an amazing community.

6,000 volunteers gather at Mission Arlington prepared to deliver Thanksgiving food to people in need. (You can only see 1/2 of the line here.)  Six thousand (6,000) families received food, representing 25,017 people, our largest Thanksgiving Day delivery ever.

On Thanksgiving Day, a few staff arrived around 1:30 a.m. to begin moving trucks (filled with turkeys) into position. Others arrived a little later to begin blocking parking lots, setting up rope lines, distributing signs, sign-up sheets, and name tags.

Some volunteers began arriving way before the appointed 8 a.m. start times, ready to get going, and eager to be first in line.  At 7:30, Bible study leaders, and other volunteers gathered with Tillie to pray for the day.

Putting hot meals into Thanksgiving plates, to give out to the community.

Putting hot meals into Thanksgiving plates, to give out to the community.

At 8:00, Ms. Tillie spoke to the burgeoning line of volunteers, thanking them for the gift of their service. A little bit after that, the doors were opened, and the lines began to move. By this time, the number of people who had come to help deliver food had swelled to over 6,000 people. As you can see from the picture above, it was an extraordinary sight.  The day was cool, but the rain held off, and people seemed to enjoy being together as they waited.

People received the names of two or three families, with maps attached. They followed Bible study leaders to various locations, or just went out on their own to make personal deliveries of food to people in need.  Volunteers out back unloaded turkeys from trucks and into cars making deliveries, and lines of cars flowed smoothly through the mission out into the community.

About 10:00 a.m., the process switched from turkeys and Thanksgiving baskets to hot meals.  Restaurants had prepared and pre-cooked Thanksgiving food. Volunteers put this food, including slices of turkey into a delivery box, and volunteers took the meals out to the people.  The final piece to the morning was a sit-down meal at the mission, for people who had no where else to go.

All in all, it was an extraordinary day.  One volunteer said when she arrived at the mission, even through the crowds, she could feel God’s peace.  Other volunteers told us that they appreciated how quickly things moved, and/or how organized the whole event was.

Our perspective, as the Mission Arlington family, was one of Thanksgiving.  With the cold and potentially wet weather, we knew it was possible that we wouldn’t have enough help for the day. Yet, thousands came to help.  At one point earlier in the month, we were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough food to meet the need. We shared the need with the community, and Turkeys and Thanksgiving food began to flow into the mission, giving us just enough.


In the end, we had enough food for 6,000 families. 25,017 people received food on Thanksgiving day.


Mission Arlington® , simply put, is a mirror – a reflection – of our community. We only give away what you first give so generously.  We can only “give away” what you have provided, because, like an army on the move, you showed up to deliver the food.  What is just as beautiful is the way you cared for the people as you gave out the provisions. This is an extraordinary community.  We believe that there isn’t another one anywhere just like it.  We are truly humbled and blessed to serve alongside of you here.

All glory to God!

Date Published: November 30, 2015

Supporting Mission Arlington® with holiday shopping

Shop at "Amazon Smile" and support the work of Mission Arlington®

Shop at “Amazon Smile” and support the work of Mission Arlington®

Advertisements and estimations about Black Friday have been proliferating for some time. The day after Thanksgiving is often promoted as a “day of unbelievable deals” and a great day to begin shopping for Christmas.

Amazon.com is perhaps best known for pioneering online retail in the U.S., owning an influential 25% share of the domestic e-commerce market. According to some sources, heading into “Black Friday,” the retailer is “poised to put even more space” between itself and its competitors.

The good folks at Amazon have created a way for your purchases to support various charities, beginning in 2013. When you buy online through smile.amazon.com, the tech giant automatically donates 0.5% of your purchase to a charity of your choice. It costs you and the organization nothing.  The only “catch” is that you must start your shopping through smile.amazon.com.  Buying through Amazon apps, Kindle, or through affiliate links won’t count.

When you shop through Amazon this holiday season, if you want to support the work of Mission Arlington®, you can click the following link to get started: SUPPORT MISSION ARLINGTON THROUGH AMAZON SMILE.  You can also find the Amazon Smiles Logo at the bottom of our website’s home page.

One way that some people look at this gift is that “it doesn’t add up to that much.” While it’s true that the percentage donated back to the mission isn’t a lot, over time individual purchases adds up. When the number of people supporting Mission Arlington® through AmazonSmile proliferates, the support adds up, and it does make a difference.

We are grateful for all the ways so many support his work here.  We do thank God for you.  Our prayer is that you and your family will be truly blessed through the holiday season to year’s end.

Date Published: November 26, 2015

A Day of Thanksgiving

Thousands of volunteers gathered to help deliver food to families in need, Thanksgiving Day 2015

Thousands of volunteers gathered to help deliver food to families in need, Thanksgiving Day 2015

Thanksgiving Day at Mission Arlington

210 W. South St., Arlington, TX 76010 / Volunteer start time: 8:00 a.m.

As Thanksgiving morning unfolds, we look back on an incredible few days. For days, there have been lines of cars “out back” dropping off turkeys and Thanksgiving food. For days, there have been lines of volunteers inside, eager to get to work and to lend a hand with the process and the product of Thanksgiving.  For days, our we have had caring people “up front” listening with tenderness to people who would not have Thanksgiving unless you gave.  Their tears were real – both those in need, and those giving back. Truly this is a day of Thanksgiving.

There has been a beautiful “circle of love” enveloping our place. We have been surrounded and supported by the generous hearts and hands of this community.  As you know, our work here simply is a reflection of your support. When you give, we give it away. As this Thanksgiving Day gets going, our refrigerators are full of turkeys, and our shelves are fully stocked with food. Truly this is a day of Thanksgiving.

Very early this morning, trucks filled with turkeys began to roll out of parking lots into various positions around the mission. Tables and chairs were moved, signs were installed, and everything was put into position for this important day. Truly this is a day of Thanksgiving.

We know that by 8:00 a.m., rain or shine, thousands of volunteers will come to deliver the food. Many will bring their families with them, teaching their children the importance of giving. Some will help us load turkeys into cars. Others will put together pre-cooked hot meals, and still more will serve a sit down meal to those who have no where else to be.  No matter the weather, or the effort required to be there or to serve, spirits will be high. There is joy in giving and helping. Some of these volunteers tell us that they have come full-circle.  At one time, they were the ones receiving the turkeys, and today, they will be the ones giving back.  Truly this is a day of Thanksgiving.

At the end of this day, when all has been said and done, we will look back on this day with satisfaction.  All across our community, families will be blessed, and they will bow their heads around kitchen tables and say a prayer of Thanksgiving.  Once again, those of us who were able to participate in some way, will experience the quiet joy of knowing that our common effort made a difference in the lives of our neighbors. As we lay down our head, just prior to falling asleep, perhaps we too will say. Truly this has been a day of Thanksgiving.

To God be the glory!

Date Published: November 26, 2015

Streams of Mercy Never Ceasing

So many people, families, and teams pour their hearts into Mission Arlington until it becomes a mighty rushing river of God's love and mercy spread throughout our community.

So many people, families, and teams pour their hearts into Mission Arlington until it becomes a mighty rushing river of God’s love and mercy spread throughout our community.

Psalms 46:4 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

Building Thanksgiving Boxes

Viewed from a second story window, multiple groups of volunteers come together as one strong team, building boxes of food for people in need. These boxes will go out on Thanksgiving Day.

The scientific word for the places where two bodies of water merge together is called a “confluence.”  A confluence describes the way a smaller stream of water, or tributary, feeds into a larger stream, or river, known as the “main stem.”  For example, the Ohio river is a tributary which flows into the larger Mississippi river.

At other times, a confluence can be the location where two smaller streams or rivers merge to become the source of a new river. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers merge to create the Ohio river.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is evident to us that Mission Arlington® is at the end of a “confluence of good will” which flows as a resource to meet the physical needs of people on Thanksgiving day. Working together as a community, as is evident here, supplies a type of synergistic energy, such that the end result is bigger than the individual input of each part.

We are watching it happen every day, all across our community. One post on our Facebook about a need for turkeys was shared by viewers 372 times, going to 22,831 people. Off Facebook, those people share with others, and also many people began to pray. In a span of one week’s time, we went from about 800 turkeys to 6,000. This isn’t humanly possible, but it happened.

In this past week, we have seen people purchase turkeys, then contact others to drive them down. Some, as they have purchased turkeys, decided to add water and chips and other Thanksgiving food. Volunteers who have been here through the years continue to come back, knowing that their help is crucial, but they have also spread the word out, using their influence to bring others with them. As a result, hundreds of people have been here every day, as a mighty force, lifting the load.  We are humbled, and amazed.

Come thou Fount of Every Blessing” is a hymn written by the 18th century pastor and and song-writer Robert Robinson who penned these words in 1757 at the age of 22. There is a line to the lyrics in this great hymn which mentions “streams of mercy never ceasing,” referencing the ever-flowing love of God.  As your gifts flow into and through our place, we see the way God uses those gifts to provide strength, hope, and even revival, to individuals and families all across our community. The most abiding image of Thanksgiving for some of us is the one of families at their own kitchen table, surrounded by loved ones, giving thanks to God.

Only He could have put all of this together. No amount of energy or marketing could have resourced this work, nor turned the physical gifts of a Thanksgiving meal into a stream of  help into hope for real people in need.  Truly, from all of us, this calls for “songs of loudest praise.”

We are grateful for you. All glory to God!

Date Published: November 25, 2015

We Give Thanks: Lifted with Love, Covered with Prayer

Butler Elementary School students donated 650 pounds of food through Mission Arlington to families in need for Thanksgiving.

Butler Elementary School students, AISD, donated 650 pounds of food through Mission Arlington to families in need for Thanksgiving. This gift, and other like it, truly lifts our spirits.

Covered with Prayer

An important and deeply-held belief which permeates the Mission Arlington® family is that our place “runs on the prayers of the people.”  We believe that we are “over our heads” when it comes to the tasks at hand, and especially when it comes to providing authentic help that people need.  We have family gatherings six days each week to hear a devotional based on Scripture, to worship, and then to pray. We have prayer partners, and we stop every day at 10:00 a.m. to pray for individual congregations and the work of Mission Arlington® in general.  We have asked all who love and support this place to join us every day at 10. Our conviction is that

Mission Arlington® belongs to God. This isn’t our story, but His. He had plans in place for this Ministry and for all who work here long before it happened. He started this mission, sustains us moment by moment, and He holds our future in His hands. (Link here)

Our heart has been to trust God for his provisions, and not to superimpose modern corporate strategies onto our work.  For this reason, we don’t have full-time grant writers or marketing campaigns or fund raisers. (See more about our approach here.) We have invited people to join us daily in prayer for this place, and we have committed to leave our work in his hands, which is where we believe that it belongs. For nearly thirty years, we have been surrounded by and covered with the prayers of the people. 

Lifted by Love

Yet, without organized strategies or marketing campaigns, this community has risen up to support this important work, all without anyone having a need to bring attention or credit to themselves. Independently of us, and with the force of strong convictions – individuals, families, civic groups, corporations, schools, churches, and so many more are out in force collecting food for Thanksgiving, or here giving their time so that other people in a moment of need can be ok.

Often, we don’t even know that people are giving like that until they show up on our doorstep with car or truck-loads full of food.  They spend their money. They spend their energy. They give their time, and use their personal influence with others to collect what someone else needs – people that they don’t even know.  We are honored, amazed, humbled, and brought to tears by what we see each and every day.  The generosity of this beautiful community overwhelms us.

Thanks to each of you who pray for us and this ministry. Thanks to each of you who give in multiple ways to help us help others.  We truly are covered with prayer and lifted by love, and we couldn’t do it any other way.

To God be the Glory!

Date Published: November 17, 2015

“Food for thought:” Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Building Thanksgiving Boxes

Viewed from a second story window, volunteers build Thanksgiving boxes. More than 5,000 of these boxes filled with Thanksgiving food will go out on Thanksgiving morning.

It is a quiet Sunday morning at Mission Arlington®, as Sunday mornings usually are. The crowded streets you can see in the picture to the left are now empty. The Mission family is out across the community teaching the Bible in 349 locations today, so the offices downtown are calm. These peaceful mornings often follow beautiful, but busy Saturdays. Yesterday was no exception.

A Reflection of our Community

Over a thousand volunteers poured into downtown Arlington yesterday to help us get ready for Thanksgiving day.  As the community lends its shoulder to our wheel, the beautiful observation to make is that it is also the very same community which first provided the food.  Not only do you give it, so that we can give it away, but you help us get it ready too.  Our story here is also your story.  We can help so many, because you make it possible. Truly we are “twice-blessed” – once when we receive it from you, and once when we give it away to people in need. Thanks to each of you who pray, give, and help. Your support means so much.

How does it work? A common question people ask is “how so much food gets put together for Thanksgiving Day?” Our first answer is that whatever good happen here only does so by God’s Grace. That’s the plain and unmistakable truth about this place. We could never do this on our own. However, since so many of you have been involved in helping, we thought we would share with you a little bit about the process.

How food is put together for Thanksgiving

Two girls from the Father-Child YMCA day at Mission Arlington help to sort Thanksgiving food.

Two girls from the Father-Child YMCA day at Mission Arlington help to sort Thanksgiving food.

Sorting Donated Food: For the most part, when people give food, it is unsorted. This is especially true when the food comes in through a drive of some kind.  First, food has to be sorted into “like kind.” All the green beans, corn, etc. are put together in their own box. Yesterday, the YMCA Arlington hosted their annual Father/Child volunteer day. Food Sorting was their task. More than 100 parents and their children came to sort the food. Mission Arlington® clears a parking lot, and puts up tables shaped to form a large “U.”

Unsorted food is moved across the lot into boxes which are individually labeled. By the time two other groups joined (Burgin Elementary School and Dallas Baptist University Students), this huge team had sorted thousands of pounds of food. They also filled two box trucks full of Thanksgiving food.  This Thanksgiving food was then taken to another place on the Mission Arlington® campus to go through another process.

Building of Boxes: After food is sorted, it is moved to a separate location.  Groups set up an assembly line where the boxes are filled with Thanksgiving food, everything a family needs (besides the turkey) for a Thanksgiving Day meal.  The turkey will be added to the box on Thanksgiving morning.  Yesterday, due to the volume of help, we were able to put together hundreds of Thanksgiving boxes.

We could only do this, because of the generosity of the people who gave the food, and because of the multitude of people who came to sort and organize the food.  We were tired when we went home last night, but it was the “good kind of tired.”  The community support was truly satisfying in the deepest of ways. Each of us went home to “thank God for his provisions and for you.”

Food for the soul

As with everything we do, our heart is to connect people to the Lord. Food lasts for a moment, but a relationship with Christ is eternal.  Our prayer and hope is that the work we do together on Thanksgiving Day will have lasting results.  Thank you so much

You can make a difference!

If you would like to know more about how to help, click this link.  If you would like to know more about the Thanksgiving Food needed, and/or our Christmas Store coming up, click this link.

Date Published: November 15, 2015
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