Written by Rebecca Strickland (Bible study leader at a North Arlington apartment community).
I’ve known Ricardo since he was three years old. I’ve watched him grow and had the opportunity to teach him the Bible over the past fifteen years. He accepted Christ one summer at Rainbow Express and I have since had the privilege to disciple him and to continue teaching him.
Ricardo and I met Fernando when his family moved to Arlington about five years ago. Little by little, Fernando started hanging out with us at our afterschool program and then began attending church with us on Sundays. Friendships formed, including a friendship between Fernando and Ricardo.
At a time when Fernando was really struggling in his life, Ricardo offered wise, godly advice that led to questions about salvation. The three of us met over lunch that following Sunday after church. The seed had been sown, the ground was ready and new life resulted . . . Fernando prayed to receive Christ! What a joy to watch these two young men grow together in their faith and encourage each other!
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.“ Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)
Though Jim and Rick Burgin were born two and 1/2 years apart, (Rick says Jim looks “much older”) and even though they believe that they don’t look anything alike, people often confuse one of them for the other.
Jim and Rick grew up in the home of Bob and Tillie Burgin. The family served as missionaries to south Korea beginning in August of 1966, when Jim turned six (6) and Rick was three (3). They spent the better part of their early lives growing up overseas, learning South Korean customs and missionary ways.
Both brothers graduated from Baylor and from Southwestern Seminary and earned degrees in higher education – Jim in philosophy and ethics from Southwestern Seminary and Rick in Leadership from Dallas Baptist University.
Both men were active and involved when their mom, Mission Arlington®’s Executive Director Tillie Burgin, helped to get the ministry underway. Between them they have thirty six (36) years of service on the staff at Mission Arlington® – Jim (14 years) and Rick (22 years). They have served at Mission Arlington® together since 2000.
While both men are ordained ministers, their areas of service are different. Jim pastors one of Mission Arlington®’s congregations, Grace Street Fellowship, and he gives support to the communication ministry of Mission Arlington®. Rick directs the Mission’s counseling services, leads one of the weekly Bible studies, and serves as a voluntary chaplain with the Arlington Police Department. Both men love their work in and through this vibrant ministry.
When you come down to the mission offices sometime, you may see these brothers working side by side. They work hard, love to laugh, enjoy teasing each other, but most of all, love their Lord. Jim and Rick truly enjoy the opportunity they have been given to work and serve on the same team.
Just make sure you call them by the right name!
Earl and Martha have touched literally thousands of lives since they began with Mission Arlington in 1988. They saw the food and benevolent ministries begin and taught Bible Study in three different locations.
Martha remembers, “We’ve always been interested in the salvation of folks.”
First, they taught with a friend at an apartment complex in central Arlington. When a community across the street asked for a Bible Study, Earl and Martha started teaching there. No one came for the first two Sundays, so they spent their hour praying for the people. On the third Sunday, their congregation began to form.
Meanwhile, Martha recruited volunteers to help in Mission Arlington’s beginning benevolent ministry. And when Mission Arlington began day camps in the summer, Earl cooked hundreds of hamburgers for hungry campers.
They remember the early days of Mission Arlington when the food pantry – which is now a large warehouse – was only a few shelves with donations from individuals and the surplus bread that Earl picked up during the week. He filled up his pick up so high that some concerned businessmen built rails for the sides of his truck to keep the bread secure.
Throughout the years, the Bible Study teaching has been their greatest joy. Adults attend, but they also don’t want to miss opportunities to teach the children and teens.
Earl says, “If we don’t get to those kids now, they’ll be lost for another generation.”
After 24 years serving the same central Arlington community, forces beyond their control caused them to leave that complex. Rather than ‘retire’ from the ministry, they found a new community on the east side of town and just kept on teaching with some from the old complex driving to worship with them.
We thank God for Earl and Martha’s faithfulness!
Ashley had spent her teenage years living for herself, indulging in whatever she wanted to try, but her priorities changed drastically seven years ago when she became pregnant. She knew had to stop the drugs and recklessness for her son. While she was trying to get better, someone invited her to a Mission Arlington® church in East Arlington.
That’s where she met her pastor, Marci. Marci helped Ashley find an apartment, provided furniture and clothes, and taught her about the Bible. Ashley says, “She became much more than a pastor to me. She is a friend, a best friend.“ Through Marci’s actions and testimony, Ashley knew that Jesus must be real and Jesus began to really change her life.
After some time and growth, Ashley began teaching the 1st – 6th graders at the Arbors Bible Study. In the past month, God has allowed her to start a brand new work in the apartments where she lives.
After a bad fire, Ashley visited the manager to see how Mission Arlington could help. The manager replied that the people in her complex really needed Jesus and asked if the Mission could start a Bible Study. The next week, Ashley had keys to a vacant apartment and a roomful of adults and children learning the truth about God.
Her favorite thing about teaching is seeing her people begin their relationship with Christ. She says, “To know that I can be a part of it all and that God chose me, that’s special.”
When W.C. remembers the darkest night of his life, he knows, “I didn’t have to get religion to come to God. He came to the bottom of the pit where I was.”
In 2006, W.C. decided to take his life. The pain from years of drug addiction was too great. He recalls, “I knew I wanted to quit, but when I knew I wasn’t able to, it made me more depressed and despondent.”
But before he finalized his plan, he remembered something from a Celebrate Recovery (Christian addiction recovery) session.
“I heard that God loves me unconditionally, that no matter how great the stain of my sin, he could wash me clean. And that he cares about me.”
So laying down his weapon, he demanded, “God, if you are out there, I need to know right now.”
And he waited.
Within 15 minutes, a friend from the drug scene was at the door explaining that she knew W.C. was about to take his life. She had come to stop him. Fifteen minutes later, a friend from work came to check on him. A customer had said that someone should check on W.C. right away. Together, they made it through the night.
The next day, W.C. talked truthfully to his employer about his addiction. While W.C. waited to be fired and worried for his future, his employer replied, “How can I help?” Then they held hands and prayed.
The next Friday W.C. went back to Celebrate Recovery and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord. Now he faithfully attends church and ministers at Celebrate Recovery.
It was a long, difficult journey, but W.C. knows he was saved by persistent prayer.
“Those prayers that take years to answer are still worth praying. I think I may be proof of that.”
Rodney accepted Christ while serving a prison sentence and was first introduced to Mission Arlington when a judge ordered him to volunteer.
Rodney’s life seemed to be getting back on track until one night of bad decisions sent him to prison for another year. On his way to his cell, Rodney told God, “Every step I take, every breath I make, for the rest of my life, I’m yours. I’m sold out.”
So, during that year, he shared Christ from within that prison and earned the nickname “Preacher Man.” That was also when he heard God say, “Go to the Mission and tell them you want to teach.”
Rodney wasn’t sure if he had heard right, but then another inmate approached him saying that God had told him to visit the Mission also after his own release.
That inmate was released and Rodney followed three months later. Two days after being back home, God spoke to Rodney again, saying “Get up and go now.”
So he went. Although Rodney hasn’t seen the man since, the friend from prison was standing in the office when Rodney walked in. Rodney is still not sure why the other inmate was visiting that day, except that it gave Rodney another confirmation that he was in the right place.
Rodney started helping the next week at Spanish Park Apartments. Now, 13 years later, he sings on the praise team and teaches the children and teens. In addition to his Mission Arlington commitments, he’s a chaplain for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s office. He visits the local prison to pass out Bible Studies and preach.
Rodney shares the gospel wherever he goes. He says “I know what Christ can do. If you will truly begin a relationship with him, he’ll change everything about you.”