This article was originally published 1 year ago, and it is an encouragement and/or a reminder at the beginning of a new year to be a people of prayer
Jack Longgrear was a man of prayer. His faith was his priority in life, and God used this faith in beautiful ways to provide for his family, to care for his friends, and to touch a community.
Jack passed away just before Thanksgiving, on November 17th, last year. Jack’s wife and kingdom partner for sixty-eight (68) years, Imogene, preceded him in death by just a few months. Just before Jack passed away, many noticed the presence of a smile, as he anticipated going home – to see Imogene, of course, but more importantly, his Lord. It was that kind of peace and joy that touched so many people across the years of Jack’s life. There was a transparency about him, so that one could almost look through him to see Christ.
As Mission Arlington® heads towards its 30th anniversary this August, we recall our beginnings of more than 3 decades ago. Because Jack and Imogene were authentic and practicing people of prayer, God placed them into the life of Bob and Tillie as they prayed about starting what would become Mission Arlington®. There were many prayer meetings in the home of this faithful couple. In the living room of their lovely home, the Longgrears’ would pray for Tillie, and for God’s leadership in this new endeavor. These prayer meetings went on for months, and they formed the path and the language of our work in and our heart for this community.
Ministry was a big part of Jack’s life. He spent time with his family members weekly teaching various ones the Bible, and he took great care to write letters of encouragement to those of us in ministry here at the mission. Jack and Imogene put their faith into practice, becoming the team leaders of an apartment congregation in central Arlington. Jack pastored that congregation for more than two decades. His signature opening declaration each and every Sunday was “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Jack meant it, and everyone felt it.
Jack and Imogene served on the Mission Metroplex® Board of Directors for more than 25 years. This past January, that board (as it always does) started the year with a prayer retreat. Each member of the team read a book entitled “Drawing the Circle,” a book about prayer written by pastor Mark Batterson. Jack shared at that prayer retreat how, even in his 90s, he was intending to grow in his prayer life. He was “drawing circles” in his home around people he cared about and for the mission and ministry of Mission Arlington.®
Everyone who heard his testimony that evening was touched by Jack’s confession. It is possible that we have had no greater prayer warrior on our behalf than this precious man. We treasured his friendship, and we miss him much, but we are grateful for the foundations which were laid early on, and for all of those who are taking Jack’s place in the “circle of love” around this place. May the Lord find each of us as faithful as we serve Him in these days.
Sayaka traveled from Japan to Texas to attend school. She was only planning on getting an engineering degree, but in January 2016, Sayaka found Christ.
She writes, “Last year on the day before school started, I was so afraid, and I did not have any hope. I was so lonely, but now I’m different. God has given me courage and changed me and taught me a lot.”
Sayaka was assigned to Mission Arlington® this past summer. She fell right into place with the Mission family and was a joy to be around. “I don’t have family in America. I feel lonely sometimes. But whenever I come here, I feel so welcome. It’s like my family.”
June through August, Sayaka did Summer Program and Lunch program every day plus field trips with her children from her Bible Study with Ms. Emily. One boy in particular had a difficult home life. There was only one parent at home and many children. The boy was always waiting for Sayaka and Emily when they arrived at the apartments. Sayaka said this child had a hard time behaving, but he actually accepted Christ before the summer ended.
God used Sayaka this summer to reach people for Christ and she grew closer to Christ herself. She recently shared this on her Facebook page, “One of the things I learned this summer is God is always taking care of His children in many different ways. He always prepares people around me. I’m not alone anymore. Whenever I need to start new things, I always remember that God is with me and He is my hope. Thank God!”
It started when Sam was seven, living at Westwood apartments in central Arlington. He remembers Martha and Earl gathering all the people to study the Bible. For Sam, it started as a place to get juice and cookies, but became so much more. He started learning about the Word. He remembers accepting Christ at that apartment church when he was eight years old.
Francesca grew up in church. She went every week as a child, but always felt confused about who God was. That changed about 5 years ago when a team from Mission Arlington® started a mid-week Bible Study at her apartment complex.
Paty, her teacher, told her about what it means to follow Christ and Francesca accepted him. Paty said it was important for Francesca’s family to be more involved in church, so they started going to church with Paty on Sundays, as well as the weekly Bible Study.
In time, Francesca and her husband saw real changes in their children’s lives. “Before we had many struggles with food, with money. We were in very bad shape. But now, we are better. God gives us everything we need. We ask where it comes from, and the answer is ‘God.’”
Francesca says they have the same jobs and the same amount of money as before, so the difference they feel could be in the attitude they have now. She admits she used to worry all the time, but now says, “I know God is with me. It’s better. We don’t worry about tomorrow.”
Their home is filled with thanks to God. Francesca says. “It’s beautiful to know Christ. Every night I thank him. Every morning, I thank him.” Her kids thanks God, too, for good days at school, at work, for everything. If they ever miss a week at church, the children remind her, and insist that they don’t miss the next week.
Now, the family is all giving back and leading their own Bible Study during the week. This month, they’ve been busy knocking on all the doors in the community, asking who needs a turkey and inviting people to church. They don’t want anyone to miss Thanksgiving or an opportunity to hear about God.
Whitney first came to Mission Arlington® at age 8 when her mom started working in the childcare. She and her brother grew up going to Mission Arlington® Bible Studies, doing Rainbow Express over the summer, and Whitney started teaching at an east Arlington complex when she was 12 years old.
After she graduated from high school, Whitney married and moved to North Carolina. After a time, Whitney knew the marriage was not healthy. Her husband had left the faith. Whitney felt God telling her to come home to Texas, but, worried about what people might say or think, she stayed in North Carolina. “My mom was telling me, ‘Come home, it doesn’t matter, just come home.’ and all it took was Tillie calling me saying, ‘Come home. We miss you.’” Whitney says she started crying and knew she had a place back in Texas where people would love her unconditionally.
When she came back, Whitney stopped by the Mission to bring her mom lunch, and Tillie chatted with her. Tillie told her that another Bible Study leader had just left and that she really needed Whitney to fill in the gap.
So for two years, Whitney has lived and done church at an apartment community. The first year, she says, was very difficult. Someone broke into the church apartment once per month.
But one day, an older woman came to Bible Study, the first adult that had attended since Whitney arrived. At first, the woman was upset, struggling, and embarrassed to share, until finally the woman blurted out, “I’m going through a really bad divorce and I need prayer…I know you’re so young, you can’t relate.” Whitney said, “I really hadn’t gotten to share that with anyone. That opened the door, and I had to say something.” They set up a regular time to pray together and ministered to each other that way.
From that moment, Whitney told God, “Okay – I know this is all you. This is totally where I need to be.”
Since then, Whitney met her new husband and has a brand new life. She works in the food pantry daily, sorting and preparing food for all the people that come each day. Her daughters are a part of Mission Arlington, too, working alongside their mom. Through a few tears, Whitney says, “For my daughters, I wish this could be a family tradition because of how much it blesses me.”
God brought Whitney home, and Mission Arlington® is stronger, people are coming to Christ, because she followed him.
Michelle and her dad, Mark, took a general household donation to Mission Arlington® back in 2011. Michelle was impressed that they needed to give more. They brainstormed and decided baby food would be the best thing to collect. Shortly thereafter, Michelle and Mark returned with 1,000 jars of baby food. This was the start of a year-long relationship of giving.
About a year later, Mark passed away suddenly from an undiagnosed arteriovenous malformation. The family was devastated but found hope in that Mark had accepted Christ 3 days before his death.
Michelle’s mother remarried sometime later, and as a new family, they started looking for a new church. Michelle’s stepfather found Grace Street Fellowship and after the first visit they knew it was the church for them. Michelle says that, while they found people at other churches kind and welcoming, at Grace Street, the members were truly friendly, immediately getting to know them and genuinely interested in their lives. Michelle says, “They love you for who you are.”
In 2013, Michelle really gave her life over to God. Since then, she’s been a light in her school. “I share Christ in every way I can. The students come with me for advice. I share my testimony with them and say, ‘Maybe you should talk to God and then talk to me again.’”
Her youth group leader, Nicole, says it best: “Michelle is both an inspiration and a joy to be around. She has a passion for the Lord and his people that is contagious. I have had the honor of seeing God use Michelle in beautiful ways. Whether it be ministering to her friends at school and church, sharing the love of God with a child at Rainbow Express, or faithfully cleaning a mess when no one else will, Michelle is a wonderful example of being the hands and feet of Christ.”
We thank God for Michelle and are glad that she and her family found their way to live and serve in the Mission Arlington® family.
Four years ago when Marie Lise left her home in Burkina Faso to study finance in East Texas, she had no way of knowing the plans God had. This summer has been a little different for her.
“I wanted to do God’s work and spread the gospel,” she says. So she applied with Go Now Missions. She was assigned to Mission Arlington® as a summer missionary and has been a blessing to everyone she has encountered.
She worked primarily with Ms. Marne, Ms. Bea, and Ms. Tan in East Arlington. Her favorite part has been “working with the kids, getting to know them personally, and giving them a little bit of the love the God gave us, and helping them know God more.”
The population Marie Lise worked with in Arlington includes many Muslim people. She did her best to teach them about Jesus. “They are really sweet, really open to listen.” She says that they didn’t accept Jesus at first because that’s not what they have been taught, but, the more we share, the more they understand.
Unfortunately, Marie Lise is leaving now, off to find a job since she has now graduated. We are sad to see her go. But Marne and her team are still here to continue giving away the love that God gave us. We pray for the children and adults that still need to hear and come to a personal understanding of God’s great love.
Would you like to volunteer at a Mission Arlington® Bible Study? There are communities waiting to hear the gospel, asking someone to come. Please call us at 817-277-6620 and let us know that you’re ready to help.
Vicky had friends who had been to Mission Arlington® before, so she was somewhat familiar when Go Now Missions assigned her to come to work over the summer. The only problem was, her friends couldn’t exactly put into words what Mission Arlington® was like. She thought this was curious, but now she understands. She explains it this way, “There are so many different hands and feet at work here, and there are so many ways God is working them that there’s not one thing that Mission Arlington is.”
The summer has been full of blessings. Vicky says she likes being here “To constantly see God at work. I can not think of a moment I didn’t see God working.”
Vicky worked at Grace Street Fellowship church and a nearby apartment complex. One family in particular touched her life. The children were living with their grandmother and coming daily to Vicky’s summer program. They were challenging – had trouble sitting still and one of the youngest children pulled Vicky’s hair and refused to let go. Vicky was considering asking them to stay home one day as a consequence, but on the very next day, the grandmother came to study the Bible with the adults, bringing all the children with her. While they all sat together that day, the little girl started singing “Jesus Loves Me.” She knew all the words. Then Vicky knew they were learning – even when it seemed like they were not.
Vicky will be finishing school in south Texas, although she plans to come back to spend Christmas at Mission Arlington® and possibly come in a few years to get her Masters at UTA. We’re so glad that God sent Vicky as one of the missionaries God used this summer to bless so many.
Here’s an update on a young man who has appeared in a few Mission Arlington® stories in the past:
Ricardo grew up in a north Arlington apartment complex, faithfully attending the Bible Study that met there even after he moved away.
Now, Ricardo is studying Biblical Studies at Dallas Baptist University. In his classes there, he met a Youth Minister from Bridgeport, TX. Through that connection, Ricardo got a summer job as an intern at First Baptist Bridgeport.
Ricardo says he likes seeing the inner workings of the church – the way everyone prays and prepares, the behind-the-scenes happenings that he had never thought about before. He’s seeing what it takes to be in ministry.
This week, Ricardo is back at Mission Arlington® with the junior high and high school students from his Bridgeport church. The are doing a variety of work projects and Rainbow Express. “I always did a lot at Mission Arlington®. I got the chance to teach, do a summer program. I volunteered, helping out, so I already knew about that. But being able to do Rainbow Express is different for me. It’s pretty awesome to see the work that goes into it and prepare for that.”
It’s exciting to see him come back as a leader. The teens in his group are hard workers. They are loving people and having a blessed time. Ricardo says, “They are really learning from this experience. It’s helping them grow.”
After Ricardo graduates, he hopes to keep working in ministry, maybe local, maybe overseas, wherever God takes him. Either way, it is certain, he has a heart for people and more people will be reached for Christ because of Ricardo’s life.
By Jim Burgin, staff writer.
Will the circle be unbroken by and by, Lord, by and by? Is there a better home awaitin’ in the sky Lord in the sky?
The lyrics from this old Christian hymn written in 1907, now old enough to be in the public domain, point to a certain reunion with our loved ones who have gone to heaven before us. There in heaven, the family circle will once again be complete.
More than thirty (30) years ago, there was a circle formed here on earth to pray for God’s leadership and blessing before Mission Arlington® began. Tillie and Bob Burgin had returned home from South Korea as missionaries in 1978. Even then, the persistent heaven-sent question filled Tillie’s heart “If you can do missions in Korea, why can’t we do missions at home – in Arlington?” A group of men and women over a period of seven years formed a circle around Tillie and this question. They prayed faithfully for Tillie, and for the Lord to reveal His will. Seven years later, on August 1st, 1986, the Lord launched Mission Arlington®.
Mervin & Genetty Childers and the Burgin family lived in the same neighborhood and became life-long friends in the days after they returned from Korea. Mervin was a deacon at First Baptist Church in Arlington, and the church had prayed for the Burgins through their years of service in Korea. The Childers, along with a crowd of First Baptist friends, had welcomed the Burgins home, meeting the family at the airport. Tillie began her Monday night Bible study for women (which she still leads to this day), and for years they met in the Childers’ home.
Since the Bible study was for ladies only, I was never allowed in, but on several occasions, Mervin would sit and share with me his experiences in the war, and his own journey of faith. I treasured those conversations. One memory stands out in particular. We hadn’t been back in the States long, when I ventured out and asked a First Baptist young lady out on a date. It was 1978. I took our family car, and took my date to see the Musical and Romantic Comedy “Grease” at the Forum 303 Mall out on East Pioneer Pkwy in Arlington. On our way home – in fact – before we exited the Mall parking lot, I had a “fender bender” with another car. I left my date in the car, ran back to a payphone in the movie theatre, and for some reason that I still can’t explain today, called Mervin Childers. Without hesitation, Mervin graciously came out to rescue me – or perhaps my date – I wasn’t sure, but everything was better when he arrived.
Fast forward many years, Mervin (a Mathematics professor at UTA for 36 years) helped me through another panicked moment when I was struggling through advanced math in a summer course there. Interestingly enough, years later, when my oldest son Clark needed tutoring in high school, Mervin came to our aide. I still remember the two of them in the front room of Mission Arlington® going over Math. Mr. Childers never had a need to show what he knew, but he always had a way of helping others with what God had given him. This story is repeated over and over in the lives of so many young people in our community. What he did for us, he did for so many. Couple this with the way Mervin served behind the scenes – through many years, you would find him in our food pantry sorting food – and you see clearly a man who loved his Lord and made a difference in this world.
Mervin passed away at the age of 91 just a few days ago, July 10th, 2016. Because of his faith in Jesus Christ, Mervin joined the great circle around the throne, blending in with the heavenly chorus, singing the song which only the redeemed know. His loved ones and faith family will join him in that circle some day, so the circle will be unbroken again. I can almost hear the song now.
What resonates with us in these days, however, as we near our 30th anniversary, was the prayer circle formed by Mervin and Genetty, along with many others, more than thirty (30) years ago. Circled with prayer, the Lord’s work through Mission Arlington® is still going strong today. Many more will join the heavenly circle, because of the faithfulness of so many who pray, help, and give through this place. Thank you Mr. Childers. We’ll join the circle with you again some day.
May the circle be unbroken. To God be the Glory!