During many road trips in west Texas, Larry would stop to visit with a good friend’s parents, Mary and Hollis. They would talk and Mary would always cook lunch for her guest. Every time he visited, Larry noticed that, although the only people in the home were Mary, Hollis, and Larry, his host always put out four place settings and cooked enough to generously feed four people. Finally, Larry asked the reason for the extra plate. Mary explained that her father taught her to always make a place at the table for the unexpected guest.
Thirty years later, on another trip through west Texas, God impressed upon Larry’s heart, “I want you to make a place at the table for hungry women…” And Mary’s Table was born.
In conjunction with Larry and his wife, Shawna’s, ministry, Baptist Center for Global Concerns, Mission Arlington® sends a different group of women to Mary’s Table once per quarter. The women experience a morning of food, fellowship, and God’s love.
Shawna demonstrates several healthy recipes that are easy on a budget. Many volunteers help cook and minister to the group. They study the Bible, and the women are encouraged that, even if they only have two cans of beans, they have enough to share with their neighbors. To finish, each woman leaves with a week’s worth of groceries at no cost.
Most of the Mary’s Table volunteers are former participants. They took to heart what the said about sharing and share their time and skills with women in need.
One participant said, “I want to go home, come back and give.” She came back with $300 she had been saving as a tithe. One woman came back, crying, to say thank you for the butter in her grocery bag. Her husband had been asking for butter and they had not had enough money to buy any. The volunteers were crying, too. Larry says, “We literally love what we do. All of us leave thinking, ‘God really helped me to grow today.’
“The point is for Christ to be real, not only in the act of serving, but he serves us through those we are serving. That’s part of the extraordinary gift that Mary’s table is.” There’s room for everyone at Mary’s Table.
Many years ago, when Glenn and Sherri’s daughter moved from Missouri to Texas, God impressed on their hearts that they would end up in Texas someday. Ten years ago, God brought their family to Texas. Glenn says, “It changed our lives. The Mission did. God did.”
They had gone to church all their lives and taught Sunday School. But coming to Texas, Glenn says they “got a different perspective on what God was really doing.” Sherri adds, “We knew about church without the walls, and we appreciated it. But we had never been part of it.”
The couple started at Grace Street Fellowship and since then they have ministered at a number of retirement communities in Arlington, moving as God directed.
Sherri says, “It’s, no doubt, what we love to do.”
For about a year, they have taught on Sunday mornings and Wednesdays at Arlington Plaza, a retirement community in west Arlington. The church is growing. Recently, they had to move out of the chapel into the larger activity room. They strive to make friends with the residents through conversations, hosting activities and then presenting the gospel. Even some people who won’t come into the Bible study will sit at the door and hear the message that way. Sherri says they will do “whatever we have to do for them to hear the Word.”
No matter what, they make sure the people know that salvation comes through grace and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Every time and always they teach the plan of salvation.
Glenn drives the shuttle bus for the center 4 days per week, usually with Sherri riding along, and builds relationships while carrying people to their doctor’s appointments, grocery store, and other places. “It’s the perfect opportunity,” Glenn says, “we know nearly everybody.”
Last month, the team hosted a revival for the residents. Before the revival, they stopped by the dining hall to invite everyone. Because of the van trips, ice cream socials, and just walking the halls, they knew at least one person per table, making it easy to connect and invite everyone.
The revival was a great success with more than half of the residents attending. We are so grateful for the faithfulness of the Phipps family to invest their lives in the Gospel – knowing Him and making Him known.
Peter left France five years ago for the United States to work on a second degree. When he arrived he took an interest in medicine. First, he thought of being a paramedic, but several people encouraged him to pursue medical school.
At the University of Texas at Arlington, Peter says “I’d been hearing ‘Mission Arlington®’ here and there” and about other students volunteering, so in January he visited to donate some of his time.
After several weeks, Peter joined the Americorp VISTA intern program. Since then he has been a regular sight, doing triage, working the front desk, doing data entry or computer work, processing lab work, and calling patients to follow-up. He loves the variety and shadowing the doctors to build experience. Peter graduated in May and hopes to be accepted to a medical school in the coming weeks.
The office manager, Jean, says about Peter, “His service has been invaluable in our clinic. He is giving much care and time to our patients. It is our hope that he will be accepted (to medical school), as we are sure he will make a wonderful and highly competent doctor who really cares for his patients.”
Peter’s favorite thing about working at the clinic is “the hard cases:” the people who refuse to take their medicine, the people who will not change their diets. Peter says, “You get to change their behavior a little bit and get them to understand. When you get them to agree on things and 3 months, 6 months later, the results are getting normal.” Peter has been building relationships with the patients and sees how much the doctors and volunteers care. The clinic is not how he initially envisioned it.
“It’s a great place, Mission Arlington®, I didn’t expect that from it. I just thought ‘Medical clinic. We’ll go do our jobs.’ But it’s much more than that. Much more.”
Come by almost any day of the week, and you will find W.C. helping people at Mission Arlington®. It’s not a role he would have chosen; he describes himself as “shy.” But last year, after a bout of depression, his pastor suggested that W.C. try volunteering in Mission Arlington’s “Front Room.”
For three months, W.C. resisted, but laughing, he says, “Jesus pulled me along, little by little.” And he finally came in to volunteer.
The Front Room is a special place where people come when they are in crisis. When a person lives paycheck to paycheck, it only takes one small health problem, or even a week of bad weather, to lose their home and more. The volunteers stand ready to help whether the crisis is a temporary loss of income or the loss of a loved one. Because of donations of clothes, food, furniture, as well as financial donations for rent and other bills, most physical needs are met. And the volunteers pray with each visitor to see that their spiritual needs are met, too. In 2014, 42,739 families came through the Front Room for assistance. It stays busy.
It can be emotionally difficult at times, but so rewarding. W.C. joins the Mission Arlington® staff at 8:00 most mornings for the Bible devotional time and prayer. He says those devotional times have reminded him how important it is to personally connect with God everyday on his own. When he is praying and reading the Bible daily, he is better prepared to help those who come to Mission Arlington®.
Additionally, W.C. says his past struggles with addiction and depression allow him to identify with some of those who visit and he can encourage them because he is living proof that there is hope. Read the previous article about W.C. here.
Originally published March 2, 2015. W.C. still serves at Mission Arlington® today.
Several times over the years, Michelle has come to visit Mission Arlington® for a week at a time with her church. Her group did Rainbow Express® and work projects, and in doing so, made a real difference in the lives of people in Arlington. Michelle, however, desired to make a bigger investment. This fall, she committed to move to Arlington for a semester. It was an important leap of faith.
Everyday, Michelle works in the food pantry, helps sort donations under the car port, and teaches at an After School program each day. In the food pantry, she loves to chat one-on-one with the people. Under the carport, she is blessed when she sees all the donations coming in and the way God uses those donations. She enjoys teaching at the After School programs the most and loves to see the children learn and grow in Christ. One of the reasons she wanted to come back was to see how God changes people over months rather than a week. Because of her availability, she is involved at four different Bible Study sites.
At one site last week, while Michelle was teaching the Bible lesson, one 10-year-old girl raised her hand and asked, “This story is about a fake guy, right?” Michelle assured her that the stories they were telling were true. The girl asked amazed, “So, the stuff about the cross is all real?” What an opportunity to share the truth with a group of children.
Across Arlington, Mission Arlington workers find families who have not heard about Jesus. How wonderful that God would send someone like Michelle, who has a real desire for people to know, so that more people can hear the truth of what God did to save the world.
More Bible Study and After School workers are needed right now. People are asking for someone to come share Christ in their neighborhoods, but the workers are few. If God is calling you to volunteer, please come by or call to see how you can help today.
Originally published in November 2015. Michelle still works with the mission today.
Seventeen years ago, Jerry was attending a small church in Hurst when a group, visiting from another state and volunteering for Mission Arlington®, came to do Rainbow Express at a nearby apartment. He had heard of Mission Arlington® before, but this was his first experience working with it first hand.
Jerry remembered a quote from Henry Blackaby, “Find out where God is at work, and join Him there.” So, when Jerry retired two years later and landed in Arlington, he stopped by the Mission office to see if there was any handy-man or carpentry work to do. Carpentry had always been an occasional hobby, and he says, “If it supports the ministry, I’m happy to do it.”
Tillie put him to work right away, three days per week. Jerry works on almost anything and had learn much in his time here. He says, “Plumbing is the one thing I told Tillie I don’t do, but now I do it.”
Jerry also teaches the “Young at Heart” senior adult class at Grace Street Fellowship. The class grew so large they had to divide. Instead of finding a teacher from an outside source, one of his attendees teaches the other Sunday school class and also leads an apartment Bible study during the week. Jerry loves to see his class stay active about sharing their faith.
Jerry also does a yearly outreach in Peru sharing the gospel with people who are receiving medical care. It’s a blessing to hear about how lives are being changed because of the work in Peru, at Grace Street, and around Arlington because Jerry followed God’s call to go where He is working.
Do you have a special skill you’d like to use to further God’s work? Please contact Mission Arlington® at 817-277-6620 to see how your skills might meet people’s needs.
Originally published March 20th, 2016. Jerry still serves at Grace Street Fellowship, and the Mission. He and his team leave for Peru this week. Please keep them in your prayers.
Alma found a new home at Mission Arlington® and new life in Christ. As a child, wherever Alma’s family moved, they were always near a Mission Arlington® Bible study. She attended faithfully with a passel of nieces and nephews. In her teens, when they moved into a house, a Mission Arlington® worker picked up her family weekly so they could still attend Grace Street Fellowship.
Alma was given more responsibilities over the years. She started helping in the nursery. After graduation, Alma’s parents moved to Arkansas, expecting her come. “But I love Arlington.” Alma said. She stayed behind, bouncing back and forth between friends and extended family, still coming to church as often as she could.
Over time, the church members found that she had some medical and physical needs that had to be addressed. They took her to the medical and dental clinic to receive care, started an exercise program with her and taught her healthy eating habits.
But this was not enough. Alma still did not have a permanent home. Eventually, two church members, Tommy and Noeleen felt God saying Alma needed to live with them. Noeleen remembers very clearly, “I couldn’t tell God no.” For five years now, Alma has had her own bedroom in her own house. She is under the care of the doctors at Mission Arlington®‘s free clinic. The staff at Mission Arlington® love her.
Alma says she loves “everything” that she does at Mission Arlington®, but her favorite thing is helping the children. She is often watching babies so parents can look for clothing and housewares. If there is a special activity, like Bible Olympics or the Easter Egg Hunt, Alma is there, working hard.
Alma’s nieces and nephews sometimes visit Mission Arlington® and always asks how Alma is doing. It’s special to see them connect again when they have time to visit. Recently, Alma’s parents moved back to the area and began attending Grace Street Fellowship – learning about the love of God that Alma knows so well.
We thank God for how he brought Alma to Mission Arlington®. The Mission is better because she is here.
This story was originally published January 31st, 2016.
Children are important to Mission Arlington®. One young woman who has been part of the family, almost since birth, is 11-year-old Deshawndra. Her mom, Debra, has been a driver for Mission Arlington® for many years, making sure children in crisis get to school. Often, Deshawndra rides along with her, helping load and unload the bus. Deshawndra says, “It’s fun. I like it because it’s fun helping other people.”
Deshawndra has enough extra-curricular activities to make up another full-time job. She plays tennis, sings, draws, plays the violin, and reads. She’s in many clubs at her school. Recently, Deshawndra won a school-wide award for an essay about the role of fathers in education. Her favorite activity is tennis. She wants to be a teacher someday.
She has a great example of a teacher at her Mission Arlington® Bible Study. On Sundays, Deshawndra and her mother attend church at their apartment complex in north Arlington. Pastor Bob and his team teach the Bible to any residents who want to attend. Deshawndra and Debra both say that Bob makes the Bible relatable, telling the truth about God and also about how it affects their day-to-day lives.
It’s a joy to see Deshawndra is growing up to be a person who loves people and loves God. We are glad that God brought Debra to the Mission all those years ago with Deshawndra at her side.
“It’s a blessing to see God work miracles every day” – Audrey.
Last fall, Audrey was working in Tulsa at a shelter that was soon to close. She was planning to return to family in New York when to someone casually mentioned Texas. And God said, “You are going to Texas.” Audrey says, “It was embedded in my mind. I couldn’t take my thoughts from it.”
Shortly thereafter, Audrey was in Arlington, Texas. She started volunteering at Mission Arlington and wondered if this was the reason God had whispered “Texas.” Tillie confirmed Audrey’s suspicion when she told Audrey she had a place for her. Since then, Audrey has been working in the front room, on the phones, in the food pantry, and doing Bible Study at a central Arlington apartment complex.
Every day, about 500 people come to the front room of Mission Arlington® looking for help with food, clothing, rent, utilities and other assistance. Audrey is glad to pray with the people and see how we can help. She remembers one woman came needing food, furniture, and had a prayer request. Audrey asked about the prayer request and the woman cried, telling about her entire situation. They prayed and talked for a long time. By the time the woman was left, Audrey says although we didn’t have every last physical thing she asked for, she received something else that God prepared for her, and the woman left in better shape than when she had come.
Recently, Audrey was restocking the food pantry and a request came for more vegetables. Audrey knew there were no more vegetables, but she went back to the stockroom to see if anything else had come in. At that moment, a man came in with a box of canned vegetables and asked where to put them. “Oh, great! We need those in the small pantry,” Audrey told him. He answered, “You don’t understand. “My truck is full of vegetables.”
The next day, a similar issue came up with Ramen noodles. Audrey had just given away the last package of noodles, a very popular item in the pantry, so she went to the stockroom to see what else was available. As she was walking by the donation area, a man pulled up and opened his trunk to reveal it was full of Ramen noodles. Audrey laughed, “Not just one pack, no, boxes and boxes of noodles.”
Audrey thinks about God’s provision in terms of Luke 5. The disciples have been fishing with no success, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, the nets break because they are so full of fish. Audrey explains, “Mission Arlington is a broken-net place. People come in a hopeless situation, but leave with nets so full, the nets are broken.”
Hang around the Mission for a while and you’ll start to notice the staff and volunteers act like family. In fact, some of the staff members are family and happy to work for God’s kingdom together.
Clark and Steven are brothers who spent several years of their childhood around the Mission. They have been to college and had a few jobs over the years, but now both of them work at Mission Arlington® full time, although in very different roles.
Clark spends his days making sure the facilities and vehicles of Mission Arlington® are functioning well. This “behind the scenes” work means he visits with plumbers, mechanics, and repairmen that do not have contact with Mission Arlington in other ways.
Clark says his favorite thing about working at the Mission is the people. “It’s fun because I get to work with a different set of people. There’s a plumber that was helping us once. He had a lot of questions. We were working on some major plumbing problems. He just kept talking and talking. For about 3 hours we talked about scripture and his problems. We’ve kept up through the years. He’s going to church; he’s saved now. It’s things you wouldn’t expect while you’re fixing a waterline under a building.”
On his brother, Clark says, “Steven has a very different skill set than I have, and he’s vital to what we do. He’s a great guy.”
Steven recently graduated with a BFA in 2-Dimensional Art. He likes working at the Mission because “not only are we friends, we are family. One big family.” He uses his artistic skill designing t-shirts and brochures, but also coordinates Mission Arlington’s backyard Bible Club, Rainbow Express. During Spring Break, more than 7,000 children attended and 212 people accepted Christ. Read more about Rainbow Express here.
On working with Clark, Steven says, “He’s one of the nicest people I have met. It’s been a joy not only to grow up with him at home, but to work alongside him everyday.”
We are glad God led these brothers to spend their days at Mission Arlington® sharing God’s Word and equipping his people to share love across the city.