One of the first apartment complexes to invite Mission Arlington to start a Bible Study in the late 80’s was Westwood Village near UTA. The message was well received, and the residents quickly began to see the apartment clubhouse as their church building, neighbors as church members, and the bi-vocational leader, Bob, as their pastor. For the first few years, as people moved away, many drove back to the apartment complex each Sunday to continue attending their church.
In fact, so many people were driving back that the clubhouse couldn’t hold them all. There was not enough parking. The church needed a bigger space.
Mission Arlington had acquired one building nearby that was being used for donated furniture. After a little cleaning, the warehouse space became the church’s new meeting place.
The church has moved a couple of times since then for a variety of reasons, and many of the members have changed, but the heart of the church stays the same. They want everyone to know Christ. Every Sunday, before services, the church holds an English as a Second Language class. Throughout the week, groups from out of town stay in their building while serving at Mission Arlington. The church is a light to their community.
Victor, who teaches the adult Spanish class, and his family have been in the congregation for at least 7 years. Victor and his young son, named after his father, make visits in the surrounding neighborhood. The younger Victor remembered a story he had heard about Pastor Bob knocking on the same woman’s door for years until she finally came to church and now is on staff at Mission Arlington. When asked if that’s Victor’s story too, the 12-year-old replied, “Not yet, but it will be!” They are excited about seeing people come to Christ.
What about the apartment complex where it all began? Since then, Westwood Village changed names and has new residents. The manager invited Mission Arlington to start a new Bible Study. Again, it has become a thriving church. And the Word goes on.
SJ Stovall was born in Lufkin, Texas in September of 1925. His parents couldn’t decide on a given name for their son, so they wrote his father’s initials – “SJ” – on his birth certificate as a temporary solution. What was temporary, however, became permanent, when the parents didn’t change the birth certificate, or his name. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, SJ said that he guessed he was thirteen before he “realized that SJ – my father’s initials – didn’t stand for anything.” When SJ would tell that story to many of us around “Mission Arlington®,” he would always have a “twinkle in his eye,” and a broad smile. He loved to tell that story, especially when people asked him (often repeatedly) what those initials stood for.
While it is true, according to SJ, that his initials “didn’t stand for anything,” nothing could have been further from the truth when it came to the man that he was, and the way that he lived his life. A dedicated public servant, SJ served as both a city councilman, and Mayor of Arlington, investing more than two decades of his life to serve his community effectively. In addition to his work with the City of Arlington, SJ was on the board of trustees for Arlington Memorial hospital, and also, the President of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
He was also a dedicated man of faith. A long time member of and leader in First Baptist Church, Arlington, the Burgins and Stovalls became friends along the way. Together, they celebrated Christmas Eve, birthdays, and other events through the years. The Burgin brothers, both on staff at Mission Arlington®, and Jean Cagle, Director of the Allan Saxe Dental Clinic, remember those annual gatherings fondly. It was natural, therefore, under God’s leadership, for Mayor Stovall to become the founder and the chair of Mission Metroplex, Inc. which was formed to support and under-gird the work of Mission Arlington® in 1990. He served in that role for close to two decades. Under his leadership, the work of Mission Arlington/Mission Metroplex grew significantly.
Because of SJ’s relationship with the Lord, he had a winsome way about him. He always made it a point to provide encouragement to the staff of Mission Arlington®. He especially admired the student interns, called “Summer Missionaries,” young people from 16-23 years of age, who gave their summers free of charge to serve the Lord at the mission. Because of that, SJ, or “the mayor,” as he was often called, created an annual breakfast to honor the missionaries. SJ would purchase the food, and on July 4th each year, the missionaries, staff, and other board members would enjoy the fresh fair provided, the fellowship, and then afterwards, a full-fledged parade. The numbers swelled over time to include many from one of Mission Arlington’s 349 congregations.
SJ Stovall passed away in July of 2010 at the age of 84. He lived his life well, and we continue to find inspiration from his dedication and his relationship with the Lord. Since that time, Mission Arlington® has continued the tradition of providing a treat for Summer Missionaries, and providing honor to these young people who have given of themselves so sacrificially here in our city. As we gather for breakfast this morning, many of us will remember SJ, and the difference he made.
Thank you, Mayor Stovall, and to God be the glory!
Melissa had been in Oklahoma for 14 years when she felt God nudging her back to Texas. Her life up to that point had not been easy, and she was traveling with nothing: no furniture, few clothes, and no rent money. Melissa says, “Some people come on their knees, but I was basically on my belly saying, ‘now what?’” However, a family she knew kindly offered her a place to stay until she could get back on her feet, so she came.
She applied for a job right away, and on the drive home, she saw Grace Street Church. The signs for “Celebrate Recovery” and “Christian Women’s Job Corps” caught her eye. The director of the CWJC, Julie, was there. They talked and prayed about Melissa’s journey and job application.
Within a week, she had a interview and was hired on the spot. On her first day off, she went back to the church to give a few donations and tell Julie her good news.
Next, it was time to move to her own place. Melissa met for breakfast with the leader of Celebrate Recovery, Paulette. They prayed together about an apartment. Within a week, Melissa found a safe place within her budget, but all her money went towards the deposit and rent leaving nothing for furniture or household items.
So off they went to Mission Arlington. Melissa spent three hours there visiting with some of the other Grace Street ministers, getting some food, and kitchenware. When she had the key to her apartment, the Mission delivered a bed, dresser and couch.
Melissa says, “I had grown up thinking the Bible was something really nice that sat on the coffee table.” And church, she says, was standing up, kneeling and sitting at the right time. But now that she has seen the real purpose of the church, she says she knows God in a whole new way.
Now, Melissa is at the church almost every day for a service, Celebrate Recovery, or Bible Study. She encourages everyone who is struggling, “Go spend some time at the Mission. Go visit with people who know the Bible and who want to live a certain way.”
“The more that I’m around the people at Grace Street and the Mission, I know that I’m okay. That I’m safe.”
While Tommy was attending Grace Street Church in Arlington many years ago, he felt the call to minister at Mission Arlington®, but says, “I knew I could not be there like I was.” At the time, Tommy struggled with a serious drinking problem. During this time, he met with his pastors and Tillie Burgin. Tillie challenged him to stop drinking and get his life back together. That night, he went home and did not drink, but he didn’t sleep either.
While the struggle continued, Tommy sought out people from his past and made amends where needed. After visiting with the last person on his list, Tommy says God took the urge to drink away. Although he had tried several 12-step programs, he says he had always joined the program at someone else’s urging and found no long term success. But this time, God truly transformed his life, and Tommy says, “Tillie was instrumental in my sobriety.”
Shortly after, Tommy began dating Noeleen, and they were married within 3 months. Now, 15 years later, Tommy and Noeleen work full-time at Mission Arlington®. At Grace Street Church, he is a maintenance man, audio-visual expert, praise team member, Sunday School teacher, and more. During the day at Mission Arlington®, he is a truck driver, picking up and delivering donations.
The time in the truck is not wasted by any means. Tommy calls his truck the “mobile tabernacle” where he can share his faith with the people who ride along with him. Often, if Tommy finds himself talking with one who has had a similar experience, the rider is more likely to listen because of Tommy’s past problems and how God is obviously at work in his life today.
We thank God for Tommy and for the path that led him here. His life is a true testimony to God’s power.
Noeleen first visited Mission Arlington® in 1999 on a date. Her new boyfriend invited her to his church, Grace Street Fellowship, a ministry of Mission Arlington®, which was meeting in a school at the time. She immediately fell in love with the people, eventually fell in love with and married the boyfriend, and they both still work at the church to this day.
A few years later, driving to her job at an auto parts store, Noeleen heard God say, “I am with you.” She immediately felt the need to go talk with Tillie about working full time at Mission Arlington®. The next weekend, they visited and Tillie explained that there were no positions available, but they would wait and see what God would do. Within 15 minutes, another staff member gave her two week’s notice, and Noeleen had a new job.
If a truck has ever visited your home to pick up a donation, Noeleen prayed for you. In addition to teaching and ministering at Grace Street, she works in dispatch where she lays out the pickups every morning and prays for the donors, drivers, and trucks. She says everyday is a miracle, because at the beginning of the day, there are only two drivers that she is sure will come because they are on the staff. “God has to bring the people, and you don’t know who is going to come” she says. Everyone else that comes is a volunteer, and there is no guarantee that any one person will come.
Even so, by 7:00 every night, the donations have been picked up, furniture has been delivered to people who need it, and it’s all thanks to God.
Noeleen also enjoys the moments she has with the volunteer drivers as they are on their way in and out of her office. There is not always time to talk at length about Christ, but little by little, Noeleen is building trust with the drivers, greeting them with a smile. She says when the volunteers have questions about her faith, she is always ready to with a response. People know her faith is sincere.
We are grateful that the Lord brought Noeleen our way.
Mission Arlington®’s Bob Mann Medical Clinic turns 25 this year. The growth from it’s early days has been tremendous.
In November 1990, the clinic was opened just three hours per week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:15-1:15. Twelve doctors rotated volunteering during their lunch hours to treat patients for free. Primarily treating pneumonia and infections, the clinic caught people who needed urgent care, but could not afford to visit an urgent care center. In the first three months, the clinic saw about 100 people. People received much needed care, but resources were limited.
Today, the clinic is constantly bustling with activity and averaging 180 patients per week. Some doctors still come for one hour per week, but others have devoted one whole day per week to volunteering. Because so many doctors are willing and able to come, patients are seen Monday-Friday. The clinic provides physical therapy, diabetes maintenance, a variety of specialists, and a prescription drug program to help people with on-going medical needs. The resources available have expanded exponentially, and now local hospitals can even occasionally perform free surgeries.
One “motto” among the Mission Arlington® leadership is not to say “no” when someone wants to help, so the first time a doctor offered to volunteer on a Tuesday night, the clinic expanded it’s care to Tuesday nights. When someone called and asked if the clinic needed an EKG machine, the answer was, “of course!” The EKG machine has been used countless times to save lives and reassure many who come with troubling symptoms.
Yesenia, who visited the clinic recently, had this to say about her care, “I never knew there was a place where not only can you get help for any sickness, or a broken leg, in my case, but you can also find people who believe in God and his miracles.” She explained that when she first met the clinic’s orthopedic surgeon, he encouraged her to have faith and trust in Jesus. While Yesenia had already accepted Christ and was baptized last year, she says his words helped her remember the good things God has done for her. She says, “That’s why I’m thankful for Mission Arlington in everything that they do from their clinics, to doctors, to nurses, to the staff for being there for people who need them the most.”
By saying “Yes” and being willing to go wherever God leads, the clinic has grown in ways no one expected and only God could have designed. People are getting the care they need, being reached for Christ, and God’s not done yet. The clinic is always in need of additional medical professionals, supplies, and equipment. If you would like more information on how you can join in the work, please call today. 817-277-6620.
People across the globe pray for Mission Arlington®; daily, but no one has been praying for the work here longer than Jack and Imogene plus the small group that gathered in their house weekly to pray about the seed that God had planted in Tillie Burgin’s heart.
Jack remembers Tillie coming and asking them to pray about doing missions in Arlington, although they weren’t exactly sure where it would lead or what it would look like, they knew they needed to pray, down on their faces – and they did for two years until God revealed his will.
Shortly after Mission Arlington began, volunteers reached out to local apartment complexes to teach God’s word. For 22 years, Jack and Imogene led a weekly Bible study in a community near their house. Once per year, the Bible Study team would hold a three-day revival on site with food, songs, and a sermon. During their two decades, they saw small children learn about God, be baptized, and grow to serve God as adults.
Jack is now 91 years old. He says his life was changed when he heard this true story about a group of missionaries in Japan that planned to lead country-wide revival services. Some pastors from the United States planned to come support them, but as the travel date arrived, the Korean War intensified leading most of the state-side pastors to back out. The missionaries, who had spent years in Japan, sometimes in unsafe conditions, wondered why the pastors would not come. The missionaries asked, “Is it that you think we are expendable, and you are not?”
Upon hearing this story, Jack told God, “Whether I want to be expendable or not, Jesus came to the cross, and I’m expendable for you.” From that day on, Jack has sought to let God use him completely. God is eternal, and humans are temporary, so why wouldn’t one dedicate his earthly life to furthering God’s eternal will? Whatever God has asked of them, Jack and Imogene have tried to follow, no matter the cost.
They have wanted to, and still want to, live in a way that shows their lives are being totally used for the living God.
By 3:55 on Wednesday afternoon, a handful of children have gathered at the playground of their east side apartment complex. By 4:15, it’s swarming. Some kids carrying backpacks of homework, some chasing little brothers and sisters. Ms. Hattie and her team have arrived ready to play, tutor and share the gospel.
UTA volunteers start a game of kickball in an empty field next door, while another volunteer reads through a math assignment with a young boy. Ms. Hattie greets the children that are still arriving and invites them to play or study.
One frustrated mom comes with her daughter, school folder in hand. They pass the folder to Ms. Hattie. The little girl shakes her head at the science assignment inside. Ms. Hattie leads them over to a park bench and works with them both to understand the plant life cycle.
The mom says it’s her first time coming to “after school.” They just recently moved in, but they already knew where to come for help.
By 5:00, the kickball game has run its course. The kids are tired, and homework is done. Everyone gathers on blue blankets to hear a Bible Story about Jesus death and resurrection. It takes a while to get through the lesson, but the kids listen attentively.
In the beginning, Ms. Hattie wasn’t sure how God would work out all the details so she could serve full-time at Mission Arlington®. She had a job, a house, two pets, and plenty of bills. She had been volunteering twice a week, but she felt like God wanted her to do more. When she went to visit with Tillie, she expressed her concerns about housing, pets, and everything. They prayed and gave the concerns to God.
In the end, Hattie gave her employer two weeks notice and told her neighbor that she would be putting her house on the market. Within the week, her neighbor told her to not put up that “for sale” sign because he wanted to buy the house. The profits from the sale were enough to pay off her loans.
By the time she began her first day at Mission Arlington®, God had provided a free, pet-friendly place to live. One by one, God had removed any potential worry and Ms. Hattie could focus on the things that really matter: teaching children and showing their families the love of Christ.
Jerry had been retired for a year when a note came asking if he would like to come teach Bible Study for Mission Arlington®. After a few months of prayerful consideration, he began at an East side community. Jerry now works with the adults and teens on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
A month later, he came by the office to visit and began volunteering in the “Front Room” where people come for assistance with bills, groceries, housewares, and more. Many recognize him from teaching the Story during the Christmas Store, and tend to trust Jerry and let him pray for their families. They feel like they already know him.
Currently, he is leading Saturday basketball leagues. Up to 70 children and youth have come each week to play and pray. Children are able to play basketball in a safe, Christian environment. When one child reacted in anger and threw down the ball, Jerry and the other adults were available to intervene in a loving way. With one week left, that has been the only discipline issue they encountered.
Jerry wears many hats at Mission Arlington, and the community, but one thing he finds of utmost importance is the Sunday Bible Study that began it all. In the past year, the adult Bible Study has gone from zero to active. The youth class is so strong, some of his high school students volunteered at the basketball leagues.
He says, “There are lots of agencies who do (benevolent assistance), but not a lot that go out to the apartments and build relationships…being out there with them on a regular basis.” Because of the consistent presence, of Jerry and the Bible Study team, people know where to come for prayer when they are in crisis. People grow in Christ and discipleship happens.
We are grateful for Jerry, and all those like him who lend a hand here at Mission Arlington®.
Morgan moved here in 2012 intending to earn her Master’s degree at a local university. While she was preparing to start, she worked at Mission Arlington®, attracted to the work the Lord was doing there.
Somehow, parts her school application were misplaced, pushing her plans back an entire year. Then in 2013, when she had the opportunity to apply again, she declined. God made it clear; she needed to stay at the Mission.
Morgan knew at a young age that God wanted her working with children. Her childhood was spent making children’s Bible lesson plans with her aunt. Morgan finds she can use her gifts freely at Mission Arlington where she teaches at two west Arlington apartment complexes and helps prepare supplies for Rainbow Express, Mission Arlington®’s Backyard Bible Club.
Children’s lives are changed when they learn about the love of God. This can be a door to reach the whole family. In particular, one little girl who started attending Morgan’s Bible Study last year started off with a tough exterior, but as time went by, she became much sweeter.
Morgan remembers the day that the little girl’s mom came to Bible Study for the first time, her hand holding tight to a coloring sheet that said “Jesus Loves Me.” Morgan stepped up to ask how she could help. The mom replied, “I don’t know what you are teaching my daughter.” Morgan answered, “Well, we teach her about Jesus.” The mom continued, “I don’t know much about Jesus, but I know that my little girl was mean and now she’s nice. And she wasn’t loving and now she’s loving. I don’t know much about this Jesus, but I want to know more.”
We praise God for these opportunities. And we praise him for forgotten paperwork that led Morgan here to stay.