Cesar began attending a Bible Study in his apartment complex when he was 4 years old. The Mission Arlington pastors would always knock on his door to invite his family and to bring bread. Cesar says he thinks his mom trusted the church leaders because of the bread, so she sent her kids to the services.
Even though the church met in a tiny apartment for many years, that’s the place that the people learned to pray, to love one another, to read and use a Bible, and to live in peace. Cesar says “All my favorite childhood memories are at Heritage Church.”
Cesar accepted Christ at age 8 when his Bible Study took a trip to a Billy Graham Crusade. He was baptized and really chose to follow Christ day-to-day two years ago. About that time, he came to work at Mission Arlington® full time and began leading Heritage Church as the previous leaders moved away. He teaches all different ages throughout the week to pray and love just the way he was taught..
When he’s not at the church, you will find Cesar collecting and sorting your donations behind Mission Arlington®. He and the others in this area work outside in all kinds of weather. But even in the heat or rain, Cesar wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. He uses his day to do so much more than collect donations. Hundreds of people volunteer each week, and Cesar loves to hear their life stories.
While these volunteers might not be visiting the mission for a physical need, just by chatting for an afternoon, Cesar has found many people in the midst of a crisis. He says, “My biggest hope and prayer is that somehow I can be a light for those who are living in darkness.”
We are thankful for the day God brought Cesar to us and for the opportunities to share Jesus’ love each day.
Several years ago, Rick and Linda were living in east Arlington, both professed Christians, but not attending a church, not serving God, and not growing in him.
After their son was invited to a church near his school, he came back saying, “Mom, you’ve got to go to this church.” So Linda attended, and came back saying, “Rick, you’ve got to visit this church.” Since then, they have attended Grace Street Fellowship, a Mission Arlington/Mission Metroplex congregation, and have found ways to serve people and grow in Christ.
Linda says she saw her relationship with Jesus become “a flowing river rather than pond scum.”
Rick has a job outside of the church, but at least two days per week, he cleans the community center. They both work in the church clothing room and run the coffee bar on Sundays to help everyone feel welcome. Linda spends the week making hospital visits and checking on people who have called in with needs, like prayer and food. Linda explains, “It’s just that opportunity we have to be there for people.”
These roles are particularly unusual for Linda who was so severely shy in college, it was literally considered a disability. But when you have a story to tell like the Gospel, it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone. Rick and Linda both want people to know about the love God showed them, and that God has a place for everyone.
But don’t try to thank them for their service. Rick and Linda will turn it back to God. Rick says, “It’s nothing to boast about. We do it for God.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it…But I wouldn’t give up what I learned from it.“
That’s how Patti describes the relapse she went through a few years ago. After 19 years clean and sober, she found herself blacked out near the doors of Mission Arlington®.
She says Tillie and another staff member helped Patti back to her house and invited her to Bible Study the next Wednesday. Patti knew she wouldn’t remember the invitation, so she scribbled on a post it note immediately “Wednesday Bible Study, 7:30, Ms. Tillie” and she stuck it to a post outside her apartment.
On the next Wednesday night, Tillie came to pick Patti up. Eventually, Patti started volunteering at Mission Arlington. She remembers, “The empty hours on my days off from work were spent with godly people doing His work. The more time I spent away from the alcohol and in the presence of God, the less I needed the bottle.“
Soon, she found her way to Celebrate Recovery, a Christ centered recovery group at Grace Street Fellowship.
In her 20’s, she had gone through a 12 step program with Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous and counts that as an important learning experience. But the second time, with Celebrate Recovery, she says, is so different. While AA was about what she was doing by herself to be sober, with CR, it’s about relying on God and getting as close to him as humanly possible.
Several years ago, Patti asked God to “Remove all barriers, anything between him and I.” Since then, God has been answering that prayer, one painful thing at a time. Now she says with a grin, “That was a prayer and a half. Don’t ever, ever, ever pray for something like that unless you are really prepared.“
Patti used to be prideful about her recovery, but now she boasts in Jesus Christ as her Lord. Instead of putting faith in the time she has clean, she puts her faith in God. We celebrate with her for how God has changed her life.
In God’s perfect timing, he led Chris and Diandra to minister at Mission Arlington®.
In Chris’ last years in the military, the couple lived in El Paso enjoying their work with a Mission-Church. When the military term ended they felt called to Diandra’s hometown, Arlington.
Initially, they attended a large church that was a blessing, but different than their experience in El Paso. They prayed that God would show them when to change. For three years, he told them to stay.
Then, one Sunday, they passed a church sign that included “Mission Arlington/Mission Metroplex.”
Diandra remembers, “We saw ‘Mission’ on the sign.” That prompted them to attend that congregation for one year until God prompted them to do more. They tried several times to attend the “Tillie Tour,” a Sunday morning tour of the Bible Studies, but a family illness delayed the tour for Chris and Diandra for a time.
Chris says, “I think God was in that, too.”
Diandra agrees, “God’s perfect timing.”
Eventually, they took the tour and God guided them to Remynse Fellowship in east Arlington. Now Chris teaches men twice a week and Diandra makes visits, teaches at the afterschool program, and does whatever needs to be done to keep the church functioning. They feel fulfilled by how God is using them, like they found their place.
They know there are so many needs in the community, but Chris says, “It’s different when you see a need and you feel like God is calling you to meet that need.”
Chris rejoices to see the moments of spiritual growth in the men he teaches. Diandra has noticed, when visiting, that God puts her in the right homes at the right times. She often hears people say, “I was just praying that someone would come.”
Thank you, God, for these two lives, faithful to your call year by year and minute by minute.
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.”