Mission Arlington | Mission Metroplex

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SJ Stovall: the difference one man can make

SJ Stovall-1
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.

SJ Stovall with Tillie Burgin

SJ Stovall with Tillie Burgin

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!

 

 

Regina

 

God is at work in East Arlington – specifically, using Regina and her church to visit and share the gospel with families across the area.

Regina has been visiting people in the area for years. Mostly, their visits have been to people who have come to Mission Arlington® for assistance. She says, often, people affirm that God ordained the visit. She says, “We show up in just the nick of time. People say all the time, ‘How did you know to come now? I was just saying I wish I had someone to pray with.’ Those are moments when know we are being used by God.”

Meeting people whose entire experience with church is attending a wedding or funeral, it’s thrilling to share the full truth of Christ with someone who has never heard.

Recently, the church has been focused on equipping the saints that have been attending to go and make visits themselves in the community. The leadership asked the congregation how they were feeling about visiting for the first time. Regina says, “What we heard was ‘It’s exciting, but I’m a little nervous, a little scared.’ But when we are confident in scripture, God will do what he set out to do.”

In addition to visiting three times per week, Regina holds an afterschool program for students from Sam Houston High School, leads a Bible Study at a nearby apartment complex, and a Wednesday night youth Bible Study for anyone in the area who may want to attend. On Saturdays, you can find her spending time with the teenagers. The teens are ready to visit, too. As many of them are bilingual, they will be place with monolingual church members to translate and share.

We are excited about the work God is doing across the city. Regina sums it up this way, “I’m a work in progress. Philippians says the work God has done with me, he will be faithful to bring to completion.”

Whitney

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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.

Originally published October 9th, 2016.

Andrea

“We don’t need anybody who just sits on the pew like Andrea, so be thinking about what missions opportunities you’d like to be involved in.”

Andrea was 19 when she went along with a friend to a new member class about missions that long-time family friend, Tillie Burgin, was leading. She still remembers hearing the phrase above, and she knew it was true. She could do more, so she started teaching Bible Study at a north Arlington apartment complex the next week and continued throughout college, nursing school, and graduate school.

It took time for Andrea to take the step to volunteer at the Mission Arlington® Medical Clinic, but when she finally did, she knew it was the place she needed to be.

For a time, she had a job as a nurse practitioner and was volunteering at the Mission Arlington Medical Clinic three days and one night per week. Then, as God allowed, she was able to come to Mission Arlington® full time. Now the clinic is opened five days and one night per week. Andrea is there every minute coordinating patient care. She gently guides the volunteer medical students and assist the doctors in finding the most efficient plan of care for each patient using resources across the Metroplex. The clinic has about 9,000 visits yearly, completely free of charge for the patient.

Andrea loves working with the population that comes to the clinic. It reminds her of her first job at Parkland in Dallas. She explains, “You have to meet basic needs before people will be receptive about God.” While receiving care, people are very opened to the Gospel.

Andrea also helps by breaking down barriers to get people to a Bible Study near them. If someone doesn’t have a car, they likely have a Bible Study close by. Also, when patients realize that Andrea personally knows the Bible Study leader in their community, they feel so much more comfortable with their medical care. They know they can trust her and the clinic staff.

Andrea explains, “It’s my dream job. If there was ever a job made for me, it was this one.”

The clinic is always in need of clerical and medical volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please call the Mission Arlington office at 817-277-6620.

Originally Published February 12, 2017

Alex and Irina

Alex was building yachts in Italy when a friend introduced him to a real life in Christ. Alex began studying the Bible, soaking it in, when an acquaintance from his home country of Columbia caught his attention on social media. He sent her a friend request on a whim.

Irina, a lawyer in Columbia, had just ended a serious relationship with a man who had been unkind. She took a short trip with a friend to Europe to clear her head. While visiting Italy, she met Alex in person. Their friendship continued, and they were married shortly thereafter. Alex returned to Columbia, and they started their life together.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God sent them to America. They moved here with no family, few connections.

Alex says he relates to Abraham being called to travel from the comfort of home and family to a new land. He wasn’t sure why God was asking them to leave, but they followed and found themselves in a new, difficult, blessed journey. He remembered how when Moses questioned God, God replied, “I AM.” This same God was telling them to move, so they moved.

While settling down in Arlington, they found themselves needing a little help. They visited the Mission. A woman named Lucy helped them and noticed they seemed so alone. After listening to their story, she invited them to church. They came the next Sunday and have scarcely missed a Sunday since.

At church, Alex and Irina found a solid place to study the Bible, to break bread with other believers, and to participate in outreach. Irina grew up in church, but says before she moved to America, she didn’t really understand what God and the church were about. But in the last few years, she has seen the church come together to pray for her when she’s in need and to meet physical needs as well. She remembers with a smile, “We needed a bed, and, who was it? Lucy’s son came in a truck and delivered us a bed.” Irina smiles again when she says, “And the dental clinic fixed my teeth. I’m not in pain anymore.”

The whole time, they have continued to give back and volunteer in their community as they are able. They invite people to church and are glad to share God’s word with their neighbors.

The stories of God’s provision and plan are more than will fit in this short space, but it is clear, Alex and Irina have found joy since God sent them here from across the globe.

Originally published March 5th, 2018.

Patti

Patti began volunteering at Mission Arlington® and attending Celebrate Recovery several years ago. Read part of her story here.

Nowadays, Patti is happy with the changes she has made. As one example, she says she had been able to keep a gentle attitude in every aspect of her life, save one: driving alone in her car. If another car cuts her off, she still had a hard time keeping her anger under control. While no one else would know about this vice, Patti knew it was an issue that needed to be addressed. When she finally gave it up to God, he helped her to change. Now, Patti prays and can forgive drivers who used to upset her, even when no one else is watching.

This week, in particular, was special for Patti. She has lived for many years just a few blocks from Mission Arlington®. Every Thanksgiving, she would look out her window and see the lines and lines of cars being loaded with turkeys. The bustle of activity looked like so much fun, she says, “I longed to be a part of it.” But with the heavy issues she was carrying, she couldn’t bring herself to go volunteer.

Now, Thanksgiving is one of Patti’s favorite days of the year. This week, all the volunteers who drove through to pick up a turkey saw Patti’s smiling face directing traffic and answering questions at the parking lot entrance. The smile was there in the morning, and continued until the last turkey was delivered.

“It brings tears of joy to my eyes,” Patti says. What a reminder of how far she’s come and how God is using her today.

Originally published in November of 2017. Update: Patti now serves the Lord part time with Mission Arlington, lending a hand every weekend.

Alma’s Story

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Alma with a child in the Mission daycare. Alma loves caring for children.

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.

Alma turns 32 this week. This story was originally published January 31st, 2016.

Matt and Alison

Matt and Alison at their wedding

Hunger and financial strains do not have a specific time or date on the calendar or even a style. It could be your neighbor, the elderly couple you sit next to in church, a child sitting next to your child in the classroom, a family impacted by a sudden tragedy, a single ‘dressed to the nines’ individual who was recently laid off and is out looking for a new job, or a veteran who has served our country. Sometimes individuals are having to choose between picking up their medication at the pharmacy or eating that night.

Matt moved to Arlington in the summer of 2014 to attend law school.  At that time, his church introduced him to Mission Arlington®.  Matt loved the work of Mission Arlington® and volunteered though the years at Thanksgiving and Christmas events.

When Matt met his wife Alison they began volunteering together at the Mission.  Each of them came from personal circumstances which weren’t always ideal, and it created in them a desire to serve others.  Matt says  –  “If we could give back just a small percentage of the showers of blessings we have encountered, then that is what we are striving to do.” In their efforts to bless others, they have discovered too that they “are the ones who are blessed through it all at the end of the day.”

Today, Matt owns & manages two businesses in Arlington: 1) Legal Insurance Agency and 2) the Aulsbrook Law Firm.  Matt encourages the staff on both teams to volunteer with Mission Arlington®.  While Alison works in these businesses as well, she also works for another company  which encourages their employees to volunteer. Alison is their team leader for  Arlington and has enjoyed working alongside fellow employees at the Mission.  Alison is often the one who makes the introduction to the ministries and events of Mission Arlington®.   These teams learn about the hunger rates and needs that Mission Arlington® strives to tackle daily, and they make such a difference here.

Hunger and financial strains do not have a specific time or date on the calendar or even a style. It could be your neighbor, the elderly couple you sit next to in church, a child sitting next to your child in the classroom, a family impacted by a sudden tragedy, a single ‘dressed to the nines’ individual who was recently laid off and is out looking for a new job, or a veteran who has served our country. Sometimes individuals are having to choose between picking up their medication at the pharmacy or eating that night.

In 2018, Matt and Alison also helped to launch an ongoing event that serves Mission Arlington®.  The event titled “Feed the City” happens monthly through TangoTab.  It is an effort to fight hunger and provide meals to those who otherwise might not be able to afford them. On the first Saturday of the month at 8:30am, Matt and Alison host their monthly Feed the City Event where volunteers bring food items to make sandwiches, package chips, and healthy snacks. Mission Arlington® picks up these meals and immediately distributes to families in need.

The Mission Arlington® family is so grateful for people like Alison and Matt for using their talents to make a difference here.

Tony and Stan

Psalms 36:5
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

God has always shown his faithfulness by allowing Mission Arlington® to partner with local businesses to ensure that people’s needs are met. One example of this is, long-time friends of the Mission, Tony and Stan.

More than 20 years ago, Tony became aware of Mission Arlington® when his children were engaged volunteering. Around 2000, Tony and Stan, business partners, decided to contribute to Mission Arlington corporately. After much prayer, and meeting with Ms. Tillie, they decided to contribute towards the annual Thanksgiving meal giveaway, and have continued to do so each year since.

They saw the great need and wanted to help. Stan says “We can’t do what they are doing, but we can do this. God gave us a part.”

In fact, as they networked with other businesses, several other companies have begun contributing along with Tony and Stan. Tony says, “Those folks, on an annual basis, contribute to Thanksgiving. It’s humbling. I don’t have to ask twice. They call me and say, ‘Isn’t it time to order turkeys?’” God prompts them to give generously so people can have what they need. In 2018, 6,324 families received turkeys thanks to God’s provision.

These kind men have given in other creative ways as well. When Mission Arlington has needed a little extra space, Trailer Leasing Solutions has donated trailers for temporary storage. A few years ago, the men donated a large amount of office furniture. They helped load it at their office and then followed Mission Arlington’s truck back to help unload. The first thing unloaded was a refrigerator. Tony remembers, “Immediately it was headed out to a woman who had called that morning because her fridge had gone out. I don’t think it ever hit the pavement. It makes it easy to want to partner up with Mission Arlington®.”

We are so grateful to God for connecting Mission Arlington® with people who want to prayerfully give their first fruits to help others. Stan sums up the heart of giving in this, “It’s not what you give. It’s how you give it. Giving is an act of worship.”

Teamwork and Prayer

Mission Arlington® is a God-driven organization. Each volunteer and staff member does their best to see how we can help each life find what they need and draw closer to God. Often, it takes teamwork from many parts of the body to help meet the needs of one life.

This past year, a phone volunteer named Kelly answered the phone to hear a woman in distress. Through tears, the woman asked if someone could pray for her. The volunteer panicked for a moment, looking for a staff member who could pray over the phone, but quickly realized, “It’s me. I need to do this.” Kelly took about 10 minutes praying with this woman and listening to her story.

In the course of conversation, Kelly realized the caller lived in Dallas, not Arlington. But what made her think to call Mission Arlington®? The caller explained, “I used to live in Arlington, and you guys helped me once.”

Just because someone was nice to her, she felt Jesus’ love, and knew she could call for prayer.

After the call, Mission Arlington® staff was able to give the woman’s phone number to the Dallas police department, who arrived within minutes to check on this young woman in person and help her with much needed resources.

We are so grateful for sensitive volunteers and important partnerships across this Metroplex that ensure needs are meet – physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional needs – so that people can be right with God.

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