According to the National Weather Service, there is no record of a tornado named Tillie. The meteorologists obviously have never been to Arlington, Texas. Since 1986, there have been daily sightings around Arlington of a whirlwind of ministry, led by Tillie Burgin, former schoolteacher and Korean missionary. What she is doing for her hometown, as an insurance agent might put it, is an act of God.

Tillie leads Mission Arlington, which provides food, clothing, medical care, and the good news about Jesus to needy people across the sprawling city. Headquartered in a former drive-up bank, she and her 600 volunteers reach out to the city’s be neighborhoods containing thousands of people who probably would never enter a traditional church.

A smelly start

The mission got started when Tillie and her husband were forced to return home to Arlington from Korea due to family illness. First Baptist Church put her to work as minister of home missions.

But, she recalls, her first day on the job “was the loneliest and longest Friday of my life, in a closetlike office, wondering what church staff people did all day.”

Late in the afternoon, the custodian stopped by with a piece of paper. “There’s nobody else here,” he said to Tillie, “and this person says she needs help. Here’s her name and address.” it was a part of town that Tillie had never ventured into before. But climbing the steps of the run-down apartment building deeply touched the heart of this Texan.

Tillie knocked on the door. A woman answered, and before Tillie could greet her, the woman said: “I need my electricity paid.” Replied Tillie, “I’ll get back to you.”

Halfway back to First Baptist, Tillie realized she had not even invited the woman to church. Then, even worse, she suddenly ...

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