Today is Robert Redford’s birthday. Mr. Redford happens to turn 80 today. He is an actor, director, producer, businessman, environmentalist and philanthropist. A mere Google search will bring up many pictures of Mr. Redford through the years. Time hasn’t been the most friendly to him at this point in his life. We wish him a happy birthday, nonetheless, and hope he has a great day. As famous as he might be, though, he’s not the one to receive my special birthday wish.
Mrs. Tillie Burgin also turns 80 today. Miss Tillie, as she is affectionately called, has made more of an impact on people throughout her life than I believe Mr. Redford would dream of. Miss Tillie leads Mission Arlington/Mission Metroplex in the DFW area of Texas. An incredible woman, her influence knows no boundaries.
Miss. Tillie was the Director of Human Resources for Arlington ISD when I began my seminary career in Ft. Worth in the mid 1980’s. I was looking for a job and she gave me one on a Sunday night after church. I wasn’t expecting it nor was I sure it was right for me. I signed the contract the next morning because you simply didn’t turn down Tillie Burgin. This was the start of a 40 year relationship with this remarkable woman.
It was just one year later that she resigned her post in Human Resources and began a small ministry to the underprivileged, the under-resourced, and generally anyone else who needed help, in the community of Arlington. You see, she had taken the job at Arlington ISD after returning from eleven years on the mission field in South Korea. Her heart, however, was always with helping and serving people.
After 30 years, she still leads an amazing network of ministries out of a continually growing office that never is big enough. She has received awards by presidents, awards by the governors, awards by community leaders. Lining the walls in her office, however, are the faces of children whom she has loved and encouraged and helped. She was the go-to person if someone was in trouble. She was the phone call for intervention when the Arlington police needed help with community violence. She was the person to talk to if you needed advice and encouragement and direction.
Today is her 80th birthday. She was in the office before 4:00 AM and will not go home until sometime after 8:00 PM tonight. That’s her schedule 7 days a week. Her power and strength comes from the Lord, her direction comes from the Bible, her quiet gentleness comes through the Holy Spirit that continues to work through her. Her office staff quit telling her to go home and get some rest years ago. They just try and keep up with her daily schedule.
If you met her, you would think she probably was in her late 60’s, early 70’s. The light that she exudes simply comes from her relationship with her heavenly Father. Over the years, tens of thousands have been helped by this incredible woman. I still am humbled as I remember the times she changed the course of my life.
Today is your special day, Miss Tillie. Happy birthday, my dear friend! Enjoy it. And may God continue to give you strength as you change the world in His name.