Bree is a senior at South Hamilton High School. She heard me speak at her church – Victory Christian Fellowship – in Jewell, Iowa. She called to inquire whether she could interview for a school paper. I agreed. Below is her paper. She obviously has a gift of writing. It was different reading someone else’s interpretation of who you are. Enjoy!
“A JOURNEY THROUGH THE STORMS OF LIFE
The David Burrier Story
From a young age, David Burrier knew exactly what he wanted to do and who he wanted
to be. His whole life, his mind had been set on being a minister, a disciple of God. In 2002, he achieved that goal; however, as he journeyed through life, some unexpected “storms” began to happen. He and his family struggled through 24 hardships beginning in 1998, continuing to present day 2016.
The first “storm” took place in August of 1998, when Marcus, David’s son, was diagnosed with cancer at the young age of 14. Marcus went through 48 straight weeks of chemo, 14 hospitalizations, 200 home administered injections, and 30 days of radiation. The next “storm” took place in 2000, when David’s mother-in-law, Grandma Carlson, died of cancer throughout her body; however, this was not the only event that took place in 2000. Throughout this year, David had four hospitalized visits for kidney stones, and his family’s cat and dog both died. These are only three of the many tragedies that occurred during his life, and even though David has been through the worst of things, his faith and trust remained strong, knowing through the Lord there was hope for a better and brighter future.
David Burrier grew up on a farm, and started out living with his grandmother. He had an older sister and two younger brothers. As we spoke he said, “We all grew up about a half a mile from a country church that my great-grandparents founded, which is where I spent most of my time. This also happened to be where the seed of my faith was planted.”
As David grew older, more mature, and wiser, he went on to work for God. While discussing David’s occupation he said, “I’ve been a lay minister all my life. I like to say I’m “an un-ordained minister”, and so are you.” For the past 14 years, David has been serving on the ministry team as an employee for one of the largest homeless providers in Iowa as a fund-raiser. However his avocation is an organization that he found called I’VE
BEEN THERE Ministries.
He then went on to say, “Every job I’ve had has been a calling from God. I pour myself into my work. I have a passion for my paid work where we serve homeless and hungry men, women, and children.” Further into the conversation I asked David how long he planned on being a minister, serving the homeless people, and he responded by saying, “I will do this as long as I feel called to and as long as they will have me. I’m looking at retirement however between 5-6 years when I’ll continue my lifelong ministry.”
The picture is of David doing what he loves most – loving people. This is a picture of a homeless man David first met 14 years ago, who was living in a tent camp in the woods along the Des Moines river. “It took months of regular weekly visits to establish a trusting relationship. He was quite guarded,” David said. This man left his home in Mexico at age 17 and never returned. “To make a long story short,” David said, “At age 47 he was full of cancer and I was able to get him reconnected with his mother and sister who made arrangements to fly him home to reunite as he died with his family around him. He called me several times a week, but then the calls stopped, and I was unable to contact him. After about 45 days, his mother called me and left a message in Spanish, saying that he had made her promise she would call me to say thanks from him, for befriending him. It was definitely a divine appointment.”
After receiving this information from David, my heart was filled with joy and compassion. Many people see him as a great, confident, Godly man, but what they do not see, is the pain and discomfort he has been dealing with for the last 18 years. Previously, I stated that David and his family had been through 24 “storms” in just the past 18 years alone.
I then went on to discuss the first three storms he explained to me, which ended in 2000, but the story does not end there. Toward the end of 2001, into the beginning of 2002, David began to feel an extreme amount of depression. During this time, he and his wife were without a home for eight months. Not long after, his niece committed suicide in 2003. In 2004/5, his uncle died of brain cancer, and in 2006, David’s brother Tom, a career Army officer, was killed in a tragic car accident at the age of 39. Many may have thought his life was horrible, unfair, and even hopeless, but David did not see things that way. A friend of mine once told me, “Perception is everything. The way you see things provides a completely different outcome to the situation you have been put in.” As I was listening to all of the “storms” David and his family had been through, they made me wonder how he saw things during such hard times.
My curiosity then led me to ask him how he knew everything was going to turn out just fine. He responded by saying, “I didn’t, but I knew these storms were blessings in disguise. The more blessed I was with life challenges, the more I experienced God’s presence and faithfulness in the midst of those storms. He provided me the faith to surrender and trust Him.” At some point in a person’s life, they have thought to themselves, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
While speaking to David, that question crossed my mind a time or two, and as we were talking, I asked him how he would respond to someone who asked him that question. He took some time, and then brought about a very interesting response, one I was not expecting. He said, “Storms are a part of life. Consider them blessings. Consider them opportunities to grow your faith. Consider them an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness, and embrace the storms, because they make us stronger.”
With that being said, David and I discussed a few more “storms” that he had encountered. In 2006, David’s brother, Dan, had a massive stroke at age 49, and in 2007, his wife Karen was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which she suffered for four years. While he and his family were dealing with his wife’s Lyme disease, David’s mother died a horrible death in 2008 from breast cancer and over radiation. Not long after, in 2009, Karen’s aunt, Elaine, “dropped dead of a brain aneurism on a Sunday morning in church while directing the choir.” About two years later, David became his brother’s care-taker for the next two and a half years. By the time November of 2013 rolled around, doctors had found three growths inside his son’s heart at age 31, and just a few months later in January of 2014, his son had open heart surgery at Mayo Clinic to remove the three growths that were found. A year later, David found himself back in the hospital, except this time his visit was not for a family member, but for himself. In January of 2015, he was treated with pre-cancer all over his head and face; on the 22nd of January, he suffered a massive heart attack, and 5 days later, on January 27th, he had open heart surgery followed by eight weeks of recovery at home. One would think that that might have been a lot to handle in one year, but the “storms” did not end there. Later in August of 2015, his nephew committed suicide.
The next few “storms” David and I discussed, brought us into present year 2016. As we spoke, I noticed that a few of the same people were involved in each of the storms more than once. Early in the year 2016, David’s son, Marcus, had radical surgery to remove yet another mass that had been found. Following his son’s surgery, was his wife’s surgery. Karen had shoulder surgery followed by 12 weeks of rehab. The last “storm” we discussed happened not too long ago. David’s cousin, Doug Voigts, was killed in a bike accident. I could not believe all the “storms” he had been through.
Yet, when people look at him, they see a strong, Christian man, who is troubled by nothing. As our conversation came to an end, he left me with some key lessons he learned along the way. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse goes hand in hand with the lesson’s David has learned throughout the past 18 years. I was given a list of lessons, but will only share a few. The first one being, “I have learned that God is always teaching me new ways to endure the storms of life. I have also learned that forgiveness ALWAYS brings peace, and that when I surrender, God reveals Himself to me.” He also said, “I have learned that when something is happening TO me, I can be sure that God is doing something IN me. I have learned that because I’ve survived many storms, I no longer need to fear the next one that will surely come. When things seem to be falling apart, that is when they may actually be falling into place.”
The next lesson he shared with me, was one that inspired me, and it says, “Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can survive a period of darkness with the hope of a new and beautiful life ahead with Jesus. Even though life can sometimes bring on the heat, I know who controls the thermostat.” This next lesson, many have heard, and many have said, “If life brings you to it, God will bring you through it.”
The last few lessons David shared with me, were personally my favorites. To finish up what he has learned through these storms, he says, “When life is more than I think I can handle, God’s grace is even more than I can imagine. He can take my mess and turn it into my message. It is through these “storms”, that I have learned when life gets too hard to stand, kneel and listen. This is where my faith has grown, and this is where I learned God truly is faithful, end of discussion!”
David Burrier has inspired my life beyond measures, but I know I am not the only one. Someone in particular that sticks out is Ernest Amstalden. Ernest is the pastor of Victory Christian Fellowship in Jewell, Iowa. He and David have been good friends since 2002. After speaking with David, I went on to have a conversation with Ernest about his relationship with David, and how he views him. I asked Ernest what his impression was before David shared his story. His response to me said this, “Without me knowing his personal story, I agreed to hold some evening meetings at Hope Ministry in Des Moines, leading homeless men in worship and preaching the Gospel to them. It was during those presentations that I found out how talented Dave was in the field of music. He is an excellent guitarist and a composer as well. Needless to say, we have a lot in common, and it only helped cement our friendship.”
I then followed up with a few more questions. The first question was simply asking what his impressions of David were after hearing his life story. He emailed me back saying, “My impression of him after hearing how God worked through the difficulties of his life, had not changed much. It was more of a confirmation of a man that has experienced the love and compassion of the Lord through all these trials. God put him into the perfect ministry; hope!” Ernest continued by saying, “Whenever you are connecting with another Christian brother, his life will impact yours somehow. Dave’s friendship with me has opened my
eyes to an area which I was not familiar with. Personal, physical and emotional challenges of such multitudes have never been a part of my life. Dave’s personal story has brought the compassionate and enduring side of the Christian life into new focus. These Godly attributes can be extracted from the Word of God, the Bible, yet experiencing them personally is definitely challenging your daily walk with the Lord.”
David has influenced the lives of many, but his story has impacted the lives of many more. If there is one thing anyone should take away from his story, it is this: Throughout life, there will be times of anger, deep depression, loneliness, and personal struggles to stay alive, but through it all, God will be there; trust Him. David Burrier has set an example for Christians all over. He allowed God to work through him his whole life and because of that, many lives were touched. Through the eyes of Ernest Amstalden, “David is a man who loves the Lord, who experienced God’s goodness and mercy, and is talented by the Lord to share his life experiences with others with an attitude of hope, love, joy, and peace. His walk with the Lord is not theological, but rather experiential. Christ lives His life through this man.”
Not many people are able to have such a positive outlook on life after having been to hell and back. Even though David had been through the worst of things, his faith and trust in God remains strong. He knows that through the Lord Jesus there is hope for a better and brighter future. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:6-8.