If you’ve ever come to volunteer at VOM, it’s possible that you stayed in one of the Burton Swartz guesthouse apartments. But you may not know who Burton Swartz is.
Ten years ago today, Burton went to heaven. He was on his way to work at the VOM office when he was involved in a car accident involving a teen-aged driver. Nine years ago today, the Burton Swartz Memorial Guest House was dedicated. Inside each of the six apartments in that building is a plaque telling the story of the man whose name is on the building.
Today, as we remember Burton, we share the words on those plaques:
“When you were with Burton, it was like you were with Jesus.”
Burton Swartz (at left in photo) moved to Bartlesville in 1999 in order to work for The Voice of the Martyrs. When his son asked him if VOM was hiring, Burton said, “I don’t know. But if they just want me to volunteer to make coffee and sweep the floors, I’ll do it.”
That was Burton. If it needs to be done, I’ll do it. I don’t care who knows about it or who gets the credit. I’ll do it.
Burton’s work at VOM began in Reader Services, answering phone calls, letters and emails from our readers. Out of his ministry and communication with them grew BASIC Fellowship, a ministry for those who want to do more than just read the newsletter, they want to do something for our Brothers And Sisters In Chains. Burton became “Coach Burton,” working with Christians all across the U.S. to help them be effective ministers to the persecuted church. Burton’s final post at VOM was serving as Director of Voice Ministries, helping VOM tell the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters in churches across the U.S.
Two qualities that helped make Burton a great coach and a great coworker were his encouraging spirit and his never-ending ideas. Burton was a Barnabas, a “son of encouragement.” He always saw the best in people; he always had a compliment or a kind word. Burton also never ran out of ideas. He was always thinking of ways that VOM could reach more people, and ways VOM could help those people reach others and ultimately bless the persecuted church.
Burton’s missionary career didn’t begin at VOM. He served the Church of the Nazarene as a high school principal in Belize, Central America. He and his wife, Evangeline, served 19 years with World Gospel Mission, working in three of the mission’s U.S. offices. Burton and Evangeline also spent a year teaching English in Dalian, China. The quote that begins this article was made by a VOM board member, but it expresses the sentiments of many who knew and worked with Burton.
Burton was killed in an automobile accident on his way to work at VOM on February 24, 2005. His home-going celebration service was held on March 2, his 68th birthday.
Burton was survived by Evangeline; son Stephen and his wife Sylvia and their children Daniel, Michael, Joel and Julia; son Stewart and his wife Darlene and their son, Brandon Burton; and numerous other relatives.
This guest house was dedicated on Februry 24, 2006 to Burton’s memory and to those, like him, who simply want to serve the persecuted church.