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Of Character: Enid volunteer gives his life over to compassion

Don Burris 


Ever-expanding compassion describes Don Burris.

In 2010, Burris felt a calling to “stop living for myself and start living for Jesus.”

So first off, the motorcycle enthusiast from Enid joined the Christian Motorcyclists Association and the doors to other volunteer opportunities began to swing open.

Instead of wavering in his commitment along the way, Burris has looked into the face of that new way of life and embraced those who needed such pure compassion.

To whom do the faces belong?

Children, young and middle-age adults and seniors. Some are at schools, others at his church, in the corrections system or in nursing homes.

One of the faces was that of a man Burris met in a prison ministry.

Burris volunteers in Enid with the Garfield County Juvenile Detention Center and the Enid Community Corrections Center. There are many facets to his efforts, including visits to the centers, but one particular aspect especially fits Burris’ desire not to live for himself — he takes inmates to Emmanuel Baptist Church.

On Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, Burris, 52, picks up inmates who signed up to go to church at Emmanuel.

The Rev. Wade Burleson, of Emmanuel, said Burris, through the church’s prison ministry, picks up the men each Sunday and Wednesday, “brings them to church, and pours his life into them.”

“The really neat part of this ministry is the one-on-one conversations I have with these men while we are driving or during, between, after church services,” Burris said.

“Each one of these men are on a different path in life, and I provide a nonjudgmental atmosphere for them to share their most personal thoughts and feelings.”

While he’s met many men, one really impressed upon him the blessings of living unselfishly.

Burris witnessed to the man for about two years before the inmate was released. There were times Burris wondered if the inmate was serious about turning his life around, “but I was determined to put every effort I could into him in hopes that things would click.”

“One day he shared with me that God sent him to prison to keep him from going to hell; that he was self-destructing with drugs and the only way of getting sober was by his prison sentence,” Burris said.

In time, the man accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and after being released from state Corrections Department custody, joined Emmanuel.

On that Sunday, during his introduction to the church, the man asked Burleson to mention Burris as one of the three inspirational people that made a huge difference in his life.

“Watching this man progress on his spiritual journey just reaffirms to myself that I’m doing the right thing. I’m truly helping to make a difference in the lives of people that most of society would shun and never share any love with,” Burris said.

Sent to be an angel?

Burris’ volunteer efforts also led him to meet a senior woman who has influenced his perspective on life.

He met her during his service as a member of the Deacon Service Committee at Emmanuel.

In November 2013, Burleson sent out a request that a senior adult woman was in a nursing home and had no family in the state to visit her.

“That weekend I went to visit Mrs. S and soon found myself calling her and visiting her quite often,” Burris said of the 93-year-old woman.

He’s driven her from Enid to Oklahoma City for her appointments and occasionally will take her home-cooked meals.

“I’ve spent many hours praying with this lady and really enjoy the visits,” he said.

“Her mind is very sharp, and she has a strong desire to remain living as independently as possible. She doesn’t want to be a burden to others.

“Last month, she moved to what I believe will be her final nursing home, and upon my first visit, she had me rearrange her entire room.”

During another visit, Burris’ friend told him she couldn’t go on a bus trip the other residents of the nursing home went on because she didn’t have a winter coat.

“Needless to say, I left and bought her a coat and returned later that day to give it to her,” he said. “My wife and I have decorated her door for Christmas.

“She recently shared with me that at first she didn’t know why I was in her life, but now she knows that God sent her an angel to watch over her. She will now call me on my cell whenever she needs something or wants some company, which means more to me than I could ever express. These phone calls help me realize just how important my visits are to this lady.”

Bryan Painter

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