Unless you are from the state or remarkably familiar with Sam Walton, you are probably not familiar with Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Located in this small town in the Heartland Conference is Frontline Ministry Church. What started as a small house church has grown into their third location in 14 years. Throughout that time, and into the future, Senior Pastor Debbie Burpo strives to bring the King into Kingfisher daily.
Debbie and her husband, Tim, were born and raised in Kingfisher boasting 4 generations within the community. This year, they celebrated 50 years of marriage and are proud parents to 5 daughters, grandparents to 9 grandchildren and have 3 great-grandchildren!
Debbie is a Southwestern Christian University alum, and it was in college that God began the idea of church planting. She and her husband planted Frontline together. Tim retired from working in the oil field, and he has been a part of their ministry from the beginning. “He’s our intercessor: praying over our ministry, family, and community,” Debbie says about her husband.
Frontline Ministries, as the name implies, are at the forefront of outreach within the small town. When people come through and ask for help, everyone says, “send them to Frontline.” Kingfisher has a lot of transient individuals and is sadly a battleground for drugs and addicts. Debbie and her church work diligently to offer these people hope through Jesus with a faith-based 12-step program and help in whatever way they can including transportation to other resources.
Focusing on the “messy” parts of ministry is what Debbie thrives on. She believes in those who struggle with addiction, financial difficulties, or anything else knowing that others do not always want to deal with these kinds of issues. “That’s just who we are,” she declares. She wants to “recreate discipleship in Frontline by creating that atmosphere for younger generations and for those who come with no depth.” Frontline Ministries also offers unique opportunities for their people to grow with the Lord including midnight prayer meetings and “church at the lake.”
To help serve these people and Kingfisher, the Lord put on their hearts to build a Family Life Center, not only that, to do it debt free. It has been 5 ½ years, and they are slowly making progress. People who are not even a part of Frontline Ministries are donating, and they have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars debt free. “The Lord is faithful,” Debbie shares. Other churches and the community validate what Frontline Ministries does through networking and partnerships, including community events.
Philippians 4:13 has guided her throughout life, but especially in 1994 when her daughter was hit by a car and almost died. She held onto faith, and her daughter survived. Two of her children also suffered with drug addiction, and God has since “brought them around.” With all of this, as a leader, Debbie is transparent about her own experience. “The same problems hit our house as everyone else’s,” she declares, and she encourages others to “go see God at the foot of the cross” when things get tough.
With life’s and ministry’s disappointments, there have been times Debbie felt she had “plateaued.” However, she participated in IPHC’s Thriving in Ministry cohort as a mentor and was rewarded: the program helped her tremendously. She also has a special heart for women’s ministry and women in ministry. Ministry can be lonely and especially hard for women when trying to connect with one another, so she wants to continue to help others while helping her community.
As a pastor and city commissioner, God has opened doors for Debbie to serve Kingfisher “Regardless of the path God sends, there is always hope and possibility. Don’t quit when things get hard. There will always be obstacles, but don’t quit before God says,” she encourages.