Friday, September 25, 2015

An Open Letter to Vivian

As I sat down to write today I found myself in a somewhat unusual place -- at a complete loss for words.  Where do I even begin?

It is inevitable that people will come and go in your life.  Seasons change, and as they do new challenges, dreams and destinies emerge.  For me though, this change is extremely personal -- heart-wrenching really.  As Vivian has now retired from foster care, she and her husband will be moving away from North Texas, and from Heartland Church.

Vivian has been a fixture at Heartland Church for many years, although it is only in the last several that I have gotten to know her well.  During her time at HC Vivian has been, and really continues to be, the mother to literally hundreds of people -- having been a foster parent to hundreds of teenage girls over the years, the mother of her own children and a mother, sister and friend to many.

Although I doubt that Vivian fully grasps all that God has done through her, I can think of few people who have made a greater impact for the kingdom.  I am confident that an untold number of people with spend eternity with Jesus because of Vivian's obedience, not to mention the profound difference she has made in the quality of life of so many young women.  Our teenage years are difficult anyway, and it is hard to imagine what these girls would have done without Vivian's guiding hand and, often tough, love.

Vivian has been a regular on Wednesday nights for years now, and is not only a fixture but an integral part of the HC family.  She has been an incredible encouragement to me and my family -- celebrating with us in the victories, and standing with us in the darkest of days.  (I only hope, Vivian, that I have been there for you and your family as well.)

I will miss the smile and the hug every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night.  And I will always remember the huge heart -- the love you have for God and for other people.

What follows, Vivian, is a small glimpse of your life as told through your family, friends and some of your many daughters.

We love you deeply as a dear sister in Christ and will miss you terribly.  Of course, we hope, pray and expect that you will visit often!!

God bless,


*     *     *

For every Christian there are two words we all want the Lord to say to us and those words are, “WELL DONE.”  Knowing Vivian Strickland for almost 20 years there is no doubt but that some day she will hear those words spoken directly to her by our Lord.  However, in the meantime, I want to say for all of us here at A World for Children,  “WELL DONE, VIVIAN STRICKLAND” --  because you have lived a life doing well.  For these many years you have been the “POSTER MOM’ for our world.  Wherever we travel when the subject of fostering teen girls would arise, Sharon and I would always say, “ We have the very best mom who has dedicated not only her home, but her heart, her resources, her family, and her church to redirecting and  changing the lives of the dozens of young women who have crossed her threshold.” Of all of these young women who came into her home, not a single one has left unchanged and that change for the better. In that home they found, maybe for the very first time in their lives, someone who loved them unconditionally.  There were times when this love appeared to being given with no change in the one to whom it was being given, but Vivian left the changing up to God.  She felt confident in doing this because there was one requirement made of everyone coming into her home.  That requirement was they must go to church.  She had confidence, not only in God, but in her pastor and her church family.  And it never failed to work.  And then Vivian would simply say, "ain’t God good?  He never fails.”  And now that is why all of us here at A World for Children say, “WELL DONE, VIVIAN STRICKLAND.”  No words can say how much we will miss you.  But please know we all wish and pray for God’s best for you and your family because we know you deserve it for that is what you always gave.    

Love you, Vivian

Paul and Sharon Willis

*     *     *

Mamaw and papaw do so much for family and friends ! They are both truly a blessing to have !!! I know they will be missed but I am happy for new adventures for them !!! They will have so much freedom to be able to go an travel and do some fun things !!! Enjoy Mamaw and papaw you two deserve it !!!

Jennifer Strickland 

Sweet Vivian, I want to thank you for sharing so much of your self with us. I remember in Connect group the look on your face when praying for people, so much love just shines through you. You will be greatly missed. I love you lady!!!!

Sandy Cathey
*     *     *

I've had so many memories with Vivian over the years. For 12 years, we worked together hand in hand making a difference in the lives of the girls that stayed in her home through student ministry. I'll never forget early on in my ministry being so frustrated and shaken because of the stories that the girls shared with me, overwhelmed and unsure how to minister to them.

Vivian took me by the hand, looked me in the eye and said, "Dusty, these girls have been through more than you can possibly imagine. They don’t need you to feel sad for them. They need you to pastor them and show them Jesus." She showed me how to practice tough love and discipline with the girls that came through her home into our church--it was a lesson that I would often pass down with others as they would come through our ministry and get to know "Ms. Vivian's girls" as we would call them. Vivian has been a constant support to so many and she has been an encourager to me, often sitting near the back in a countless number of my messages in youth ministry, supporting our students by helping and serving at the drop of a hat. When I think back to 12 years working with students, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my top three memories will always be the opportunities for teamwork that I've gotten to share with Vivian Strickland. She has relentlessly supported, encouraged and mentored so many and the lives that she's changed cannot be put into words!  Thank you Vivian: I'm better because I've been able to serve Jesus with you! 

Dusty Dean 


I had the pleasure of working with Mammaw for over 8 years in the fostering world, the first few years working side by side as her Case Manager. I remember vividly telling others if I was a teen girl I would love to live at Vivian's home! I also remember her hospitality. Everyone loved having meetings at her home as we got a spread of treats! I throughly enjoyed seeing girls accomplish so much and graduate high school and be successful. She was very steady and never gave up on kids.. even if they didn't always show their gratitude. In the field of fostering we need more Foster moms like Vivian! She was able to provide a retreat for our struggling adolescents. She will be greatly missed, but no one deserves to retire and rest than this wonderful lady.

Much respect, love and honor.

Holly Scott

*     *     *

I first found out about Vivian when I was volunteering at Pathways at Teen Camp.  I was amazed to learn about a lady that took in so many girls to help them.  Over the years I have gotten to know Vivian better and I am blessed to know such a gentle and humble woman of God. Vivian, you are so loving and generous and the people of Heartland Church are better for knowing you and the many young women you have brought to church.  What a legacy! 

Becky Porter

*     *     *

Before I met the family that actually adopted me, there was another couple who wanted me, but I didn't want them. I remember I was so angry at myself because I didn't want to hurt them, so I was stomping around the house and was just being mouthy. Mamaw was like "What is your problem?" And I started crying and said "I don't want to be adopted by those people." At first she thought I was just being dramatic but then I looked her in the eyes and said "Mamaw, I'm serious." And all I remember after that is sitting in her lap just balling and she held me. I was 12 or 13 at the time and until that point no one had held me while I cried since I was 6 or 7 and still to this day no one has since.  I can't really express how thankful I am for you, because there aren't enough words to. I don't even want to know who I would be if you hadn't let me come live with you. I love you so very much Mamaw!

Cecilia Hames
*     *     *

There are too many to count... But my fondest moment was the day I left. She told me that she loved me very much and hopes I make it. That women is the only mother I have ever had. Because of her I can stand and be strong as a women should. She saved my life. She brought me God and that's all I needed. I love u mamaw and hope u and papa enjoy your retirement.

I love y'all.

Deanna Fulmer

*     *     * 

I remember when I first came to HC in the fall of 2011, I was amazed to hear of the ministry that Vivian had. And aside from what she does, I've loved her for who she is. Never once have I left a conversation with her, and not felt better about myself. She is an encourager. Her heart for others is so beautiful and a gift that not everyone possesses. Vivian, enjoy your retirement! You deserve it! We love you!

Karli Faulkner 

*     *     *

I recall Mrs. Vivian always being there and being someone you can count on for comfort and protection.

Jesse Hernandez 
*     *     *

I've known Ms. Vivian for about 6 years. She gave me a ride home the first time we met. I didn't realize it then, but this was soon going to become something that happened quite often. When Heartland moved from Irving to Carrollton, I was afraid that I wasn't going to have a church family anymore. I was new to the faith. I had only been a Christian for about 5 months. Fortunately, she was going to provide a shuttle as a means of transportation from Irving to the church. I always went with her and immediately grew close to her. She was one of the first Christians I was able to fully rely on and trust. When tragedy came for my family and I, she was the first person I called. She's never been hesitant to offer help. She's selfless, caring, loving, and someone I feel everyone should know. I love Ms. Vivian and am so grateful for all that she's done for me and my family. I think everyone needs a Ms. Vivian in their life.  

Chris Ontiveros

*     *     * 
I met Vivian Strickland back in 1997. She was my foster mom and gave me a forever family. She has never turned her back on me and continues to be a big part of my family. Shes loving, kind ,honest, and a great role model.  She has shown me to love and showed me how to be a mother to my daughters. I appreciate everything you have done for me and what you continue to do for me and my family. I am very grateful to have her as my “mom” and my girls as their maemaw!

Love you

Mona Rodriguez

Vivian was our Guardian Angel through our adoption process.  Without her we would have never had the doors opened that we did.  She will forever hold a special place in our entire family’s hearts.  We are so grateful for this wonderful woman and are excited for this next season of her life.  We know wherever she goes she will touch lives and make a difference.


Josh, Juli and Makayla Todd
*     *     *

Mamaw where do I begin to start with how much you mean to me. I don't want to think of where I would be without you in my life. You were and still are my angel here on earth. The day I walked through your front door my life completely changed. You were hard on me you loved me and you kicked my butt in gear and help me put my head on straight. You pushed me to be a better person and to strive for the life you seen I could have when I didn't. Having you as my MOM was the BEST thing that could ever happened to me and because of that I have an amazing family a loving husband and the most beautiful child in the world. I owe EVERYTHING in my life to you. EVERYTHING I've learned from you has helped me be a great Mom and wife. I always look up to you as my role model and my inspiration, I hope I can grow to be half the person you are. Words can't begin to describe the love I have in my heart for you, and you will FOREVER hold that spot. I love you now, forever, and for always. 


Jessica Ashcraft 

*     *     *

Miss Vivian is one amazing woman that made such a difference in our lives.  

Katongo family 

My fondest memory with Vivian was when my family and I would sit around the table with all the girls and just cut up.  We would laugh constantly at all the craziest things.

There were also times when we would have some serious talks and I could see how much she loved all the girls that was in her care. She really showed what a loving mother does best; sometimes tough love and other times really caring and comforting.

George Martinez 

*     *     *
Vivian, lovingly referred to as Mamaw has a special place in our family’s heart. Although her oldest son and I graduated High School together, it wasn’t until she started attending Christ Temple (now Heartland Church) that I came to know her personally.  At that time, the whole Martinez Family attended the church. George’s mom, dad and four brothers. One of his brother’s, Manuel and our sister-in-love, Amanda were trying to conceive for many years and couldn’t.  After years of treatment, they decided it was time to adopt. They weren’t sure that they wanted to adopt a baby so they decided to adopt a toddler / older child. It was important to them to keep the Hispanic heritage in our family. A lady in our church (her name slips me) introduced them to Vivian and told her that they wanted to adopt. At that time, Vivian had younger children in her care. She had the sweetest little three year old Hispanic girl named Kristen. She looked like our family. Manuel and Amanda began to inquire about her background and the process for adopting. They quickly realized that Kristen would be a great fit for their family and began the adoption / foster process. At the age of four, Kristen was officially part of our family. They had the daughter they always dreamed of having and we gained a niece.  Although Kristen didn’t have a great upbringing up to age three, she began to see what real family life / community should look like. Vivian was a huge part of showing this to her while in her care. If we had never met Vivian. If she hadn’t been obedient to care for these children that many others won’t / don’t care for, we wouldn’t have Kristen as part of our family. Kristen is now 20 years old, has her own apartment, she is working and going to college. We are forever grateful and thankful for a sweet lady, who had already raised her own children, decided to raise others. Not just any children but high risk, that many would  not have the patience to handle.  We are so thankful for this Godly, loving, willing lady who has spent much of her life pouring into others. We love you and will miss you Mamaw!  Happy Retirement! You deserve some relaxation.  P.S. Her email address says it best Mamawtoomany!

Cindy Martinez 

*     *     *

Ms.Vivian has always been a ray of sunshine. I know when I see her, I'll get a hug, and a positive greeting. I've watched her care for many young girls over the years. Most of them still consider her family. That is beautiful!  She is a great example of giving unconditional love. The self sacrifice she has shown is something we can all learn from. She is rich in love, personifies a servants heart, and is a women I deeply admire.  My memories of Vivian all relate to her taking care of others. Witnessing her pour into the lives of the countless young women she has cared for has always inspired me.  I'll miss her sweet hugs and encouraging words. I wish her well on her new adventure and pray the countless blessings she's given out return to her a thousand times over. 

I love you Ms. Vivian!

Cheri Duckworth

First of all, you an amazing Christian woman who will be missed by all from Heartland Church.  You may not realize it, but many of us are in awe over your commitment to God's work and your willingness to serve Him.  One of the very first things I noticed about you was your beautiful smile and kind soul.  I know you will be happy wherever you go because you bring happiness and comfort to others.

Mike and Marty Faulkner 
*     *     *

Jennifer,  my earliest memories of Vivian have to do with her and her girls. The whole group was preparing breakfast in the kitchen at the Irving church. I asked someone who was that lady with all those girls. I was simply amazed at the answer and have continued to be AMAZED at this women for years. I believe she will have a special crown in heaven for the love and care she has given to all her daughters. I love her and I love her spirit. I will miss seeing her beautiful smile!! I hope she comes back to see us often!!

Diane Hamill

*     *     *

I can't say I have just one fond moment  about Mrs. Vivian. She is an amazing woman with a bigger heart. She has been a mother to so many foster girls who needed a stable home to grow up in.  She not only was a mother but she always took the time to bring her girls to church so we could love on then as well. She is amazing and I will truly miss her not seeing her setting in her spot at church with you Jennifer. Thank you Vivian for all you've done to change the life of so many girls they will miss you. I pray for you in your new adventure in your life you so deserve it. PS.  I will miss your hugs. 

Love you,


*     *     *

Back several years ago I helped Vivian in the afternoon with the girls.  Would go and pick up the girls at school in the afternoon and stay with them until Vivian got home.  Vivian and I became good friends and every once in a while we would just go to her room and talk about how everything was with the girls and how it was going.  There were times we just shared together about her life and about mine.  If I ever needed to talk to her about something she was always very loving and understanding.  Just loved all the girls and helping out with them.  I loved driving her Ford Excursion to pick up the girls at school also did a lot of other driving for her and the girls also loved doing that.  She really let me know to make myself at home and anything I wanted to eat or drink to welcome myself to it.  The memories of spending time with her and the girls will always be a special time in my life.  Love her very much and she holds a special place in my heart for the love she always showed me. 

Nell Skidmore 

*     *     *

My fondest memory of Mamaw and Pawpaw is when I first arrived at their house. I was there for about a week and Ms. Pam the home manager at the time was trying to see if I wanted to remain at the Strickland’s or go to another one. This instance was one of three times I was asked what I wanted to do while being in foster care. One evening Mamaw (Vivian) set me down and said that she had been praying and felt that I was here for a reason. Mamaw didn’t know at the time about my faith. What she didn’t realize is that I too had been praying for the right place to be; a place that I can call home and have a family. That night before I went to bed I felt that God was telling me that Yes this was the place that I was supposed to be. I felt such peace. The Strickland’s didn’t know at the time that they would take in a daughter for life for they are truly my family. I am truly honored to call them Mom and Dad.

Clovis Pullins

You have been the best role model We could ever ask for .. The way you care for your family and provide for us is something we could never thank you enough for . You give all of your self to any and everyone around you and that right there is a direct reflection of how amazing you truly are. Words could never describe the piece of our hearts that you hold but we feel you with every beat of it. You are such a blessing in our life and we are so grateful to have you in it .
Ariel, Brooklynn and Jordan
*     *     *

One of my fondest memories of Vivian was when I was visiting her in the hospital several years ago.  I really didn't know her that well at the time, but after being there for a few minutes and praying with her, I realized what a strong and kind woman she was. She and her faith left a huge impression on me. I was there to pray for her and before I knew it she was ministering to me.  Her words of encouragement and her faith gave me the strength that I needed at that time.  I will always cherish that moment. I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit right there as we prayed.  It was very special to me.  There are so many wonderful things that I could say about Vivian Strickland!  She is beautiful inside and out and she has a heart of gold. What I love most is the fact that she never gave up on her mission to take care of "the girls" that God put in her path.  She has dedicated her life to serving and helping so many, but most importantly, insisting that they all have the opportunity to be involved in a loving church where they can learn about their true identity and how much God loves them.  By laying a good solid foundation of faith and providing a loving and safe environment I know that every child that has been in Vivian's care will forever be changed.  Thank you, Vivian, for giving your life to serve so many. You inspire me! I am so excited about your new chapter and that you get to retire and enjoy the country with your hubby!  It's time to make new memories and live it up!  I love you and know you will come visit often!
Katy Marrs Williams

My rock, my sister, my mom, my friend.  My encourager, my accountability.  My cheerleader, my prayer warrior.  You are so many things to me.  I am so excited for you and Wesley on this new journey, yet, will miss you being so close and always having you to my right in the church.  I will miss my daily "how was your day" as o walk in to your room and my "hey haas" or "how's Eric" as I walk from the car  past Wesley in to the house.  You have been with me through my deepest heartaches and most joyful moments.  You have been by my side as I have grown  from one person into another.  Thanks for sending me to my room to pray (lol), holding me accountable, being honest when I've lost my mind (teehee), sharing your home, sharing your girls and sharing you life with me.  I reflect back on the time we met.  I thought you were too amazing to want to be connected with me and you thought I saw myself as too good for you.  Ha!  Who would have thought we would become roommates.  I walked into your house with such passion for the girls and never left.  A journey that began with my empathy for the girls and their stories leading me to being there friend and easily manipulated.  A common theme in my life in that day.  Watching you and learning to build a  backbone, I became a healthy mentor in their lives holding them fully accountable regardless of their anger toward me. Little did I know, that would change my life forever.  This experience gave me the strength to stand up and be more of the mom I was intended to be.  Although, accountability with Eric is no longer a part of my responsibility to a point, it taught me to teach him how to treat me during a critical time in our lives which in turn has now empowered our relationship.  Those experiences taught me that I cannot save the girls and more importantly, I could not save Eric.  When I came to this understanding and let go, Eric has received the "freedom to fly". Thank you Jesus!  Something I will be reminded of regularly as the non-profit soars with Jesus vision.  As if that wasn't enough, I used those experiences in Celebrate Recovery and the prison ministry daily.  Thank you for loving me through the most traumatic events of my life. You have been there in more ways than I can say.  
I love you.  


Anonymous said...

Vivian ,you are beautiful inside and out. You make such a impact on family and friends. Love you so much words can not tell you enough! I ask you time and time again why you kept all those girls, you said it was your calling. I see what you have done for all those girls I can see your reward you have really inspired their lives with love and most important Jesus. Love you so much Looking forward to your new journey and spending some time with you Becky

Anonymous said...

I can't thank her and her husband for all they have done for me.. Accepting me in to their home was a blessing.. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.. Living with her and learning from such a wonderful woman for 3 years was a huge blessing.. She never gives up no matter what the situation is she will always be there to help you in any way she can.. She's a true woman of God and I love her so much.. Thank you mamaw for being my MOM Figure for those 3 long amazing years.

Arleen Ruby

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