Wichita Falls grad keeps region connected to 9-1-1
Most of the people that live in the North Texas region surrounding Wichita Falls don’t know Tim Bryant. But they are unknowingly grateful for him just the same.
Tim is a 2005 graduate of the Wichita Falls campus and the director of 9-1-1 services for the NorTex Regional Planning Commission. In that role since August 2017, Tim oversees the department that ensures that the approximately 77,000 residents in the nine-county region have the services they need in an emergency.
“We provide the infrastructure that gets the 9-1-1 call from your home or cell phone to the appropriate call center, then the equipment to answer that call once it gets there,” he explained. “We also provide the data needed to display where the call came from.”
Though it happens in a split second for callers, the process of the 9-1-1 routing is a little more detailed than most people realize. When a call is placed, dispatchers at the various call centers – typically located in sheriff’s offices or police stations depending on the city – see a phone and an address or location of origination. Land lines are a bit easier since they are tied to a specific address and maps easily through the system. Cell phones are a little more complicated since they must ping off a nearby tower and create a GPS code for the location based on information provided by the cell phone providers.
“Most of the calls today – nearly 80 percent -- are placed by a mobile device. And there are a lot of rural places with sparse coverage, but it’s getting better,” Tim noted. “The technology we have is indescribable; every year there is something new. The way we collect the data now is light years ahead of what we were doing in 2005.”
While Tim offices out of Wichita Falls, his service area does not include the city (or any of Wichita county) nor Wilbarger county adjacent to it. His region covers Paducah to the west and Montague county to the east. Wichita and Wilbarger counties are covered by a 9-1-1 communications district that provides the same services as NorTex.
An important role
Tim’s current role involves primarily managing the funding side of the operation, covered in large part by a state grant. He also manages a small staff, attends meetings and travels to Austin frequently for meetings related to the state grant. When new technology is released or new aspects are added to the program, Bryant is there to implement those in the call centers connected to the NorTex region.
“The newest thing is text to 9-1-1, and there are several scenarios where that is important,” he said, noting emergency situations where the victim cannot speak as one. “It’s a huge deal for the hearing impaired, since there’s no need for a specialized (TDY) phone. We rolled that out the first of (2019) and a great amount of Texas is already doing it.”
Tim promoted into the directorship after spending 12 years in the office as a GIS specialist. Those individuals are responsible for collecting the geographic data to add to the 9-1-1 system when a new house or business is constructed or a new road is added. Tim said he frequently made trips all over the region for that purpose, and while he travels still it is not as often as in his previous job.
“I enjoy this because it’s a public service, and we’re helping people when they have a need, whether their house is on fire or it’s a domestic violence situation or their neighbor’s dogs are barking. I am in a position to provide the network of services and infrastructure that allows that to happen,” he says. “Then I get to visit with dispatchers from throughout the region and the state and hear their stories and learn how to do this job better.”
The Wayland journey
The work with NorTex came just as Tim finished his Wayland degree in Wichita Falls, a pursuit he had begun decades earlier at the Plainview campus.
“I managed to cram 4 years of college in 35 years,” laughed Tim. “I came to Wayland in 1970 because they offered the most scholarship money. I was a music major and aspired to become a college choral director.”
While at Wayland, Tim and his roommate, Jeff Messer, were involved in SCOPE, a program that sent students into area churches to preach and lead music for services. Tim said he intended to finish the degree but went to work for Firestone while in school and was offered a job in Hobbs, N.M., and moved for the opportunity. He met his wife there in Hobbs and worked for the tire company for 20 years overall, ending his tenure with a position in Wichita Falls.
He then took a job as a food service director with the criminal justice department, then the facility closed. A Workforce in Action grant provided funds to help him finish his degree at the Wayland campus there, and he earned the degree at age 55. He was working for the police department in dispatch when the opportunity to join NorTex came around.
Tim has other Wayland connections, including his brother Travis Bryant and wife Cathy, who both graduated in 1983. He stayed in contact with Messer, who officiated Tim and wife Lynn’s wedding as the first of many in his years of ministry.
While Tim enjoys his rewarding job, he has stayed active in music since those early days on the Wayland campus. He’s been involved in church choirs over the decades, and he is a member of Bravo!, a men’s choral group in Wichita Falls that performs several times each year. He and Lynn, who is retired from the attorney general’s office, have two grown children and three grandchildren.
Lifetime missionary writes book on walking with God
After 37 years of international missionary ministry, Dr. Alvin (Al) Gary surely has some stories to tell. So it’s no surprise that Al was able to compile a lifetime of service into a new book that details not only the adventures of missions work but the lessons learned from God along the way.
A 1966 graduate of Wayland, Dr. Gary published From West Texas to the French West Indies and Back Again in November through Xulon Press. The book is available through Amazon.com or through Gary directly. Those interested may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al married fellow Wayland student Judy Bergstrom in 1967, then went on to earn Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southwestern Seminary. He surrendered to the call to foreign missions his senior year at Wayland and pastored in Fort Benton, Mont., and Evant, Texas, before going to the mission field.
Both children of pastors, Al and Judy were appointed missionaries through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1972, spent a year in language school, then served 36 years in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. They served as field evangelists, and spent the last ten years starting house churches among professionals, building relationships to share the gospel.
Al and Judy retired in 2009 and moved to Lubbock, where he pastored an international church until 2018. Over the past five years, Judy has progressively declined in her health due to Alzheimer’s disease. This prompted Al to pen their story.
“After Judy became ill, I had a desire to write our story. I wanted to write something that would have meaning even to those who do not know me, so each book chapter presents a life lesson, supported by a devotional writing and illustrated from our life experience,” he explains. “Judy was always so good at doing missionary presentations, and this book is a way for her to continue telling our story, even though she has not been able to talk in over two years.
“Another reason for writing, which all Christians share I’m sure, is that God has been so powerful in His revelations to us, and His activities through us, which makes me feel like Peter and John in Acts 4:20: ‘We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
Woven through the 218-page book are stories from the Bible that illustrate a life of walking with God, trusting Him for each move, and the life lessons the couple enjoyed along their own journey in missionary service. Drawing on the brief biblical story of Enoch, Al explores what it means to walk with God like Enoch did.
“What must it mean for a man to walk with God in a way that this would be the defining description of his life in the words of holy scripture? We have another clue as to what it means to walk with God in such a way: ‘he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.’ (Heb. 11:5b),” Al says. “Walking with God is to live a life that pleases God! I can only imagine what Enoch’s life looked like and hope that my life has resembled his in this one way: that I would be remembered as a man who walked with God!”
Al said his hope is that the book with encourage and inspire readers to follow the plan that God has for their own lives, which is part of the greater plan God has for all mankind.
Devotional: Love should motivate following Christ
What is our motivation for following Christ when the sacrifice or suffering seems unbearable? Do we have a prize waiting for faithfulness? Indeed we do, but I am afraid some miss the point when we say that our hope is heaven, a place with jeweled mansions and streets of gold, if we neglect to think on what that means.
Ephesians 2:19-22 tells us that the members of the church "are being built together into a dwelling place for God" on Christ our cornerstone (see also 1 Peter 2:4-5) and on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Revelation 21 is an echo of this metaphor, as we are told in verses 2 and 9 that the New Jerusalem is the Bride of Christ. Verse 14 particularly echoes the language of being built on the foundation of the apostles, and verses 2,3, and 22 emphasize that this is the dwelling place of God, though the imagery is changed to a city to emphasize the scale of the Church.
Paul gives us the application for this metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3:9-16 – that the beauty and value of the materials of the building are our works, what we did with the Gospel and how we edified our brothers and sisters. He includes a warning that it is quite possible to build worthlessly, to lose our work and be saved only "as through fire" (v.15). The admonition, then, is to live in such a way as to become the beautiful temple of gold and jewels built on Christ.
These passages have particular significance to the interpretation of John 13:31-14:21. Christ is going to His glory on the cross (13:31-35), and though his disciples were troubled that Jesus said Peter (and by extension all the disciples) was not ready to join Him yet (v.36-38), Jesus tells them why they should not let their hearts be troubled. If you do a search, you will find that in the Bible, the "house of God" is always either the OT temple or the Church. Thus, in saying, "In My Father's house are many dwellings," consistency with the rest of the biblical terminology would identify this as the same temple, that is, God and us abiding forever together. Thus, though Jesus knew that Peter was about to fail in his promise to die with Him, Jesus gives hope to the disciples that they will attain to union with Him in His suffering and therefore His glory (cf. Rom. 8:17).
This connection between suffering and our hope of glory is beautifully explained in Philippians 3:8-14. In losing all we had, we gain all that Is. In sharing in His suffering, we become like Him. In dying with Him, we join His resurrection.
Do we have a prize awaiting us? Our prize is the presence of Christ, when He takes up residence in us, His temple, filling us completely with His glory. All the gold and jewels in heaven are what we become when He fills us.
What is our motivation for following Christ into sacrifice and suffering? What was His motivation? Love.
JennyBeth Alford Gardner earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in English is 2009 and was one of 20 Centennial Scholars. She is a curriculum writer for TEN3 ministry serving the African team from her home in Abernathy, Texas. She and husband Kenneth, a 2002 graduate of WBU, have two sons: Nathanael, 2, and Luke, 3 months.
From the History Files
Around 76 years ago, World War II pilot William T. Alford and his crew took their shiny, new B-24 aircraft up for its virgin flight from Kansas to England. The first lieutenant from the 788th Squadron was one of many pilots in the wartime troops. But he was one of the few who brought a little Wayland spirit to his role.
Alford, who attended Wayland during the junior college years from 1938-40, was just 22 when he decided to bring some of his alma mater with him to the war effort.
"Each pilot was permitted to name his airplane. The mascot for the little junior college -- Wayland Baptist College -- was the jackrabbit, so I named my airplane the Wayland Jack Rabbit," wrote Alford in his memoirs. "When the artist painted the side, this big jackrabbit was carrying a bomb, and it was printed on the bottom 'to Hitler.' We were going to fit the name of the Jack Rabbit and Wayland Baptist College on there, but we didn't have the space, and I didn't have enough money to pay the artist, so we abbreviated the whole thing and just put Wabbit. That was the nickname for the mascot back at Wayland."
Alford flew the Wabbit first in winter 1943-44 to its new home base in Rackheath, English. Then in spring 1944, 467th Group Commanding Officer Col. Albert J. Shower chose to pilot the Wabbit (with Alford's crew aboard) as the lead plane on the Group's maiden bombing mission into central France. During the following months, as they flew numerous combat missions both together and apart, Alford was promoted to captain and the war-weary Wabbit became something of a maintenance nightmare. But Capt. Alford and any others considered her a lucky plane.
While Alford was moved to another base and left the Wabbit behind, he would fly the "lucky plane" once more in early spring 1945. The West Texas boy made a harrowing takeoff from a Wales sheep pasture on the Wabbit, which had landed precariously on autopilot after its crew made an emergency bail-out. Rather than leave the plan to be salvaged, Alford flew the plane alone and in secret back to Rackheath. The appearance of the plane remained a mystery for 62 years until Alford shared the secret.
Capt. Alford was discharged from military service 1945 and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals. He married Wayland classmate Thelma Jo Shaw in 1942 and they were married 57 years until her death in 1999. Alford died in 2008.