Merwin and Jean Burman were married for 71 years and devoted their lives to planting Baptist churches. They passed away a month apart; Jean on Dec. 24, 2008, and M. O. on Jan. 27, 2009.

Merwin Orin Burman was born on March 29, 1916, in Waverly, Iowa. He was saved as a child through the testimony of a teacher in the one-room school he attended. Graduating from Waverly High School in 1934, he spent the next few years farming with his father and waiting for his bride.

Jean Burman was born on March 20, 1919, in Centerville, Iowa. At the height of the Great Depression—when she was 11 years old!—she began working at the Maid Rite sandwich shop in Waverly, where she continued to work until she graduated from high school in 1937. She caught M. O.’s eyes when both attended the youth group at First Baptist Church in Waverly; they were married on Thanksgiving Day 1937.

M. O. studied at Omaha Bible Institute (now Faith Baptist Bible College) in Omaha, Neb., then Wartburg College in Waverly; and in 1944 he graduated from Baptist Bible Seminary, Johnson City, N.Y. After a pastorate at Bible Baptist Church, Floris, Iowa, the Burmans began a church-planting ministry, serving with Fellowship of Baptists for Home Missions (1946–1985), Baptist Mission of North America (1985–1990), and Baptist Church Planters (1990–1998).

The Burmans had a special passion for planting churches in “forgotten” places: the ranch lands of Montana, the small Iowa farm towns. By the end of their ministry, they had planted 10 churches and worked to rescue 12 others. The Burmans had a firm conviction to plant Baptist churches supported by Baptist congregations and organized by Baptist mission boards. And they were loyal supporters of this magazine.

“Mrs. Burman and I usually subscribe to the Baptist Bulletin for all the active families as a Christmas gift to the people the first year we are in a new church,” M. O. wrote to us in 1964.

Later in life, M. O. Burman served as representative for several church-planting mission boards, including field director for Fellowship of Baptists for Home Missions, field director for Baptist Mission of North America, representative for Mid-Continent Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and a representative for Baptist Church Planters.

The couple is survived by three daughters, Faith Sanchez, Bonnie Taylor, and Judy Parmerlee; three sons, Donald, Richard, and David; 17 grandchildren; and 32 great-grandchildren.

“I am not an eloquent speaker, I cannot sing, but I love people,” M. O. would tell his children, who do not recall their father being interested in hobbies, sports, or any other activity that would distract him from his life of service. “If God can use me, he can use anyone,” M. O. said.

Funeral services were held Dec. 29 and Jan. 31 at First Baptist Church, Waverly, Iowa. David Burman, pastor of Brown Street Baptist Church, Alton, Ill., led both services. A memorial service was held Feb. 7 at Morning Star Baptist Church, Rockford, Ill.

Memorials may be directed to Baptist Church Planters in Elyria, Ohio.

Tribute from John Greening

In January, a U.S. Airways pilot saved 155 lives by ditching his plane in the Hudson River. He was rightfully declared a hero. But to me, the man whose memory we honor today, M. O. Burman, though not receiving extensive recognition or notoriety, is more worthy of the title “hero.”

The Lord used M. O. to plant 10 churches and to rescue 12 other churches. His humble service and faithful teaching laid a solid foundation on which to build. He recognized the Lord’s ownership in those ministries, freely entrusting the churches into the Lord’s care and calling of the next pastor. It was on the backs of men like this that the GARBC was built.
M. O. personified the essence of ministry as a helper of missionaries, mission churches, adults, and young people. He and his wife, Jean, raised a fine family who became servant helpers as well. M. O. was loyally committed to our fellowship of churches. His life served as a role model for fellow pastors—one of glorifying Christ and drawing many to know the Savior.

Ten Churches Started by M. O. and Jean Burman

First Baptist Church, Ekalaka, Mont.

LeClaire Baptist Church, LeClaire, Iowa

Immanuel Baptist Church, Newton, Iowa

Bethel Baptist Church, Iowa Falls, Iowa

Faith Baptist Church, Fort Dodge, Iowa

East Side Baptist Church, Milwaukee, Wis.

Meadowood Baptist Church, Madison, Wis.

Calvary Baptist Church, Norfolk, Neb.

Faith Baptist Church, Carroll, Iowa

Faith Baptist Church, Lathrop, Mo.