LaVerne Brown, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary who shared the gospel among Sub-Saharan African affinity peoples in Africa and Europe, died from cancer at age 48 on Sept. 12.
Brown first went to West Africa in 2003 on a three-year assignment to teach missionary children, but returned as a missionary in 2007 to work among a large, unreached people group in rural West Africa. Her next stop: Europe, where she joined the work among the Sub-Saharan African diaspora in France.
“LaVerne’s work was an example of the very purpose of the International Mission Board,” IMB President Paul Chitwood said. “We grieve the loss of this colleague in our missions work, but we also know she is in the presence of our Lord, Whom she served in her work as a missionary sent by Southern Baptists. Please join me in praying for her family in Oklahoma in the days to come.”
Jeremy Newborn, Brown’s IMB cluster leader, said she spent much time ministering to the men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa who had migrated to France.
“She shared the Good News with the many Africans she met on the streets and also made connections with them through ESL (English as a Second Language) classes taught at a local church,” Newborn said.
Daren Davis, IMB’s affinity group leader for the Sub-Saharan African affinity peoples, said Brown “lived her life to make Christ known among West Africans in search of work and opportunities in Europe. Her commitment, tenacity and passion for the task was seen in the way she served and lived.
“A teammate,” Davis added, “described LaVerne as ‘my friend,’ brilliant, funny and compassionate. She is dearly loved and will be missed by Africans and her mission family.”
LaVerne Iris Brown, born May 27, 1971, in Lockney, Texas, grew up on a small ranch outside Red Oak, Okla. She received a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; a bachelor of science degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant; and an associate of arts degree from Carl Albert State College in Poteau, Okla.
After college Brown worked several years in early childhood education in Red Oak, Durant, and Ash Fork, Ariz.
Brown wrote when applying to serve with IMB that she first felt called to missions when she was 17. “I was in a service and the visiting minister asked for people to come forward who felt called to preach or do missions work. When he said, ‘missions,’ I felt something inside say ‘Go!’”
When Brown went to West Africa with IMB's International Service Corps, she spent two years teaching the children of a missionary family in Togo. But in her third year, political turmoil caused Brown and the family to evacuate twice to neighboring countries.
“The turmoil during my third year built my faith in God and proved that He was always there, even when we cannot see Him,” she wrote. “The experiences I had in Africa will never be forgotten. They have changed my life forever.”
She was appointed in November 2007 to return to West Africa, serving the Sub-Saharan African affinity peoples for 15 years before cancer forced her to return to the United States earlier this year.
A funeral for Brown was held Sept. 16 at Red Oak First Baptist Church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mary Jane Welch writes about missions and has edited missions publications and websites.)