By Irene A. Harkleroad
LaVerne Brown, an International Mission Board missionary with Arizona ties who shared the gospel with Sub-Saharan African affinity peoples in Africa and Europe, died from cancer at age 48 on Sept. 12.
Brown didn’t know when, where or how God was going to work in her life. She just kept moving forward.
She was 17 when she felt the Lord calling her to missions. She was 30 when He reminded her of that call. In those 15 years, she lived in Texas, Oklahoma then Ash Fork, Arizona. She had completed two college degrees, embarked on a career in early childhood education and managed the Ash Fork Head Start Program.
By age 32, she was an IMB missionary in Africa.
“She came to stay with her grandmother in Ash Fork,” said Charles Lord, pastor at the time of First Baptist Church, Williams. “She became a member and served along with her grandmother for about four years as a Sunday School teacher and worker.”
Brown put her degree in childhood education to good use, Lord said.
“God was steering her through His Word, our fellowship and the church,” he said. “During that time, she began talking to me about missions, and I started encouraging her to begin applying to the International Mission Board.”
For the Williams church, “it was exciting to be a part of that — to see her called overseas out of our church,” Lord said. “It was wonderful to see her step out as a single [woman].”
Brown first went to West Africa in 2003 on a three-year assignment to teach missionary children. She appointed to return 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. She served this affinity group for 15 years.
“LaVerne’s work was an example of the very purpose of the International Mission Board,” IMB President Paul Chitwood said.
“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,” said Jeremy Newborn, Brown’s IMB cluster leader.
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 were seen in the way she served and lived.”
Charles and Christie Lord remained in close touch with Brown. Two years ago, on her way to Arizona to visit her grandmother, she adjusted her travel so she could stay with the Lords in New Mexico for a week and share her experiences with the congregation of First Baptist Church, Silver City, where the Lords are currently serving.
“She was a dear friend and a great lady,” Lord said. “She was sharp, intelligent and spunky. God was always using her.”
—Baptist Press also contributed to this article.