Missionary LaVerne Brown dies at 48

LaVerne Brown

LaVerne Brown

LaVerne Iris Brown, an International Mission Board missionary who shared the gospel among Sub-Saharan African Affinity Peoples in Africa and Europe, died Sept. 12, 2019. She was 48.

Brown first went to West Africa on a three-year assignment to teach missionary children in 2003 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,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood. “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.”

A cross adorns a hillside overlooking Marseille, France.

Brown’s cluster leader Jeremy Newborn said Brown 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,” he said.

Daren Davis, IMB’s affinity group leader for the Sub-Saharan African Affinity Peoples, said, “Laverne 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,” he added, “described Laverne as ‘my friend,’ brilliant, funny, and compassionate. She is dearly loved and will be missed by Africans and her mission family.”

Born May 27, 1971, in Lockney, Texas, Brown grew up on a small ranch outside Red Oak, Okla. She received the Associate of Arts from Carl Albert State College, Poteau, Okla.; the Bachelor of Science from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant; and the Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

When he said, “missions,” I felt something inside say “Go!”

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 she worked with 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.”

On Nov. 11, 2007, she was appointed to return to West Africa. She served 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.