Published on NAMB.net (September 13, 2012) – click here for the original post
From Hurricane to Fenway Park
Sara Shelton is a writer for the North American Mission Board and covers the Northeast Region.
By Sara Shelton
North American Mission Board
God has a history of using a variety of means to move His followers along in His will. For Moses, it was a basket along the Nile. For Jonah, it was the belly of a whale. And for church planters Steve and Merri Brown, it was a hurricane.
Just last year the Browns were planning a weekend away from their home in Grand Prairie, Texas to a quiet vacation in Vermont. Tickets were booked and bags were packed when hurricane Irene suddenly came barreling towards the Northeast.
“The day before we were supposed to leave, the hurricane hit the East coast and derailed our entire plan,” Steve Brown recalls. He chuckles and continues, “Knowing what I know now, I realize that was the plan.”
With their destination in Vermont now in the eye of the storm, the Browns opted instead to spend the weekend in the city they were scheduled to fly into the next day: Boston.
“We didn’t want to lose our flights or our vacation so we decided to spend some time in and around Boston,” Brown says. “We hung out in the area for a few days and just really started to fall in love with the area. We had already been praying that we would be available as a family to do whatever God called us to and, in Boston, we started wondering if this was it.”
Their call was confirmed in Fenway Park. Attending a Red Sox game one night in the city, the Browns met another couple from Texas who had recently relocated to the northeast. Both Christians, the couple shared with the Browns their struggle to find a church home in the area.
“They expressed to us how hard it had been to find a church and connect with other believers. The need for the presence of a gospel-centered church is palpable in the city and, talking with this couple, Merri and I really felt like God was asking us to step up and meet that need.”
The need and culture of the Northeast is something Steve understands all too well. A native of New Jersey, he grew up attending church but never really connecting with the message being preached.
“I went to a church in a traditional, protestant kind of way. I heard all the stories and just believed I was ‘good.’ But when I got to college, I heard the gospel presented for the first time and I just realized, I’d been in church my whole life and never truly heard the gospel.”
As a student at the University of Oklahoma, Steve came to Christ. He soon met his wife Merri on a mission trip to Russia and the two were married the next year. Upon graduating college, the couple moved to Idaho where Steve was stationed while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Like many, he was deployed after September 11th.
“That environment was obviously really unique,” Steve explains. “When you’re put in a situation like that, people tend to talk more about spiritual things. It was surprising to me how many guys didn’t really know what they believed. And even more so, they never thought to go to the church to figure it out.”
It was there in the Middle East that Brown first felt a call to ministry. When his time of service was complete, Steve and his family made the decision to move back to Texas so that Steve could attend Southwestern seminary. Upon graduating in 2006, he took a position on staff at Inglewood Baptist Church.
“What I love about Inglewood is their commitment to missions. They are such a giving church and have really made missions and supporting missionaries the heartbeat of their church.”
When the Browns approached the team at Inglewood last year to tell them of their call to Boston, the staff was incredibly supportive.
“They didn’t see it as losing us; they saw it as sending us out. They are behind us 100%.”
The Browns applied for mobilization at the beginning of the year through the North American Mission Board and the Baptist Convention of New England and, just seven months later, moved their family to Stoneham, Mass., a suburb ten miles from Boston.
“We really have a heart to reach the families of the city and that’s what attracted us to Stoneham,” says Steve’s wife Merri. “There are great parks here and a zoo and a lot of things that would attract families to the area, but not one SBC church or even a strong evangelical presence to support them. That’s what we’re looking to be at our church plant, Wellspring Church.”
Though the couple is a least a year off from opening the doors of their church plant, they are spending time in preparation serving with Celebration Church, a suburban Boston church helping the Browns get connected to the people and the city.
“As we get established here in Stoneham, that church will help in supporting and sending us out to launch Wellspring Church,” Steve explains. “They want to build us up and go with us as we multiply and grow the church here.”
For now, Steve, Merri, and their kids Nathan and Cora are settling into Stoneham, acclimating to this new culture and setting to work building relationships within their community.
“The people we have met are friendly and welcoming, yet the challenge remains to encourage those we connect with to think beyond traditional religion. The need to communicate the gospel message here is great. We trust that as we go out in faith, God will respond in the hearts of the people of Stoneham.”
To follow the Brown’s journey in Boston, visit their blog at john414journey.com
Date Created: 9/13/2012 6:04:42 PM