So long, Don

by Keith Bassham

I said, “So long,” to an old friend earlier today. Former Assistant to the BBFI Mission Director Don Brown passed away a few days ago, and deadline or no, I felt I had to go to the memorial service and help with the sendoff. Of course, I did it for myself as I can think of no way my presence made his own current existence any brighter.

A few friends spoke of Don at the pulpit, but just about anyone there could have made a pretty good speech given the subject. My own speech, if requested, would have included a note from Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography of Robert E. Lee. Lee was, according to Freeman, “What he seemed, he was — a wholly human gentleman, the essential elements of whose positive character were two and only two, simplicity and spirituality.” Substitute faith for spirituality in that description, and you have a picture of Don Brown.

About the time Don was taking his first steps and getting to know his new celestial surroundings, I was speaking to some pastors in Illinois. One of the things I was preaching about (some might call it a rant) was our tendency to depend upon mechanics, proxemics, and technology, when the essentials of our calling could be done under a tree in the middle of a meadow.

And when I said that, my mind immediately went to a photograph we ran in the Tribune some time back — a photo of Don Brown with a couple of people in Ethiopia, sitting in simple chairs under a tree with some huts in the background.

So much of the time we forget that our organizations, techniques, institutions, and structures are nowhere defined so clearly in the Bible as we may think. But what we do, or at least what God intends us to do, is clearly there. Therefore, while God has not called many wise, mighty, or noble, I suggest He has also not called many flashy as well, and that’s how people like Don Brown get into God’s service and quietly make their marks on future generations.

My recent travels also brought me into contact with two other former Mission Office leaders, both still active and available for churches who want to give their missionary ministries a boost. Carl Boonstra and Bob Baird have spread the word for missions around the world several times over, and they bring decades of experience with churches and the Word. Having either of them will help a church and pastor. Neither is flashy.

I want to add my own thanks to David Melton, the staff, faculty, and the students of Boston Baptist College for their outstanding hospitality during our Fall Meeting last month. Our Fellowship is better for the experience, and the college family showed us what a relatively small group of determined people with a servant’s heart is capable of. Pastors and other ministers were treated as treasured guests, and if there were glitches and shortcomings, I was unaware.