Les Brown shares his journey
( image: Les reviewing design documents )
My interest in missions really started when I was a young child. I saw pictures and heard stories from missionaries who came to our church’s annual missions conference. Occasionally one would stay at our home while they were in town and I’d get to meet them up close and personal.
In my growing up years, I was most interested in building or repairing things that didn’t work. I enjoyed math and science, and loved mechanical drawing classes. I studied engineering in college. After graduating, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. I had several job opportunities with international corporations, but decided to stay at home in upstate New York and work for my Dad who was a mechanical contractor, designing and installing heating and air conditioning systems. I had the opportunity to attend the Urbana ‘79 Missions Conference and was really challenged by the speakers to consider serving the Lord in missions. However, I wasn’t sure how or where. I attended a session that addressed “Architects and Engineers in Missions” led by an architect from Missionary TECH Team. He told of the need for architects and engineers to design buildings for missions around the world. That was the first time I heard that engineers could be used in missions. That captured my interest! Later, I made a trip to visit friends in Texas and made a side trip to Longview to visit Missionary TECH Team. I spoke with Birne Wiley and Dave Carnahan about TECH and what being a missionary there really entailed. I learned that it was more than just wanting to design facilities. It also meant a higher level of commitment to serving the Lord and total dependence upon the Lord to provide financial support. It became evident to me that I did not have the level of spiritual maturity required for full time mission service. Therefore, I submitted information to become a part-time volunteer.
(Image: Less discussing project involvement with Jim Englund.)
Later that year I decided to move to Texas,near my friends in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and see if I could find employment in the then booming Texas economy. I found work with an engineering firm and settled there.
A year later I got a call from the Volunteer Coordinator at TECH, asking if I’d be willing to do the mechanical engineering design for a jungle hospital in Shell, Ecuador. Of course I would. He sent me plans, I did the engineering design, marked up the drawings accordingly and sent them back. That was the first of dozens of TECH projects I worked on over the next several years. I helped on projects for Wycliffe Bible Translators, JAARS, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Rio Grande Bible Institute, Word of Life Conference Center, and many others. It was a tremendous feeling, to be able to use my engineering abilities and be a part of the Team in meeting the facilities needs of these ministries. It was a real blessing to know that the Lord was using me to help meet the needs of other ministries.
My professional engineering career continued to develop as I did mechanical engineering design on large and complex building projects. In 1992, I became a founding partner in a new engineering firm that has enjoyed the Lord’s blessing and has grown steadily. At the same time, I continued to be drawn toward my volunteer missions work. I wondered if there was a way that I could increase my involvement, perhaps even to a full-time level. I just wasn’t able to find a solution to how I could make it all work, to meet the needs of my growing family, my career, and also be able to increase my involvement in missions.
I visited the TECH office again to meet with Birne Wiley. Perhaps he would know the answer. During our meeting in 2003, he said that it looked like the Lord was at work in my life, and that perhaps I should let the Lord provide the solution. That seemed to make sense to me. During our visit, he invited me to attend the next Board meeting for the Mission that would allow a complete picture of TECH, rather than the limited view I had from involvement in facilities design projects. Perhaps involvement on the Board would be a possible way to expand my involvement.
I attended the Board meeting in March of 2004 and did get a larger view of TECH and its inner workings and needs. One need I was drawn to was that for the past year, the Facilities Planning group had been without a resident Manager. Over the course of my career, I had experience in managing engineering projects, engineering departments, and an engineering company. Perhaps I could help in this area, but this would require more involvement than I could give as a volunteer in a location remote from the TECH office.
Then the Lord brought to my mind the new policy we had developed in our engineering firm allowing principals in the firm to take extended periods of time off. That provision allowed a principal to take off up to 40% of the regular work schedule. In my mind that could relate to two days per week. It seemed this was the opportunity for which I had been praying. Therefore, in June of 2004, I began to spend two days per week at TECH’s office. At the end of 2004, some of the other principals in the engineering firm expressed that they never intended the new policy to allow for this much time out of the office. They would not have objection to my continuing this work schedule as long as I stepped down from my position as principal, sold my ownership in the firm, and reduced my pay to a part-time salary. Believing that the Lord wanted me to continue my involvement with TECH, I made the necessary adjustments to my employment agreement, and have since continued my weekly involvement in the TECH office.
(Image: Les interacting with mission intern Juan Bastardo)
I’m thankful the Lord has given me opportunity to serve as a part time volunteer for nearly 35 years. The opportunity to put my engineering background and experience to work in serving the needs of other ministries who are serving the Lord all over the world is most rewarding!