By Darrell Todd Maurina
A Spanish-speaking pastor raised by missionaries in Central America will be the first executive director in charge of turning the abandoned Clovis Memorial Hospital into a community ministry resource center.
The steering committee for the Matt. 25 project voted Monday night to name the Rev. Steve Brown, 37, a licensed pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, to head up the project. In addition to nearly nine years of pastoral experience, Brown has spent 17 years working in the construction industry doing both new construction and remodeling work, and completed a journeyman apprenticeship in painting and allied trades.
“I’ve been in the remodel business specifically for the last 10 years,” Brown said. “That’s where I came into the picture — to be able to remodel the old hospital and visualize what it will look like was one of the keys for hiring me.”
Brown said he’s spent many years working in part-time ministry with Hispanic congregations of the Church of the Nazarene while working in construction and later becoming a self-employed contractor. Brown said he pastored a Kansas church from 1995 to 1996, served as music minister of Amistad Cristiana in Amarillo until 1998, and from April 1998 to June 2002 did Hispanic ministry at the North Beacon Church of the Nazarene in Amarillo. Seven months ago, he accepted the pastorate of Iglesia del Nazareno in Garden City, Kan., where he has been working in the construction industry.
Brown said his Garden City congregation wasn’t happy to see him leave but understood he had a rare opportunity to combine his love for Christian service and skills in construction.
“I would not do this under normal circumstances,” Brown said. “It involves the ministry and building skills I have and I can put them together. This allows me to do both in one job instead of having to do both in separate instances.”
The co-chairman for the Matt. 25 Hope Center steering committee, Clovis builder and businessman David Petty, said Brown’s name came to the attention of the committee because he had worked on mission projects in Latin America several years ago with the former interim pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in Clovis.
“We’ve never done something like this before so we need to get as much help as we can,” Petty said. “One thing that helps is this young man likes doing these things and is used to doing construction. That will help a lot.”
Committee member Tammy Willard, owner of Master’s Christian Store, said Brown’s enthusiasm was what convinced her to offer him the job.
“People will be ministered to as the body of Christ comes together with one common goal: to renovate the building for the Hope Center,” Willard said. “We hope to reach out to those people and become a vital part of that neighborhood.”
Steering committee co-chairman Sid Strebeck, owner of Bailey-Strebeck Jeep Mitsubishi, said a number of local businessmen who want to remain anonymous have arranged to pay Brown out of funds raised separately.
Forty local donors have agreed to pay $100 per month toward Brown’s salary and expenses. The resulting $48,000 per year will be used to pay Brown’s salary, insurance and other expenses.
“We want to make sure that nobody who gives money to the Matt. 25 Center feels they are paying staff,” Brown said. “There won’t be any confusion that if someone sends a check to Matt. 25 it will go to the project, not administrative expenses.”
Strebeck and other steering committee members said no decisions have yet been made about what ministries should go into the old hospital building, but if those ministries include a homeless shelter, steps will be taken to prevent attracting crime to Clovis.
“Absolutely because we live in this community we want to do everything to make it a better place to live, not a worse place to live,” Strebeck said. “We’ve gotten that warning from just about everyone we talk to, but we’ve also gotten the assurances that if we do things right we won’t have a problem at all.”