The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London, England, nearly 150 years ago. The organization has served Coastal Alabama for more than 125 years. The Area Commander is a London native and is here to serve on what he calls the front line. Major C. Mark Brown recently shared about why he wanted this assignment, his career and overcoming a personal challenge.
“Husband, father, grandfather, I am a Christian. The Salvation Army is my ministry. It’s my vocation. I was called to be a Salvation Army Officer almost 40 years ago, and it was a calling from God. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to serve people in his name in England and also here in America,” shared Major Brown.
Major C. Mark Brown is the officer in charge of the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama. Brown grew up in England as a Salvationist, a member of the Salvation Army’s ministry.
“In Europe, the Salvation Army is known more as a church, probably the same in Canada and Australia. But, here in America its known far more as a social welfare agency and the church side is lesser known,” said Major Brown.
As a teen, he was challenged to consider his future.
“A Salvation Army Officer in England said that every young man and woman who attended the Salvation Army as their church, should consider becoming a Salvation Army Officer, as they’re looking at their lifetime vocation. So, I could see myself serving as a Salvation Army Officer and I felt an empathy for people in need. And, I felt that something in my abilities I could help, so that in fact became my calling,” remembers Brown.
Brown’s calling led to several ministry experiences.
“Missionary service, I’ve served as a church pastor, I’ve served in social services running shelters in the United Kingdom. For a long time I ran the Salvation Army’s international media work. In 1992, my wife Susan and I came to America, and I actually ran the American Salvation Army Media Center for nine years. I was able through video and film and television, to tell the Salvation Army’s story. The resources here in America gave me a really well funded resourced platform to tell the Salvation Army’s story,” stated Major Brown.
He produced award winning work, communicating with millions worldwide, despite a personal frustration.
“One of my greatest regrets in life is not finding a way to overcome having a speech impediment. I find it an incredible frustration. It’s not something I lose sleep over. I have had therapy and when I really, really focus, when I concentrate, there are times when I can achieve fluency. But, when I become passionate, become emotional, start to focusing on the content rather than how I say it, then the impediment returns.
But, it’s an opportunity to show people who have a similar issue to handle, that it is surmountable. You can live a life, a full life, even though having something so frustrating,” reflected Brown.
In 2006, Major Brown’s second assignment to Texas, left him feeling honored and privileged.
“It’s the largest self, supported Salvation Army in the world. The Dallas Fort Worth command has about 400 employees, 74 programs, its the largest independent command in the world. It was a challenge, we found ourselves always working there, every weekend, every evening something was happening, at the same time we accommodated almost 2,000 men, women and children every night,” shares Major Brown.
As Area Commander, he developed a relationship and support from America’s Team and Jerry Jones.
“There was a great interaction with the Dallas Cowboys football team. The opportunity to meet all the players and have them come into our programs, serve meals, run camps for the kids. And, the Entertainers like Kelly Clarkson. She’s from Fort Worth, and she would come and take an interest in the children in our after school programs,” said Major Brown.
After Texas, Brown had another major assignment in Atlanta, as the Community Relations & Development Secretary for The Salvation Army’s U.S.A. Southern Territory. In that position, he was the Chief Development Officer overseeing a range of fund raising initiatives. He was also responsible for communications, public relations, website development, emergency disaster services, advisory organization development, and volunteer development. In the summer of 2012, Major Brown and his wife headed to Mobile.
“In the Salvation Army often husband and wife serve side by side. My wife Susan and I felt we’d served long enough in the sort of headquarters administration type role. We were looking for some challenges. My two grandsons live in Pensacola. So, we wanted to return to frontline Salvation Army work again. We’re seeing our clients, the people we work with everyday here in coastal Alabama. It’s a great area; we love living here. We see so much need, but also tremendous potential as well. We have lots of ideas for programs and expansion of the Salvation Army. These opportunities are only really available at a place like Mobile. Many of us are multi-tasking all the time, and I really enjoy helping, hands on, people who are need. Often many times I think that its only through where we’re born and into what family we’re born into, any of us could find ourselves in their situation. As you get older, as you mature, as you learn more, I think the tendency is to focus more on what is truly important in life. I feel I’m in a time in my life where I want to be involved with the frontline services. Here I am an administrator, I am a fundraiser. At 8.30 on Sunday morning I have a church service here, where I get to preach to 70 or 80 men who are in recovery. We have a great time, they enjoy it, I enjoy it,” shared Major Brown.
Major Brown’s grand children live in Pensacola and that’s another reason he and his wife Susan love it here on the Gulf Coast. He said one of the Salvation Army’s challenges is to help the community not fear the homeless. Major Brown believes that it’s only through where we’re born, and into what family we’re born into, any of us could find ourselves in their situation.