Walter Brown is a 2016 graduate of Trinity Baptist College and an Army Veteran who served in the Iraq War.
Walter is also a bi-vocational pastor who balances his pastoral responsibilities at the New St. James Missionary Baptist Church (St. Augustine, FL) with a career as a respiratory therapist for the Mayo Clinic health system.
His work as a respiratory therapist has placed him on the front lines of the war against the COVID-19 virus.
We were privileged to hold an interview with Walter this week.
What led you to the pastorate at New St. James Missionary Baptist Church?
After attending a family and friends’ service at my church, my pastor handed me the name of the church on a sticky note as a potential place to look in to. I didn’t think much of it at first and simply put the note in my pocket. I later found the note when doing laundry and put it on a dresser. I came across the note again about a month later.
One day, while attending TBC, I was in a Johannine Writings class with Dr. Christmas, and he was teaching about James, the brother of Jesus. The church name “James” resonated in my mind during his lecture. I called my brother and asked him to visit the church campus with me. I met a church-member who showed me the campus, and I attended a service the next Sunday.
Eventually, I was asked to preach. Following that service, I was asked to preach again. This was all happening during my last year at TBC. Just to show how God works, before that school year started, I made the commitment to graduate that year. This would mean working full-time and taking 15 credit hours in a semester. I remember going to an English class and thinking that this sort of load wouldn’t be possible. But, I believed God was telling me to keep pushing forward, so I did.
After committing to graduating that year, I later found out that a requirement for the pastoral position I was being considered for was to be a graduate of an accredited Christian college. The position wouldn’t have been possible if I had not made the commitment to finish up.
I finished my degree with TBC in 2016, continued serving in the church, and was voted in as pastor of the church in December 2017.
What are some needs in your ministry for which we can pray?
Please pray for unity and that God would provide more ways for the church to be a benefit to the community around us. We are in an area that is characterized by poverty and struggle.
As a bi-vocational pastor, how do you balance work hours and ministry?
Carefully. As credentialing requirements increase in the healthcare profession, and I continue my education, balancing work, family, sermon prep and church life has been tough. That said, the way I accomplish balance is to put my family first. I prioritize things this way: Family is always number one. Church-life and job are typically tied for second.
Were you in healthcare prior to coming to TBC?
Yes. I became a respiratory therapy equipment technician at Mayo Clinic in 2012, and I became a respiratory therapist in 2013 after graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy from Concord Career College.
How did you hear about TBC?
I had just finished up my Associates Degree and was working at Mayo. Once the Respiratory Therapy career was in place, I began considering options for formal ministry training. A friend of mine told me I should look into Trinity. I called the college and spoke to Mike Heavener, who was overseeing admissions at the time. I came to an Open House and met Mike. He was also an Army vet, and we established an instant connection. Mike’s welcoming spirit helped me make my decision.
Looking back, what do you appreciate most about your time at TBC?How has it prepared you for your current situation?
Every class I had with Dr. Adam Christmas has impacted me significantly. I texted him some time ago to thank him for what he deposited into my life. Sometimes, you take what you are learning for granted. Now that I’m pastoring I use the content I learned from Dr. Christmas to guide our church’s teaching on several subjects. Outside of my father, who is also in the ministry, Dr. Christmas has impacted me more than anyone from a biblical and theological standpoint. I also appreciate the increase in diversity that was going on at Trinity during my time there. At the time, the college had expanded its reach to include many demographics. I am very excited about this work continuing.
How has the COVID-19 virus impacted you and your family on a personal level?
It has been a little nerve-racking. Every precaution has been heightened to degrees that you are not normally prepared for. The way I approach work has been altered. I’m needing to take extreme precaution and exercise a high level of attention to detail when it comes to preparation and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) utilization and removal, knowing that I will be near the virus and that I don’t want to expose myself or my family to what I’m seeing on the front line. I also prayerfully take care of patients. I know that God has placed me where I am so that I cannot only make an impact on a person’s health but also impact them spiritually.
What is one specific prayer request we can share with the TBC alumni family?
I often pray the words of Nehemiah: “Dear God, remember me, think upon me, and let your gracious hand be on me.” Please join me in praying this prayer on my behalf.
How do you see God’s hand through this season in our lives?
At first I was confused about this as well. I believe that sometimes God desires time and moments from us, and sometimes we are moving too fast. I don’t believe God caused the virus, but I believe He allowed it. Everything has slowed down. Now that you have more time, what are you going to do? I used to watch a lot of sports, now I can’t. What will I do? I’ve opened my Bible now and I fast more. Also, we should remember that all things work together for good, even this virus.
Is there anything the alumni family can do to support their local health care workers and/or their families?
First, Pray. There are so many healthcare workers who do not believe in God. Pray that God will cover them. Even though we practice and rehearse, everything does not always go according to plan. Many people in the industry have been exposed and have tested positive to the virus. So, please pray for us. Second, if you see a healthcare worker, please just thank them for what they do.