FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The night before the shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church, Shawn Brown told his wife, Kathy Jo, that he didn’t know why, but he had been praying hard for her all day. The next evening, after a gunman had murdered Shawn and six other people at the church, Kathy Jo knew why — to give her the strength to cope with his death.
According to witnesses at the Sept. 15 shooting in the Fort Worth, Texas, church, Shawn had the opportunity to take cover or escape altogether but stayed in the area to try to help.
Kathy Jo said Shawn faced the situation the same way William Wallace was portrayed as facing his death in Shawn’s favorite movie, “Braveheart” — with faith in God that he would have strength to face whatever was ahead.
The courage with which Shawn died was noted by fellow Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student Jason Bruce, who said his friend’s character could be summed up by what happened that night.
“If God had given him a choice — to live your life all the way through, or you can give your life right now, and 20 or 30 people come to Christ — there’s no doubt that he would have stood up and said, ‘Take me now,'” Bruce said, adding Shawn would have done it for just one person.
Brown, who would have turned 25 on Sept. 30, is remembered as genuine and a man of great faith.
“He was the real deal,” said friend Scott Copeland, another Southwestern student. “It was real easy to be yourself around him.”
Shawn’s heart for youth ministry, Kathy Jo said, came from his conversion as a teenager and his youth minister’s influence on his Christian life. “He really liked being around teenagers,” she said. “He enjoyed going to Christian garage band concerts to visit with them.”
Shawn wanted to get past rules and down to the reason youth should live for the Lord, she said. To communicate and motivate, he used creative methods.
When a girl said she was having trouble giving thanks to God, Shawn told her to take her shoe and throw it to symbolize letting go of her problem and giving it to the Lord. Kathy Jo said the girl soon began finding it easier to give thanks to God.
Another time, Shawn challenged his youth group at First Baptist Church of Bronte, Texas, to get 60 people to come to a Wednesday night service, promising that if they did, he would shave his head and grow a long goatee. They did, Kathy Jo said, and Shawn kept his promise.
“For teenagers to understand and take [the gospel] to heart, [Shawn believed] they had to understand it in a unique way,” she said.
Shawn knew the significance of evangelism, Kathy Jo said, recalling the time he led a woman to Jesus two days before she died of a heart attack.
Shawn had an ability to relate to all kinds of people, Bruce said. “He could go the whole gamut,” Bruce added. “He was a kid at heart. He loved to joke around and goof off, but he could also come to the level of a senior adult.”
Kathy Jo said Shawn also took his seminary education seriously.
“He loved learning here,” she said. “He always joked that we were getting a two-for-one deal,” because he loved to tell her about what he had learned in class.
The day before he died, he was home talking about an upcoming west Texas youth rally, she said. He was so excited that he kept pacing back and forth.
“‘I have so much to share; I don’t know where to start,'” Kathy Jo recalled him saying.
Shawn’s sense of humor was another strength noted by friends.
“He always made me laugh,” said Copeland, recalling Shawn’s impersonation of Chewbacca, a “Star Wars” character.
Bruce agreed, saying that he and Shawn were sometimes boisterous, but their wives were quiet and reserved, not wanting to draw attention to themselves.
Kathy Jo said her husband was a good listener.
“He knew how to make you know what you felt was important. He cared about people. He was always ready to counsel or listen. He took it very seriously,” she said.
Every day after work, they would spend the first 15 minutes talking about their day. When Kathy Jo, a kindergarten teacher, talked, “he never interrupted,” she said.
Bruce said Shawn was one who told it like it was.
“He was always one for speaking the truth,” Bruce said. “If he thought you were wrong, he would tell you so.”
Shawn’s stance on marriage was uncompromising. Bruce said Shawn was “a very big believer in having a proper marriage and a right relationship with his wife.”
Whenever he heard of spouses cheating on each other or leaving their marriages, “he would get irritated,” Bruce said.
The Browns were married in December 1997 and were discussing having children. Kathy Jo said being married to Shawn felt like a “fairy tale [come true] because we did have Christ in our marriage.”
She said Shawn’s life verse was 1 Timothy 4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
In “Braveheart,” Wallace said, “All men die, but not all men really live.
“Because of his faith in Christ,” Kathy Jo said, “Shawn really lived.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library. Photo title: SHAWN AND KATHY JO BROWN.