From the 2014 Men’s Issue | Click Here For The Full Issue
Men of Standard Profile: Marlon Brown, Assistant Construction Director/Homeowner Relations of Service Over Self (SOS) Ministries
Marlon Brown is a man reclaiming Memphis, TN for God. Marlon, otherwise known as “Big Dog,” has worked at Service Over Self–an urban home repair ministry located in the heart of Memphis–for 11 years now. While most know Marlon as the Assistant Construction Director at SOS and for his constant ministering presence in the city, his was not always a reputation of gospel-centered service to others. Marlon knows better than most, perhaps, what it is to be reclaimed. As one reclaimed by God’s purpose from a purposeless life, Marlon knows what it means to need the gospel he now demonstrates.
Born and raised in Millington, Marlon’s mother died at 9. Leaving Marlon to be raised by his stepfather, a cold man whose only message to his stepson was, “You are nothing. You’ll never be anything else but nothing.” Battered by that message, Marlon started using drugs, drinking, and having sex by the time he was 14. The street called to him, lured him in, and he answered. His mother’s wake fell on his 10th birthday, and Marlon grew into his deepening feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, and eventual nihilistic thoughts of self-loathing and suicide. Besides athletics, where Marlon excelled at Basketball, all that the world offered Marlon was negative.
That encroaching negativity of a broken family and empty life was only worsened by racism Marlon could not escape. Marlon was the first African American to be Homecoming King at Millington Central High, an honor given to Marlon because of his athletic success and popularity. This honor was utterly rejected by a group of white racists, who beat Marlon, leaving him for dead. The cycle of basketball, girls, racism, hate, and eventually, crime did not end with high school.
Event though he received a basketball scholarship to Christian Brothers University, Marlon continued a downward spiral of drugs, street life, theft, and feelings of bitterness about racism. The rampant drug led to debt to the wrong people, and Marlon left CBU for fear of debtors. Marlon, then, went to Beaumont, TX continuing to dabble in basketball but still engaging in a criminal lifestyle. The following months brought a whirlwind of volatile life events: selling dope to an undercover cop, joining the military only to be discharged, even being charged with attempted murder and acquitted under a technicality. Ending up at Lane College and eventually jail for selling drugs, Marlon finally returned to Millington to quit on life.
By 2001, Marlon was without a family, homeless, and a convict who frequented Memphis Union Mission. Marlon was finally in a place of desperation, he was still closed off and hardened by his former life. Though he received help from the Memphis Union Mission, Marlon wanted nothing to do with God or Christ, until a pastor at the Mission said, “You’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. Why not try Jesus?” At 41 years old, Marlon read Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and soon after gave his life to Christ.
As one reclaimed by God’s purpose from a purposeless life, Marlon knows what it means to need the gospel he now demonstrates.
After converting to Christianity, Marlon’s life radically changed, eventually getting a job at SOS and starting “Big Dog” ministry, one focus of which was to pour into drug addicts and prostitutes and instill the values that he never had with his stepfather. To date, Marlon has been on seven mission trips including India, Africa, and Venezuela and has made an incredible impact in the city of Memphis. His true passion now lies in what is left to be done. Now a happily married man, who has worked to repair the broken relationships in his life, Marlon’s life is now marked by sacrificial service. Jackie, Marlon’s wife, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer while they were dating. She feared being left, but 10 hours before her first chemotherapy treatment, Marlon asked her to marry him. They have two daughters, and Marlon considers his wife to be his greatest ministry.
After years of brokenness and squandered living, Marlon has found that his greatest purpose is to reinstall value by helping others reclaim their lives from drug addiction and homelessness. When asked what his clearest vision for ministry is, Marlon answers “to clean up Summer Avenue from Highland to Tillman from homelessness, drug use, and prostitution.” Marlon is just the man to see this vision through. The renewed value and purpose Marlon has found in Christ not only restores years of misguidance but it also seeks others where they are and strives to take them to the exact place where Christ wants them.
For more information about Service Over Self (SOS) Ministries, visit http://www.sosmemphis.org