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Austin Brown, director of DOOR Chicago
Melanie Hess
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
When Austin Brown got an e-mail from her husband with a job listing and the message, “I found something perfect for you,” she read the job description—and then decided to ignore it.

The job she ignored was director of DOOR Chicago. Knowing how difficult the job market is, she said she couldn’t handle another rejection.

“The job was too perfect,” Brown explained. “I said, ‘I’m tired of being disappointed,’ and I knew if I applied and didn’t get this one, I would be disappointed again.”

Brown and her husband, Tommie, were living in Michigan and thinking about moving to Chicago, but were hesitant to go without jobs already lined up. Because he knew the job was a great fit and located in a place where they wanted to live, Tommie refused to let her off the hook. For three days he kept asking, “Have you applied for that job yet?” Brown finally gave in and submitted her application.

To her delight, after several rounds of interviews, she was offered the position. She started her new job in October 2010.

“DOOR was the perfect combination of the three things I’m passionate about,” said Brown, “social justice, management—I got my undergraduate degree in business—and I get to talk about Jesus all day.”

DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), a partnership program of Mennonite Mission Network and Presbyterian Church USA, invites high school- and college-aged young adults to serve and see what God is doing in six cities around the U.S.: Atlanta; Hollywood; Miami; Denver; San Antonio; and, of course, Chicago.

“We are committed to local leadership,” said Heidi Aspinwall, who is DOOR’s national director for volunteers. “Austin rose to the top of a very distinguished list of applicants, all of whom were from Chicago or related to it some way. She not only knows the city and various church traditions, but she is also passionate about the presence of God in the city.”

“This job is perfect because I love ministry,” said Brown, “and [this job] was about working with youth and getting connected to all these nonprofits—getting to know what they do and the people who work for them.”

One of Brown’s main jobs includes handling logistics for groups who come to the city: where they’ll eat, sleep, serve and explore. But another important piece of the DOOR program is the reflection time, which Brown also facilitates.

“The reflection piece is about thinking through what happened, where they [the young adults] were and who they encountered, and what that means in terms of service, social justice and volunteering,” Brown said. She relies on what she learned from her Master’s program in social justice to help discuss issues from a variety of perspectives.

Brown has a degree in business management from North Park University in Chicago, a Master’s in social justice from Marygrove College in Detroit, and has been involved in leading Bible studies, worship and other ministries since the age of 14. She and her husband live in Rogers Park in Chicago.

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