by Jenny Collins '05
“Don’t spend what you don’t have.” “Minimize your debt.” “Don’t live off the credit card.”
Long before Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University, these were “common sense things,” according to David and Susan Brown, longtime supporters of Northwestern and KTIS.
“We were both taught to be good stewards,” said David, who grew up on a farm in western Minnesota.
“My family—I think it was rather rare—we talked about money growing up,” said Susan, who grew up in Osseo, Minn. “We knew what was happening and we had input. My folks always said, ‘You’re blessed with what you have—it’s God’s money.’ And it was our responsibility in how we spent it.”
Their parents’ faithfulness to teach wise biblical principles about money equipped both David and Susan to be wise money managers and generous givers. Their increased capacity to give, however, came through personal hardship.
Generosity through adversity
David and Susan first met in 1975 at a Twin Cities Bible study group for singles. They later reunited and married—each for the first time—in June 1992. But the honeymoon stage was interrupted four months later when Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer. With God’s grace, a strong faith and David’s support, Susan is a 19-year survivor today.
Their resilience was tested again when the Browns faced a difficult season during which they lost six family members, including both of Susan’s parents, her twin brother and only sibling, an aunt, uncle and David’s mother.
Even in the aftermath of grief, the Browns honored their families and God with their generosity. Susan recalled her parents’ challenge: “So you’ve got some money you’ve been saving. What are you going to do with it?”
“So when we had our deaths [in the family],” shared Susan, “we made it a point that if there was some inheritance along the way that we tithed a portion, and Northwestern was a [recipient].” David, who works for the Internal Revenue Service, was quick to note the value of Susan’s business training in managing the estates.
The Browns’ obedience to God has blessed Northwestern for many years. They invested in the Mel Johnson Media Center 10 years ago and prayerfully decided to invest in the Billy Graham Community Life Commons.
“It really was a no-brainer to build this building because it was so desperately needed,” said David. “To be part of it just feels good.” Recognizing the value of having a central place for students to connect, he added, “Community means you’re a part of something. You have to be a part of what’s going on,” he said. “If you’re not, there’s going to be a link missing.”
“We really have an endearment to Northwestern, and we respect the values of the school,” said Susan, who went with David on a tour to Israel in 2008 with UNW’s Michael Wise, Ph.D., and on a previous tour to Turkey and Greece.
“It seems you can’t out-give God either,” added David. “The Lord always blesses you more by giving. You get so much more back than what you’re giving.”
Wisdom for life
As single adults who married later in life, David and Susan were able to practice their values about money from the start of their marriage. “By talking about it, we were comfortable with finances and it wasn’t a problem,” shared Susan. “But we had to teach each other to make a point of saying, ‘I think I want to do this. Is that OK with you?’ We had to make that conscious effort.”
They readily share their wisdom for Christian singles of any age: “Be content in who you are as a person individually,” advises Susan, “so that when the right person comes along, you complement that person and they complement you.
“When I was single I knew too many people who were married and unhappy. And I didn’t want to be married just for the sake of being married. But then there was the point when I went back to school and was getting a bit older and I said, ‘Lord, prepare me for him and him for me.’ I left it in the Lord’s hands and we walked back into each other’s lives.”
David added aptly, “Live each day for Christ, and He’ll take care of it for you.”
Wise words for finding a life partner, being a good steward or living the Christian life in any season.