Lori Brown: Government Service, Emergency Preparedness and How She Keeps God Central

Lori Brown asked God for a job where she could use her talents and abilities to help people… she found her answer by working alongside lawmakers and state agencies in government. As the Director of Constituent Services in the 38th Senate District, California for State Senator Brian Jones she has been able to use her skills and relationships to solve problems and guide others, many times with the ability to remove “red tape.” Asked by the Governor’s office/CalOES to assist LISTOS California, an emergency preparedness campaign, Risen sat down with Brown to hear more about her heart to serve, using her pain for purpose and a special trip to the White House!

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: The COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world in 2020 and we’re still not quite out of the woods yet in 2021… share how your position ended up being quite pivotal when it comes to helping others during this unprecedented time.

Lori Brown: I work for State Senator Brian Jones [38th Senate District, California]. Our office was inundated with requests [asking for] our help to assist them in better communicating with various state agencies. Which as you know, the EDD [Employment Development Department] is one of the biggest agencies that are needing help right now. We were able to help guide so many people, through the process of filing for/dealing with unemployment, navigating DMV, and other various state agencies. And we were able to just reach out and we still continue to help.

RM: The governor’s office actually called you to lead a campaign for them in San Diego… your first response was no, but eventually you decided to help and it’s made a huge difference… share about LISTOS California.

LB: LISTOS California is an emergency preparedness campaign through the Governor’s Office, Cal OES [California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services] and through numerous community-based organizations like Catholic Charities in San Diego. I was asked to do this campaign and I actually said no, because our office was so swamped just from helping our constituents navigate through this tough time. And it’s a totally separate job than from what I normally do for the State Senate. But eventually I was talked into it because I was given a team to guide, and since the team was available, I could guide them through it. Because of our work, over a period of 2020-2021, I was able to create a higher level of awareness among the local communities regarding the importance of being prepared for natural emergencies.  San Diego was in the last place in reaching the numbers and today, we’re running neck-to-neck with number one! It’s quite amazing. I want to thank our loyal team for all their hard work and dedication.

So when I said yes to this LISTOS California campaign, it hit me really hard. Like, “Okay God, I know what You want me to do. You’ve entrusted me with this job. So I’m going to help the people in these vulnerable communities and we’re going to address an issue. We’re going to feed the poor. We’re going to feed these people that need help.” And He said, “Yes, I will use your pain for good.”

We made a video thanking all of our partners who helped get out the message that emergency preparedness is important. Get your car ready, get a box ready, get your home ready. Just those few things will help you get ready for an emergency because it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when. Have a pillow, a blanket in your trunk, have your extra clothes, extra water in your garage. Have Vaseline, it’s a fire starter – so there are all these little neat things that you can have in the trunk of your car because you never know where you’re going to get stranded.

Being prepared really, really helps so I encourage anybody to call us and let us know what we can do to help educate our communities. We’re proud to say through Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, and through the Governor’s Office, we just want everybody to be prepared as much as possible.

RM: Definitely sounds like you have a heart to help those in need, why is that so important to you?

LB: When this opportunity came my way through the Governor’s Office, the biggest challenge was, how were we going to get the word out to the vulnerable communities? And it really struck my heart because I, myself, grew up in a vulnerable community. Our family was very poor. We didn’t have enough food in our house growing up and that was very difficult. Sometimes it was embarrassing. So when this campaign came up, it touched my heart because I realized that I have compassion to help people. I knew what it felt like. And I kept thinking, “How do I get this emergency preparedness information into vulnerable communities?” When you’re telling them to get prepared and get stocked up on food and they don’t even have food for the night. I would know if someone brought me a flyer and said, “Hey, get prepared for emergency.” I’d think, how do you do that when you’re not even prepared for dinner that night?

So I had to be creative and I had to think of ways to reach these communities. And then I started calling the partners that we got ahold of, like the Food Bank. My heart was just struck. I really want to help these people. I have the compassion to do it. I know how they feel. But at the same time we have got to get this message out.

Lori Brown LISTOS California

RM: Faith is central to your life, how have you seen God orchestrate your steps over the past couple decades?

LB: I’ve been through some challenges in my life. I’m no longer the victim… it’s kind of like how [Christian Musician] Danny Gokey sings, We don’t live there anymore. But we also remember and we go back, we go back and we remember, but we don’t live there anymore. But now what does God want to do for my life? He wants me to help people. I struggled in my life to realize I have that compassion now in order to help people. So that’s how I see God in my life. I have surrendered my heart, my life to God, and in all of doing so He will use your hurt and your pain. He will use your talents, but you have to stand in faith. We can’t be fearful. God will equip us. And sometimes it’s unfamiliar territory but God can use ordinary women just like me to do His work but we have to allow Him in our lives. And yes our pains from the past can affect us but they also can affect us in a positive way. And that’s how I always look at it. Every morning, I walk on the beach and I ask, “God, somehow the constituents that are going to call today, these people that are hungry, let me find them.” And you know what? God actually has brought them to me. He does answer prayers.

RM: You’ve been able to effectively carry out that mission through your career… share about how your work in government has really been instrumental.

LB: Love God, Love People. People have learned that through our office. They call our office and they really, really know, they hear in our voice. They write letters and we have stacks of “thank you” letters. We have people saying, “I never trusted government till I met your office.” And I’m telling you, I want people to know that government can work for you. I encourage anybody out there who has a heart to serve and who wants to be out there and ready to serve, to get involved in government and make a difference. You can make a difference. I never knew you could, but government is powerful. So now why not put your heart to service in government? And I encourage a lot of people to do that because we need good people. That’s one thing we need is good people in our government offices.

RM: In April of 2019, there was shooting at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California… will you share how you were able to step in and support and how your position in government overlapped with your faith in a very powerful way.

Vice President Pence with his wife Karen, and Lori Brown

LB: Yes. When the shooting happened in the Chabad of Poway, they are in our district, so we went to them, we asked how we could help. I went personally and we saw that people were just in pain. There were a lot of victims. I met with the rabbi, we talked and a lot of the victims came together needing help with the state agencies. So what we did was bring the state agencies, and the federal agencies together. We met for about three days at the Chabad, bringing all the agencies together, so they could fill out the paperwork instead of them going and filling out the paperwork. We made it simpler for them. Although, nothing was simple when it came to the pain and they were distraught during this time. It was a hard year. So I just stood by them removing the red tape within the government because I have established relationships with the agencies – like the State Compensation Fund, FBI, etc. All the people that they needed to talk to in the DA’s office, we brought it together. And then after that, things just started happening in such a positive light.

RM: You were stepping in to love on them and help in a tangible way and your help had you rubbing elbows with the Vice President (Mike Pence) and even President Trump invited you to the White House!

LB: Well, it was quite amazing. I was in a meeting at the Chabad of Poway when Vice President [Mike] Pence showed up. He asked some questions and there were a few of us there, and he was able to hear what the agencies did and how we came together to help with hugs and resources. He was quite interested in what we were doing. I got invited to dinner and was in the motorcade – it was a surreal, but it was quite amazing – at that point, I realized you can make a difference. And when you’re making a difference, if you put yourself aside and allow God to work, just let God use your life, amazing things can develop. At that point I thought, “Okay. What does God have for me? I’ll listen. I’ll do it and I’ll surrender.” It was just amazing.

RM: Since you were little, you had a “goal list,” if you will. Tell us a couple of things that are on your list and visit the White House used to be one of them. So what was it like to see one of your dreams come to fruition?

LB: Yes. Over the years, I have written down things I’ve wanted to do. When I was two or three years old, I used to watch Barbara Walters all the time and Walter Cronkite – so that gives you my age there. They would show the White House a lot and I didn’t know much about it. I grew up in a small country town, on a farm and all we did was dream… so one thing I wanted to do was go to the White House. I wanted to check it out. So the night that I was invited there for dinner, of course, President Trump was there, along with his whole family and the Vice President and his family. A lot of the Chabad of Poway people were there, and I was there with them all.

I was just laughing because I was mostly in the rooms, just checking out the whole entire White House, the history of it was just so amazing to me. I was crying; my tears were rolling down my cheeks because it was a dream come true being able to go in the White House. There are really neat historic facts in there, it’s just like an amazing museum.

(l to r) Lori Brown’s White House Invitation, President Trump, and Brown with Vice President Pence

Anyway, it was exciting to me because it was one of my dreams coming true. I felt like I didn’t know how I was going to get to the White House, or anything like that, but I do feel like, when you’re doing the things that God is asking you to, He does say He will give you the desires of your heart. So when I got back, I’m like, “Okay. So I’ve done a few things that are on my list now, but God, what do you want me to do?”

RM: For those that are reading this, and seeing your heart to help. If they are reflecting on their passions, or talents, or pain that can be used for good – what encouragement or advice can you share when it comes to stepping out in faith?

LB: I encourage everyone to find one of their talents and one of their abilities, and to look at themselves not to look at what others have. For instance, I knew I’m really good at asking. So I thought how can I use this aspect of my life to help others? I could ask for the most vulnerable because I have compassion too? So I looked at my pain and I looked at the things in my life and I found that if I looked at me, if I spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of time talking to God, then I could use my background to help others. I’ve walked through some very dark times, but He always promised that He would be there. And I surrounded myself with positive, influential people and it was on purpose. And in fact, I’m writing a book it’s called Peace on Purpose. First of all, I had a lot of people that I needed to forgive. And when I forgave people, there was a freedom within my soul. I look at my past as kind of a puzzle piece and also as a stepping stone. I had to change the way I viewed things. But God was there all the time going, “I am here with you. I will not leave you.” In fact, the reason I walk at the beach in the morning is because I read this scripture once and it said, “The voice of the Lord is over the waters.” And I thought, “Oh, I want to be near where the voice of the Lord is.” Plus it’s beautiful at the beach! And so God speaks to me in the morning.

This morning when I walked near the water, I was really praying about this interview today. And I said, “God, I just want to say something that speaks to somebody’s heart.” And I said, “Do me a favor and just confirm that’s what You want. That’s what You want is for me to share my heart for others to hear. It’s not about me. It’s about what God’s doing.” And you know what He said? I know I keep bringing up Danny Gokey songs but his song Let Your Heart Beat Again was what came to mind when I was walking along the beach this morning. And so I said, “Okay God, please confirm by having that song start when I get in the car.” And guess what happened? That song played! It was awesome. So I’m going to say let your heart beat again. And remember you don’t live there anymore. God gives us a memory to remember, but as a stepping stone. Not to be the victim but to really step out and be your best self. That’s it. Just be your best self, your talents and your abilities.

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