On a summer day in 2007 the Brown family was sitting around the dinner table when they heard
a knock at the door. The neighborhood children frantically came to tell them their house was on fire, but like the boy who cried wolf, they believed it was a prank and continued eating their meal. It wasn’t until the police showed up when 16-year-old Bobbi Brown and her family flew into disarray to extinguish the engulfing flames. But it was too late. Their house burned to the ground, swallowed in a fire that would spark the flame to her future at ORU.
Senior Cinema, Television, and Digital Media major Bobbi Brown fought through the mire of many years before arriving at ORU. Brown’s adoptive mother worked tirelessly to purchase their home and move from the projects in Bridgeport, Connecticut, so when the fire struck, they were left homeless for nearly a year.
“I was scared,” Brown said. “My mom worked a lot but I never knew what it was like to live without. She did whatever she could to make sure that we never went without and for the first time this was out of her control. When people say ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be homeless,’ I do know what it’s like to be homeless.”
After the fire Brown’s family lived nomadically out of their car, hotels and their pastor’s rental house for a year. In 2008 Brown’s younger brother’s music group nominated their family to be on Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
“We truly trusted God in this process and never lost faith. We had to submit a video of our home and shared what took place the night of the fire.”
Then the waiting game began.
“They flew out their staff to interview us and to actually meet our family,” Brown said. “They never told us what the process was as far as if we were chosen or not, so all along we thought we were just one of thousands. But truth be told, they had already chosen our family from the day they called the very first time.”
The Lord began to restore Brown’s life materially and emotionally after years of turmoil.
“I can honestly say that if God never does another thing, this was a miracle by itself,” Brown said. “He doesn’t have to prove Himself to me, He already did. And our house was that example. Now we have a mansion in the hood.”
Brown witnessed thousands of people coming together to build a home for her family. During the construction and filming, Brown observed the cameramen and the Lord ignited a passion within her to tell stories through media.
“It inspired me,” Brown said. “I thought ‘I want to tell people’s stories like that. I want to be behind the scenes like that.’”
Being featured on Extreme Makeover Home Edition was a life changing experience for Brown.
“These people were telling stories of people you would never know,” Brown said. “There’s fires happening every day, but it just so happened you saw my family’s story.”
Brown had known about ORU since she was a little girl “but [her] heart wasn’t set on going until God brought it up for [her] to apply.” Brown applied to ORU after seeing the crew capture the depth of her family’s story.
“When I found out about the media program I was like ‘Lord, if you open up the door for me to get to ORU I’ll do more than just radio, I want to tell people’s stories,’ and that’s what inspired me to come here, and then the blessings just spiraled out,” Brown said.
Brown transferred from a community college in Connecticut to ORU in 2013, at the age of 23. She began fulfilling the journey starting so many years before. But despite the obedience, there was something missing.
“It wasn’t until I got into my major and real- ized what I was called to do when a professor told me ‘Often times you can relate to people who have the same story as you; you just have to find out what story that is.’”
In that moment, Brown realized the power of her story.
“There are people on campus who have dealt with the same thing, just in another way,” Brown said. “That’s when God opened up my heart to tell inspirational stories of struggles and how they triumphed over it.”
Brown will cross the stage at graduation almost 10 years after the fire. She will return home to work for Career Resources with a program called “Father’s for Life,” working with men who were incarcerated and are getting back into the community. Brown understands the power of storytelling and the impact of finding triumph even in the flames.
“Oftentimes we don’t tell what God has done for us,” Brown said. “We keep it to ourselves and for the first time I’ve got to tell somebody, because if I tell somebody then someone else will be willing to tell their story.”
Story by Madison McDaniel, Photo by Wyatt Bullard