Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning

Saved by Grace

Ernestine Lee Brown

I did not realize on January 31, 1992 the journey I was beginning would bring me to a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In December of 1991 the Lord told me to apply to live at the Baptist Children’s Home. It amazes me that as a 13-year-old, I was so confident in a decision that ultimately changed my life forever. I asked my counselor at school to help me fill out the application for my admission against my family’s wishes. I bore the burden of countless guilt trips and seething looks from my stepfather unflinchingly while awaiting a decision from the staff at the children’s home.

I was accepted by the Children’s Home within a week of the arrival of my application and began packing to leave my home forever. My oldest sister drove down from her home in Stillwater, where she was attending college, to take my younger sister and me to the Oklahoma City campus. I will always recall the details of that day...the last shower in my home, taking all of the sheets off of my bed, watching my mother collapse into tears as we drove down the road...

I lived at the Children’s Home for five years. Those years challenged me and grew me in ways that many can never understand. I fail to find the words that describe the intense moments of homesickness when Jesus whispered to my hurting heart, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age- houses, brothers, and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions- and in the age to come eternal life.” There were moments of faithlessness, when I could not begin to trust yet another set of new houseparents that promised to love me. I had to learn not to lean on my own understanding and cling to the promise that, “When we are faithless He will remain faithful for He can not disown Himself.” I can remember the despair I felt the many times I watched one of the girls in my cottage open our back door in the late night and disappear because she could not see past her feelings of frustration with the unfairness of living at home. I remember in the ninth grade when I would cry every time I came home from a visit with my family and could not imagine another two weeks of strict rules and discipline. I do not know at what point the Father began to change me, but one day my social worker said, “Ernestine you have made so much improvement. You are such a special young lady and I enjoy spending time with you.” I remember that one day the beauty everyone saw in me was made evident to me by the Lord.

My senior year in high school brought me to a cross roads and I began to see many of God’s promises to me unfold. He brought me to a Preview Day on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University where I prayed for His help. I asked God to provide me money to apply at OBU and that if He wanted me to apply at another college to supply that financial support also. I had only enough money to apply at OBU. God provided me with a wonderful roommate and houseparents that read countless essays for scholarship applications.

The Lord gave me a car lovingly named Daisy (later to be named “The Beast) and began to teach me the responsibilities of owning and caring for a vehicle. He reassured me countless times that He would be my father, my Abba. He showed me that He is my mother. He provided monetary support for my entire first year of college with support from donors that want to help children from the Baptist Children’s Home. I turned to

I have so many stories of the goodness God has provided me through the Children’s Home and their unconditional love and support, however, the story that comes to mind happened only a few short weeks ago. I spent the month of January helping my sister in Texas before starting my spring semester of school. When I arrived back in Oklahoma I began to prepare myself for school that Monday. I hopped in “The Beast” and drove to Shawnee to get my room ready at school and I had a musical rehearsal. On the way there I began to feel sick from the gas fumes I was smelling from my car. I was sure that nothing could possibly be wrong. I just had not driven my car in a month and I reassured myself that the smell would go away in a few minutes. The smell did not go away. I made two 90- minute round trips from Oklahoma City to Shawnee and ran errands around the city in that car smelling fumes the whole time. On my way home from Shawnee the night of the second day of traveling I turned on my heater only to shut if off minutes later as my eyes had begun to sting from the fumes pouring out of my vents. When I arrived at the Children’s Home that night I asked my house dad to look at my engine. He drove the car to the shop on campus, opened the hood and touched the spark plug. The engine immediately caught on fire and burned (thank God he was not hurt!). I know the Lord had an angel with me those two days that I drove that car. I called my mother to tell her about the miracle in my deathtrap car. Her response was a nonchalant, “Oh.” I felt my heart collapse at her words. My mother did not care that I could have been killed. I felt so alone in that moment, I felt I had truly lost my family. The next week my administrator from the children’s home called me into his office on a Sunday afternoon. I told him about my mother’s response and how much it hurt to hear her words. He reassured me that even though I was not living at home any more I was still considered their child, and then he presented me the keys to a 1992 red Justy. My family’s lack of support hurt so bad that I could only offer a teary-eyed thank you. I know that the Lord has given me a family in the Children’s Home and I am so thankful to the Oklahoma Baptists who provide the financial support that touches and changes lives like mine.

I have not shared much about my family situation. Every day of my life is a miracle. The Lord gave me a heart to love Him and cherish Him above all else. I know that I am His cherished daughter. I was saved by His Grace and He used the Children’s Home as an instrument to bring about the growth in my life that has made me who I am today.

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