A walking ministry: multicultural adviser and alumna shares her story

A walking ministry: multicultural adviser and alumna shares her story

February 18
01:14 2016

Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

@TheKaylenHoward

You’ll never find multicultural adviser Cheylon Brown reclined in her office chair, waiting to be served, with her feet propped on her desk.

There’s no time to relax for this hard worker, who said she is motivated by God’s love, serving others and staying viligent.

“I have had so many students leave my office saying, ‘You’ve changed my life,’ or, ‘You made a difference,’” Brown said. “But in actuality it’s the other way around.”

Framed pictures of family members and friends crowd her office shelf, while small motivational plaques and crafts embellish her desk. Wearing a genuine smile, Brown carries a calm composure throughout her busy day.

“I think she is very vibrant, elegant and poised,” integrative studies and multicultural assistant Ashanti Johnson said. “She carries herself like a black woman that is sure of herself and the job that she has.”

Multicultural Director and Adviser, Cheylon Brown, stands infront of a painting hanging in the Multicultural waiting area, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Kaylen Howard|Staff photographer.

Multicultural director and adviser Cheylon Brown stands in front of a painting hanging in the Multicultural waiting area. Kaylen Howard | Staff photographer.

Through the eyes of many students, Brown is an advisor and a mentor. But outside the glass doors of the Multicultural Center, she spreads her love for Christ as an educational youth ministry pastor in Irving’s Community First Worship Center.

A UNT alumna for 20 years, Brown also goes on yearly missions to Africa, where she helps children in small orphanages and preaches the gospel.

“This work is about helping people,” she said with a smile. “Whether it is in the ministry, the church, traveling to Africa or if it is here at UNT. I see it all as part of the divine ministry that has been given to me.”

Coming from a low-income family in Fort Worth, Texas, Brown said the thought of furthering one’s education wasn’t common. But she had a passion for higher education.

“Out of my grandmother’s eight children and their children, I was the first person to get a bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Setting a foundation

Born and raised in the heart of Stop Six, Fort Worth, Brown spent most of her childhood dedicating herself to her younger cousin, whom she calls her “favorite person in the whole world.”

“My parents let me live at home because I wanted to be her protector,” Brown said. “I wanted to take care of her because she was shy and didn’t talk.”

Brown said she learned the importance of generosity and gratitude at a young age, influenced by her grandmother, her mother Rosie May and her father Calvin.

“I saw my grandmother help so many people,” Brown said. “I saw my mom and dad help every person you can think of.”

When it came to her education, much like her younger cousin, Brown kept to herself and shied away from her teachers and classmates.

“I’d never talk,” Brown said. “Believe it or not, as much as I talk now, I did not talk then. So they thought I was special [education] because I wouldn’t read out loud.”

Although she kept to herself, Brown began to break out of her shell as she progressed in school, graduating from Green B. Trimble Technical High School. Soon after, Brown landed her first job as a dietary nurse at Cook Children’s Hospital.

“Serving people is everything that I have done,” Brown said. “My life has been about that.”

Life through death

At 12 years old, Brown’s mother was tragically murdered.

“Most people, I think, would have turned the opposite way,” Brown said. “But it’s what drove me to salvation.”

Brown started her mission as a new believer in Saint Matthew Missionary Baptist Church, where at a young age she was appointed as an assistant youth director and president of the youth department.

Brown had an early start in leadership beginning with her Sunday School teaching.

Leaning forward on her desk, she passionately said, “I absolutely love it.”

Soon after her position at Saint Matthew, Brown decided it was time to move to her second church home, Community First Worship Center in Irving.

“I woke up, and the Lord told me to shadow my apostle,” Brown said. “So that’s how I ended up leaving my church, and I’ve been at Community ever since.”

An African mission

Brown said her vision to travel came at the age of 16, when a recruiter promoting missions to Africa approached her.

“He kept talking about things that were going to take place, and I would always say, ‘That’s going to be me,’” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be one of those people.”

Brown’s faith grew as she developed spiritually and continued pursuing her goal to serve those in Africa.

Fifteen years later, Brown became part of a missionary project called The Africa America Mission.

Multicultural Director and Adviser, Cheylon Brown, discusses plans for the day with Multiculture Center Assistant Director, Damian Torres, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Kaylen Howard| staff photographer.

Multicultural director and adviser Cheylon Brown discusses plans for the day with Multiculture Center Assistant Director, Damian Torres. Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

With empty pockets and not enough support from church fundraisers, the mission looked like it was going to fail the first time around. But one of Brown’s missionary partners decided failure wasn’t an option.

“My apostle stepped out on faith and said, ‘We’re going pack your bags,’” Brown said. “Literally, we bought our tickets three days before we left.”

Last year was the second time Brown traveled to Africa. She said she was able to come out of the shadows of her Apostles—Christian teachers—and independently preach the gospel.

“It was possibly the most powerful thing,” she said. “The people are hungry, they love Americans, so it was almost as if I had a second family.”

The power of love

Old friend and advisor Ella Johnson described Brown as caring, protective, obedient and gracious, calling her a “genuine person who loves people and thrives in being a part of who they are.”

“Cheylon believes that everyone deserves a fair and just chance,” Johnson said. “She gives all she has to make it possible for others to be uplifted.”

Multicultural Director and Adviser, Cheylon Brown (left in green), looks at new UNT Viewbooks with Olivia Hendersen (orange) and Margarget Humphrey (black jacket),  Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Kaylen Howard| staff photographer. The friends rummage through the pages to find people they recognize.

Multicultural director and adviser Cheylon Brown, left, looks at new UNT viewbooks with Olivia Hendersen, right, and Margarget Humphrey. Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

Students like Ashanti Johnson come to Cheylon for spiritual advice, knowing there are no boundaries between friendship and work.

“If I need to come in her room and talk about Jesus or close her door and pray, we can do those types of things,” she said.

It is rare for Brown to have a spare moment, but when she has the time to speak about what she loves, her face lights up.

“This work that I do teaches people the power of love through culture,” Brown said. “It helps us to believe in something that is greater than us. Whatever that thing is, that helps you treat somebody else in a way that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s what I think my work is all about.”

Featured Image: A photo collage full of photos from all her students and friends who have been impacted by her generosity and support. Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

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