Editor’s Note: In the series Encounters with Evangelists, UFC Women explore how face-to-face interactions with messengers proclaiming the Good News of faith in Jesus Christ leave priceless marks upon our lives. We open today with a feature about a Vancouver Island artist and Jesus follower whom I met on a flight to Washington, D.C., this past October. It’s a joy to share her story and her artwork with you. — Jaime Sherman
Ellie Escobar was one of six children born to an American woman living in Mexico City. Ellie would live most of her life in Mexico, raising her three children with a man who would abandon them because, as they would later learn, he had another wife and children.
Grieving and confused, Ellie turned to a psychiatrist to mask her pain with antidepressants, but one day as she prepared to end her life, she realized she could not erase the emotions and needed something — or someone — stronger to rescue her. She cried out to God, “If You’re there, I need You. I can’t do this alone.”
And He came into her life and the hidden corners of her heart with a rushing like the feeling one gets when an elevator plunges to the ground floor. Ellie had no doubt that her life had just taken a drastic turn and would never be the same again.
With the Holy Spirit as her guide, she embarked on a journey to be a loving mom, one who realized the divorce was painful for her children, too. She started looking out for the interests of others, and in the pouring out of her time and attention, the Lord filled her up with His strength for each new day. She reared up her children to love Jesus, and they went out to different parts of the world, including her daughter to Vancouver Island. Seven years ago Ellie moved there to join her.
While Spanish is clearly her heart language, she is fluent in English. This is especially obvious as the Holy Spirit guided each word of the testimony she shared with me during the final 45 minutes of our Washington, D.C., flight. She told me how she often taught Bible classes in Mexico, and I could see her love for the Lord and His Word overflowing from her — and through her paintings, which she showed me from snapshots on her iPad when I asked her to share that piece of her heart.
Ellie is a Thomas Kincade in many ways, painting light and hope into her pictures. Her favorite piece of art she’s completed is of three children leaning over a family Bible. She said she was always interested in art and sold oil paintings as a young mother, but it was only two years ago that she started painting with a talent that can only be described as coming from God. Although not an art critic, I felt immediately that her skill is a gift for God’s glory, for her paintings look as if she’s spent most of her 76 years at home in front of an easel.
Ellie paints commissioned, acrylic portraits from photographs, often enhancing the background or adding a special feature such as light behind an Afghan refugee girl, a promise of hope for something better and more beautiful to come.
When I told her I share her faith, Ellie was overjoyed and clasped her hands in front of her like a little girl giddy with joy. She said God ordained our steps to be sitting next to each other. I, too, believe that was true. Originally my husband and I were supposed to sit at the back of the plane, but while we were still en route from Portland to Seattle my husband made a last-minute decision to change our seats on the next flight in order to sit closer to the front and on the aisle.
I questioned his decision for most of the flight as the already drunk 30-somethings directly behind us ordered one cocktail after another during the flight. Our headphones couldn’t block out their ever-growing volume, while the baby sitting in our previously assigned row only cried once.
But with 45 minutes left in the flight, I learned exactly why the Lord had nudged my husband to change our seats — the sweet Ellie sitting next to me. She talked about how while she was eating her cheese and fruit plate, she was thinking about the Syrian people and how they were being attacked and killed — “all those people whom Jesus loves.” She expressed how God is writing all of our stories for His glory and our good.
Ellie told me how she tried several times to paint a picture of Jesus, but the first attempt didn’t work. She talked with an expert Christian artist who was teaching a class she took, and he told of how someone had taken a picture he painted of Jesus and set it up on a shrine. She never wants anything she paints to be worshipped in such a way, so she reworked the picture to create someone we would never first picture as the stereotypical Sunday school Jesus. She calls the man in the portrait The Intercessor.
As she talked, I sensed how empty she found the Catholic faith of her childhood and how set apart she wants to be from anything of her upbringing — save her family, whom she loves with a fierce love and devotion.
As we neared our destination, Ellie asked if she could pray for me. We clasped hands — my right one in her left hand. Her hand was a gift to me, for it felt silky smooth like my Grandma Lou’s, who I would squeeze the next week for the last time, but it had the plump, pillowy look of the hands of my Grandma Dorothy, who we lost a decade ago. As Ellie grasped my hand firmly, she prayed blessings over me, my husband and our children, not forgetting to thank Him for the gift of us sitting next to each other, saying He had ordained it.
And so He did because He wanted me to hear her story of faith, to be challenged to courageously embrace the opportunities He gives me to share my own story of change in Jesus. In an email recently, Ellie wrote me, “When our LORD has made such an incredible thing in our life, it’s impossible to remain silent…Of course you (can) share my testimony, for it gives glory to our Savior JESUS, of what our precious GOD can do in the lives of those who believe in His words.”
Ellie Escobar is an acrylic fine artist living on Vancouver Island. She specializes in portraits and commissions. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her Facebook page: facebook.com/acrylicportraits. We will feature “Ellie Escobar in Her Own Words” and “At the Easel with Ellie” in our next post. You won’t want to miss her encouraging words!