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. Today we offer part two of a feature on Ellie Escobar, a Vancouver Island artist and Jesus follower. She shares her testimony below along with the stories behind several of her paintings, all of which are shared here with her permission.
When I was 24, I married a young doctor, who spent most of his time in the hospitals until he became a pediatrician, and then a pediatric surgeon. During those years, his income wasn’t enough to provide for our family. While I stayed at home caring for our children, I made oil paintings to sell and gave English classes for beginners to supplement our income.
But then he finished his many years of specialization studies and decided to leave us. My youngest child was just 4 months old. I felt so hurt and desperate that I took a formal job and left my children at home under the care of a maid.
I became a workaholic, trying to run away from a reality I couldn’t bear. During more than seven years, our life became a mess — not a model to follow at all. I looked for all kinds of solutions, searching different credal systems, but our life went from bad to worse. My children had developed serious social problems, and even though I succeeded at work, having reached the position of administrator, I felt lost and empty.
I sought professional help and was given all kinds of pills to sleep, to stay awake and to calm anxiety. I became terribly dependent on all of them, but instead of helping me, this habit complicated my life even more. I felt there was no way out, so one morning, while my kids were at school, I decided to put an end to the endless suffering.
For two years, I had, not regularly, been attending a weekly Bible study, even when I wasn’t really interested. I considered the study just another possible help. Sadly, for some reason, nobody told me about God’s plan of salvation. Maybe they supposed I already knew it.
So that morning, as my last call for help, I said in a loud voice, “Jesus, if you really exist, I need you now!” A very strange sensation made me sit on the couch. Then, in my mind, I started to name to God one-by-one the bad experiences He had made me go through in my life.
“Why did you allow my dad to die, losing all our possessions and leaving my mother and the six of us without a penny?” We had been very very rich.
“Why did you allow her to put us in that boarding school, where I spent the worst six years of my life?” I was there from ages 8 to 14.
“Why did you permit my husband to leave us after I always tried to be his best support, a good wife and a good mother for my children?”
I questioned Him about many many more experiences in my life. I didn’t know how much bitterness I had accumulated against God through all these years. When I finished my complaints, something amazing happened. I didn’t physically see or hear anything, but inside my mind I heard a voice asking me questions back one-by-one.
“When your dad died, your mother was only 28 and your brothers and sisters suffered the same as you did. Did you ever consider or care about them?” “No,” I answered.
“When you were in the boarding school, your three sisters as well as the other girls in that place, experienced that same lack of love as you did. Did you ever care about them?” Once again, my answer was “no.”
“When your husband left, you were not the only one who suffered. Did you really care for your children, while you were trying to run away from everything, dedicating all your life and energy to work? And the most important consideration you have to make: Your children have suffered the absence of their father, so now do you want to leave them without their mother, too?”
When I thought about all this, I burst into tears, realizing my wickedness before the holiness and perfect love of God. I went down on my knees telling Him, “My Lord God, please forgive me. For the first time, I realize how selfish and vain I have been all my life, thinking of me only. Please forgive me. You don’t owe me anything. I owe You everything. Thank You for loving me as I am. Thank You, Jesus, for giving up Your life for my sins without caring for Your own suffering, but only for Your love for us. I give my life and heart to You. Take them, change them and please remain in me forever. I want to dedicate my life to serve You, helping others who like me, are feeling desperate and without hope. I want to tell them that YOU REALLY EXIST, that it’s true, that YOU ARE REAL and that YOU CARE FOR THEM, too!”
That was the first night I slept without a pill, and I got rid of all of them. I quit my job and dedicated my attention to looking after my children, to telling others about God’s plan of salvation, and doing some work for our church. And the Lord provided us with sufficient financial assistance from my husband, even when he didn’t live with us.
Our life experienced a dramatic change. We searched for God’s guidance and will in every decision we made. The Lord became the Father, the Guide, the Counselor and everything to us. Every night my children and I gathered in the living room to read a chapter from the Bible, talk about it and pray.
My children got the best marks at school and became the best sons and daughter a mother could ever dream of. I told all the people I could about God and His Word. Soon a group of about 35 young professional women gathered at my house, and I shared Bible studies and spiritual support with them. Three of them became missionaries.
That was 35 years ago. For all this, I give all the glory to our loving and faithful God because HE IS THE ONE WHO DID IT ALL! Nothing came from me, since I didn’t even know how to handle my own life, much less that of my children or any other people like me. TO HIM BE THE GLORY AND THE HONOR FOREVER AND EVER!
At the Easel with Ellie
This piece is of my son-in-law’s grandmother and his son. I called it “True Love.” She was a great woman of God. Besides always caring for her husband and children, and then her grandchildren, she was always working and doing something for the church we go to, Nanaimo First Baptist Church. She spent the last 13 to 15 years knitting or crocheting caps for sailors, who come from various parts of the world to work on the lobster fishing ships on the North Seas. They are poor people from countries such as the Philippines, looking to make some money to take home to their families. It is tremendously difficult and exhausting work. She prayed for them, while making the caps, and she enclosed a copy of “The Daily Bread” with each one. She said it would be nice for them to know that someone on this side of the world was thinking of them — and that God loves them. So I know her love for God and people was real and as true as the love this great-grandchild had for her. By the time she got sick and couldn’t work anymore with her hands, she had made almost 1,000 caps. She died recently. — Ellie Escobar
I called this painting “Memories.” The woman is my neighbor, and I asked her if she wanted to be my model. I once saw a picture of a girl on a bus, and I loved it because many times I’ve wondered what people on a bus, plane or any other situation when they are by themselves would be thinking about. Maybe they feel regret, or miss loved ones. Or maybe they wonder about some things in their lives. That’s when I ask God to intervene in their thoughts and let them know that the only important thing is to draw close to Him and their lives will be totally changed. And their memories would have another value in the light of the love of God and the perspective of the eternity. — Ellie Escobar
John 17 and 20 are two of my favorites chapters in the Bible. I made these two paintings based on the expression of Mary Magdalene. The first one illustrates her face according to John 20:15, and the second comes from John 20:16 when she found out that it was Jesus Himself whom she had been talking. So her expression changes when she hears Him say her name — from weeping for three days to this glorious moment when she sees her beloved Savior again. As Michael Card’s song “Love Crucified Arose” says, “For the heart that sin and sorrow broke, is beating once again.” — Ellie Escobar