Buried under the covers, heart racing, I held my breath as I turned another page of my Nancy Drew novel. Would the stalker attack her? Would she be discovered? Oh, no! She’s just been whacked on the head by the bad guy. My 9-year-old heart froze; would she survive?
Books were my world. But not any old books. They needed to have a good mystery to make them interesting.
Browsing through the bookshelves in the school library, I started discovering some amazing authors. Not only were they writing mysteries, but their stories were entwined with ghosts, spirits, and magic. Something about those books stimulated my mind. I was spellbound.
Twenty years later I was at my desk writing ghost stories for children. I dreamed of the day I would become a well-known author. I imagined sitting at a book signing with hundreds of little fans holding my precious book for me to autograph. I wanted to make a difference, leave a legacy, and be known. I wanted my stories to empower children.
I sent every story I wrote to a publishing house, but my hopes and dreams were shattered each time a rejection letter arrived in the mail. What else could I add to make them more sizzling? They were already dripping with mystery, spirits, and ghosts.
One afternoon as I was driving home with my mum, I started complaining that another publishing house didn’t want my story.
My mum was silent as I ranted on. Then she said, “Why do you write about ghosts and spirits?”
“Because it’s exciting!”
“But we Christians don’t believe in any of that.”
Of course I knew that! “Writing is just make-believe. It isn’t true,” I answered.
“Esther,” she paused, letting my name linger in the air. “You can become an amazing, famous writer.”
I smiled. That was exactly what I wanted!
She continued: “And you can become a great instrument in the hands of Satan.”
Excuse me? I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. But she wasn’t finished. “But God can give you all the fame you want. You would be writing for Him and for His glory.”
“Why don’t you write Christian books instead?”
“Christian books are boring! What am I going to write about? No way; I can’t!” I shuddered at the thought, but the battle in my heart had begun.
All week my mum’s words “You can become a great instrument in the hands of Satan” tormented me. I could feel the spiritual battle raging through my soul. I didn’t have peace; everywhere I turned those words echoed. The battle was real! I started feeling the spiritual world fighting for my soul. I couldn’t handle it anymore; I was going crazy.
One Saturday morning, upset that my peace had been disrupted, I knelt to pray. I knew what I had to say, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. If I let go of my secular books, my dreams of being an author would die. I wrestled with God in turmoil until finally my heart shouted, “OK, OK, God. I surrender!”
That was it. No fancy words, no elaborate prayer. Just the simple words “I surrender.”
Then I calmly whispered, “Lord, I surrender. I will write for You.” Instantly the intense battle subsided, and a serene peace lingered. The battle was over.
I knew to whom I belonged, and whom I needed to serve.
My desire to do more for God grew each day, and I wanted to reach out and make a difference. I prayed for 12 months, asking Him to show me what He wanted me to do. Then one day in June 2011 He handed me a dream, beautifully wrapped with all its trimmings, ready to be untied.
When my younger sister, Steph, shared her idea of doing a Christian magazine for teen girls, I embraced the concept. I knew that God was opening doors. I had been around teen girls for many years and knew the struggles they faced each day. Most were being held hostage in their own minds; trapped, confused, lonely, and trying desperately to understand anorexia, bulimia, comparison with peers, and sexual purity. Subjects that, unfortunately, are pretty much taboo in Christian churches and homes.
My other sisters joined in the excitement. The possibility of making a difference in someone’s life felt indescribable. In less than two months 5 Sisters Ministry was born, and so began our journey into the unknown waters of publishing. Many mistakes, heartaches, and tears later we distributed the very first issue of GIGI (Gorgeous in God’s Image) magazine.
From the very beginning GIGI’s aim has been to remind young women to value who they are. It stands for more than physical beauty; it stands for who we are in Christ. When we believe that we are gorgeous in Him our whole perspective in life changes. We are empowered through restoration.
The popularity of the magazine was growing. Teen girls and their families were e-mailing us and sharing testimonies of how God was helping them through GIGI. We were elated. God was working, restoring, and empowering girls.
In the midst of our excitement God spoke to our hearts, telling us we needed to do more.
In March 2013 we started the GIGI Rally. A one-day program for teen girls, their mums, aunts, friends, and grandmothers. More than 180 girls get to experience music, drama, and great speakers who discuss the issues many girls face.
We also started a magazine for women 30+ called Forever Woman, and a magazine for little girls called Little Miss GIGI.
Unfortunately, the dream came to an abrupt end in September 2015, when we stopped the printing of the magazines because of a lack of finances. However, we know God has a plan and is opening different doors to reach girls and women of all ages. Meanwhile, we continue uplifting our girls via our GIGI blog, workshops, and Bible study books. This year I’m launching a podcast for little girls and sharing wonderful Christian stories. I want them to be excited about Jesus, and to never feel that Christian stories are boring.
We are also starting an online magazine for teen girls that will be available later in the year. God hasn’t stopped working. We still don’t have funding, but somehow God always provides.
I think back on the past few years and see how far God has brought me. Gone is the fear of writing for the Christian market. Now I know that I can make a difference, leave a positive legacy, and empower girls through uplifting and godly articles. I love to write stories that will enrich their lives and draw them closer to the kingdom of God.
The most humbling experience for me has been that my GIGI stories about women of the Bible have been extremely popular with girls. They claim that these stories are their favorites. It blows my mind to see how God transformed my desire from writing dark stories to creating ones that glorify only Him.
I am honored to work for Jesus.
Esther Espinoza is cofounder and owner of 5 Sisters Ministry, a self-funded ministry run by five Latin sisters living in Brisbane, Australia. Their blog at www.gigigirlstories.com contains updates of events. This article is adapted from one that appeared in Signs of the Times, March 2017).