Why I’m a member
When you see someone excel at something, how do you react? At times, we may stand back and think we could never accomplish the same activities at that level. However, we should remember that God’s plans are not always the same as ours. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV) God places us in roles and situations that, at first glance, may cause us to wonder why He would use someone like us. Yet, we must remember that God has given us all that we need to accomplish His purposes.
Justo Escobar, a Gideon from Florida, has a lifetime of moments where he thought: Who am I to do this? Through trust and obedience, he has learned that God is always preparing him for the next thing He has in store.
Open Eyes and Heart
His journey began in the Republic of Cuba. As an eight-year-old child, his family fled the communism of Cuba, seeking a better life. Eventually, in 1961, he and his family ended up in Miami, Florida, after spending some time in Honduras. Justo knew no English as a third-grade student but that quickly changed after building relationships with his new friends.
The Escobar family was also raised with Christian beliefs. Justo does not remember when the local church was not a part of his life—a reality he is still grateful for today. He learned about Jesus and His Gospel at their Quaker church through his childhood and into his teen years but, as he says, “knew Jesus wasn’t real to me.” Justo excelled in school, and he had a particular interest in mathematics. When the time came for him to go to college, he decided to pursue his love for math at a college in Saint Petersburg, Florida. It was here God began to open his eyes and heart.
A friend of Justo had a father who was a pastor. This pastor began to ask Justo questions about his direction in life. These words impacted Justo and his journey with Christ. After a couple of years in Saint Petersburg, Justo decided to transfer to Florida Atlantic University to continue his pursuit of mathematics and connect with a local church in Fort Lauderdale. During this season of life, Justo was watching television one evening and came across a Gospel crusade. The preacher’s words gripped him, and for the first time, he realized he needed to be saved from his sins. “God opened my eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a Billy Graham crusade,” remembers Justo. He was so excited about his new life in Christ.
While pursuing his math degree, Justo recalls a special moment in his number theory class. One day before class began, he was looking through a scuba diving magazine when a classmate looked at him and said, “Oh, you scuba drive as well.” The rest was history. Justo and his classmate, Coleen, married in August 1975. In 1978, they welcomed a son named David, and Justo began working in the family furniture and cabinet business after being employed two years as a math teacher. He firmly believes and lives by this principle: It doesn’t matter what profession you are in; you can always serve the Lord. A year later, the family welcomed another son, Jonathan.
The same year he started his new career, Justo and his family joined a sister church in Coral Springs, Florida. Over the years, Justo has served in various capacities such as usher, deacon, and elder. This congregation has proved to be instrumental in his life for many reasons. In 1986, he met Lester and Ann Carter, became close friends, and later found out they were members of The Gideons International. This led to Justo and Coleen being invited to a membership dinner and feeling led to join the Association a year later.
For the first three years, Justo attended monthly Gideon meetings and did a few Scripture distributions. Then, he was presented with an offer to give Gideon presentations at churches. “When the opportunity came, a friend of mine told me I should serve in this capacity. The problem was I felt extremely unqualified, and by nature, I’m a fairly shy guy,” recalls Justo. Before he knew it, his second church presentation was at their home church back in Fort Lauderdale. He couldn’t believe what was happening. “I’m proof if you stay humble and obedient, God can accomplish much even when we feel inadequate. He has stretched me in so many ways, including public speaking,” says Justo.
“I’m proof if you stay humble and obedient, God can accomplish much even when we feel inadequate.”
“I’m a Gideon because I answered God’s call on my life. My attitude was ‘Here I am, send me,’” he says. His earnest prayer of seeking what God has planned for him is answered as God continues growing and stretching him to be more like Jesus as he serves in his camp, church, and community. He continues, “I was looking for ways to serve God, and He placed The Gideons International in my life. This has afforded me opportunities beyond my wildest imagination to make an impact for Kingdom as I continue to serve the Lord.”
One of these moments was with Chris, a man he met while doing a fair distribution in their town last Christmas. Gideons passed out 900 Testaments to the youth and hundreds of Gideon Bible App cards to the adults who came by their booth. Chris was one of these adults. “Chris came up to me at the booth and was interested in what we were doing. I shared a Gideon Bible App card with him, which led to us having a Gospel conversation. Praise the Lord, Chris received Jesus as his Lord and Savior in the moments that followed,” remembers Justo.
This moment with Chris was just one of many open doors God has placed in Justo’s life since he became a Gideon. Yet, there still lingers the humble “who am I to do this” mindset. He knows through God all things are possible, and it is God who prepares us for what lies next. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) serves as his life verse, which reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Justo knows the key to successful ministry is delighting in the Lord and stewarding what God has given us well.