By Trennis Henderson
DALLAS — Becky Ellison knows what it means to live one day at a time. Since being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, she said a key question she seeks to live by is: “If I had one more minute and I wanted to live it like God wanted me to live it, what would that look like?”
For Ellison, part of that answer involves investing in the lives of Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps leaders throughout the state of Texas.
Ellison, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Baylor University, has been involved in CWJC/CMJC ministries for 14 years. She began serving as a contract consultant with Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas in 2008. Six years later – and four years after her diagnosis – she was invited to serve as the state WMU’s full-time CWJC/CMJC strategist. That role involves consulting with 56 ministry sites throughout Texas.
Recalling when National WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin, who was serving at the time as Texas WMU executive director, invited her to accept the strategist position, Ellison said, “The one thing I prayed about was, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do in this role?’ He was really clear that He wanted me to minister to our leadership because they are in the trenches, they are the ones sacrificing so much day-to-day for the men and women who come through our doors.
“They’re dealing with cancer, they’re dealing with family members who have illnesses, they’re dealing with crises,” she explained, adding that her goal is “to be able to encourage them, to pray with them, to give grace when grace needs to happen.”
Even when the ministry sites’ coordinators, mentors, and volunteers are in the midst of challenging days, Ellison said she seeks to remind them, “God gave you today. What are we going to do with it?”
Amid life’s struggles, Ellison also is able to assure each of her leaders, “I know where you’re coming from.”
Her journey with cancer began in the summer of 2010 during a family outing. “You never know where God’s going to take you,” she noted. “We were just having fun playing on the water in our boat.”
Thinking that she had hurt her back during the excursion, she went to an urgent care center to evaluate the back pain. The doctor ordered an MRI and told her they would call her in a couple of days with the results.
Instead, she recalled, “They called me back in two hours because a radiologist had called the doctor and said, ‘Does this woman know she has cancer?’”
While driving through Waco, Ellison said she received the unexpected diagnosis in a phone call from the urgent care physician.
“We talked and at that moment I just said, ‘Well, let’s just see what God does with this journey,’” she reflected. Affirming that God’s promises and His Word hadn’t changed, she said, “I just knew it was going to be a new season. The blessing of that is the doctor on the phone with me said, ‘Can I pray with you?’ So this journey was bathed in prayer from the very beginning.”
It took doctors 18 months after the initial diagnosis to determine what kind of cancer Ellison has – a rare form that currently has no approved treatment.
“It’s slow growing which is a blessing,” she emphasized. “But God has just been faithful through the whole thing. I tell people now, ‘This has been the most blessed season of my life other than marrying my husband and having my child.’ It’s been a great faith journey.”
Amid the ups and downs of dealing with the disease, Ellison’s doctor told her in 2012 that with the tumors growing, she likely would be paralyzed within three months. Instead, she continued to trust God’s plan and timing for her life and illness. She went back to her co-workers and told them, “You guys don’t worry about this. God’s got this.”
“Of course, that was six years ago,” she recounted with a broad smile. “God really did a miracle healing. I walked away from the hospital and was pain-free. I hike nine miles, I exercise, I ride bikes. I haven’t been in treatment since then. I asked God to let this be a testimony of His still doing miracles and let me be a testimony of having faith to know that He lets us go through seasons. If this is my season and it ends with this, then I’m still blessed.”
Wisdom-Martin, who has worked closely with Ellison in recent years, affirmed her colleague’s unwavering faith and focus. “I witnessed an amazing Christ follower face disappointment and suffering without sinking into despair,” she said. “At her core is the strength to persevere. She is clearly focused on eternity.”
Ellison’s “passion and commitment to the task at hand never faltered once,” Wisdom-Martin added. “All the while, she would whisper in our ears, ‘God’s got this.’ No matter what mountain I face, I carry her words in my heart as encouragement to take the next step. I am proud of Becky and her devotion to the cause of Christ.”
As she works to facilitate ministry for the benefit of Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps participants, Ellison said a primary motivation is “getting to invest in them and love on them as they go through their journey.”
“The core of Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Job Corps is about relationships,” Ellison explained. She said participants often come out of backgrounds in human trafficking, incarceration, addictions, abuse or generational poverty.
With CWJC and CMJC ministry sites providing participants such resources as job readiness training, parenting classes, mentoring and Bible study, she said, “We see transformation. We see families being healed.
“It is a ministry that empowers men and women to grow spiritually, personally and professionally,” she said, adding that it also has a positive community impact. “If we’re empowering men and women to be more whole and healthy and restore families and have living wages, then our communities are better.”
As she maintains her faith perspective amid the challenges of life, Ellison acknowledged that “even hearing that you have cancer changes your lens.”
“Every day, I get up and say, ‘Thank you, God, for waking me up today,’” she reflected. “The lens it changes is, ‘This possibly could be my last day. What do I get to do today?’”
For Ellison, the answer is clear: Keep trusting that “God’s got this” – regardless of what tomorrow holds.
Trennis Henderson is a WMU national correspondent.