As a native New Yorker growing up in a big Italian family, Ellie quickly learnt how to make herself heard above the hustle and bustle of five children. Little did this energetic and vivacious girl know that one day her vocal chords would come in handy when addressing hundreds of women at conferences around the world.
An Italian heritage
Like most Italians, Ellie grew up a devout Catholic and it was this grounding that fostered a hunger to know God on a deeper level. “I honour my Catholic tradition and am grateful to have been taught at a tender age all that was good, right and true about the birth, death and Resurrection of Jesus. I studied with the Jesuits at Boston College and there is much that is rich and meaningful there. That said, I had such a deep hunger to study the Word and that was not readily available at most parishes in the early 1970s. I gave my heart and life to God and ended up in a non-denominational church. Later I felt the call to full-time ministry. On Judgement Day, I do not believe we will be asked which church we attended, but rather if we loved God and did His Will.”
A woman of wit
Known for her humour, quick wit and compassion for seekers, Ellie regularly shares the Gospel and reaches out to people through Heart, Mind and Soul Ministries which she founded over 20 years ago.
Ellie’s advice to Christians with family members stuck in religious tradition is to “spend time with them. Love them without an agenda. Pray for them. Do not make them feel like ‘projects’. Genuine, unconditional love is irresistible. And if they do resist, it is Jesus that they are rejecting, a sad reality that is written about many times in the Scriptures.”
An empty nest, but a full heart
Married to the love of her life, Frank, for 30 years, the couple have three grown children: Paris (25), Jordan (23) and Capri (20) and live near Washington DC. “We moved here to enter prison ministry with Prison Fellowship International, founded by Charles Colson. I also travel extensively as the nest is now empty and I am able to fly the coup. Many moms are upset when their kids leave home, but I think it’s fabulous. The fridge is full, the floor is clean and my things are right where I put them! For many years, I thought I was losing my stuff (and my mind) but I now realise my kids were robbing me blind!”
Reaching out to the world
A respected speaker, Ellie has been called by God to a global ministry. “I am highly impacted by the extreme circumstances I have witnessed in countries such as China, Haiti and Cuba. I could speak for six days about this, but suffice it to say that wealth is not about material surplus and poverty is not about material lack. There are financially wealthy people I have known who are spiritually and morally bankrupt. Conversely, I have encountered some precious pilgrims with little means and whose generosity has brought me to tears. “
An excitement for South Africa
Ellie is no stranger to our country: “Three years ago, my daughter Paris spent several months in the Joburg area volunteering at Baby Haven, a wonderful ministry run by David and Caroline Webb. I flew here for a week to accompany Paris and fell in love with the people, the beauty, and the powerful story of resilience and reconciliation that drives South Africa toward such a promising future. I am very excited to be back again this year in May with Aldyth’s team. The Beauty for Ashes conference will be such a glorious celebration. Please come!”
A message to women
Still passionately in love with Jesus, Ellie is convinced of the Father’s unconditional love for us and desires to share that truth with others. “The Lord sees us as princesses, not paupers. Satan has confused things. Women need to hear that they matter. That nothing done for the Lord is in vain. That God hears them, sees them, loves them. That He is not mad at them, but mad about them. That He calls each one beautiful.
We are daughters of the King and have a promised inheritance (Genesis 12:1-2 and Ephesians 1). The Name of the Lord is a strong tower!”
Practical tips for staying joyful
Though she is very blessed, Ellie is familiar with the challenges life throws our way. Yet somehow she always manages to juggle the various commitments and obstacles with infectious positivity. “Happy living is way overrated. Skip “happy” and go for the genuine joy promised in Philippians. Paul wrote that “epistle of joy” from a non-ventilated dark damp dismal hole. If he sang in his deepest hours of despair – then so can I. Take naps. Read for pleasure. Laugh out loud on purpose. Cut mean and difficult people out of your life (unless they are related to you!). Eat chocolate whenever possible. Don’t exercise too much! ”
Advice for life
“A wise white-haired saint once told me, “Honey, you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once!” It has become popular to ‘seize the day’, but we would do well to also seize the season.
Singleness, loneliness, sickness, motherhood, marriage woes, problems at work, health issues. None of these last forever and we need to hear what the Lord is teaching us in and through each one. We must be comfortable in the valley as well as the mountaintop. The Holy Spirit is right alongside to guide and deliver us to the place where there are no sins, sorrows or sicknesses.”
See Ellie live in Johannesburg
Register for the Beauty for Ashes ladies conference from 25-26 May and see Ellie live in person, together with sought-after speaker from Cape Town, Barbie Erasmus. To book please see: www.beautyforashes.co.za or call them on 012 998 6616. For more info on Ellie see www.ellielofaro.com