Mission’s Esther Bambrough Has a Passion for Helping People in Need

Esther Bambrough, 76, discusses her writing and the inspiration behind her work at her home in Mission. (Photo by Yasser Marte/East Oregonian)

Meet Esther Bambrough, a fiercely religious woman who describes herself on her Facebook page as a Pentecostal Apostolic servant of God.

She is also a writer of short stories, Gospel songs, Bible study courses and more. These days her readers won’t be found in a church, however, but a prison — the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton.

Esther Bambrough discusses the synopsis to one of her published stories sitting at her living room in Mission. (Photo by Yasser Marte/East Oregonian)

Bambrough, 76, lives in Mission and for the past five years has been writing for Light, the prison’s monthly newsletter. Each newsletter is printed in English and Spanish. The publication include articles, crossword puzzles and announcements. She was recruited for the job by a friend, Shannon Shuette, who attends her church and oversees the prison newsletter.

It was an easy sell. Bambrough loves to write and has a passion for helping those in trouble.

“I’ve always written since I was young,” Bambrough said. “I guess it was because we were poor and living out in the country and we had nothing else to do.”

Bambrough typically writes an article per issue, and she puts her religious background to good use in her writings.

“I’m a religious writer,” she said. “I write to encourage the prisoners to keep holding on. I tell them they are not the only ones who have fallen. I talk a lot about people having chains on them and those are what are holding them back. I tell them it’s the Devil. He’s got them chained up.”

Esther Bambrough pulls out a story clipping she had written and discusses her inspiration behind the piece, at her living room in Mission. Bambrough entered the story writing contest, when she lived in Glasgow, Montana, in 1990, and won third place for her original piece “A Memory from the Heart.” (Photo by Yasser Marte/East Oregonian)

Bambrough said she covers a variety of topics but one thing remains a constant in her writings.

“Somewhere in that article I’m going to put something in about the Lord,” she said. “I can’t help it. Sometimes I write stories, sometimes I write to inspire them, but it will always have a Christian message to it.”

She encourages the inmates through her writings to sing out to the Lord — any way they can.

“I tell them if you are in a situation where you can’t sing out for some reason, you can always hum or just have it in your mind. The Lord will know your song.”

She said some of the topics of her articles come from God.

A young photo of Esther Bambrough, when she was 14, hangs inside her living room at her home in Mission. (Photo by Yasser Marte/East Oregonian)

“The rest come when I look at something interesting that gives me an idea or when I’m in the writing mood — which is most the time,” she said.

Bambrough grew up in the very small town of Zion, Illinois. It was a different time and place with strict laws and norms.

“Dr. Downey was a Christian man who ran Zion,” Bambrough said. “It was against the law to spit on the ground or look at a woman as she passed by.”

Zion was also a dry town with no liquor sales allowed.

Life in Zion wasn’t easy for Bambrough and her two brothers, Larry and John, and sister, Elsie. Her family lived in an old converted chicken house with linoleum flooring that was all but worn away, and dusty rose wallpaper that was half torn off and had no doors for privacy.

“Mom fixed that,” Bambrough said.

The family didn’t have an indoor bathroom, but instead used an outhouse, along with an outside hand pump for water. Her family’s living conditions would be hard to imagine for most people today.

“But it was home to us,” she said.

She describes her parents as “decent” people who instilled in her and her siblings a set of values she has held onto.

“They taught us right from wrong by example and by the spankings,” she said. “We had great teachers. We played baseball, football, hide-and-seek, hide the thimble and more. I loved living there.”

Her fondness for those days was the inspiration for a short story contest she entered years later while living in Montana. The story, “A Memory from the Heart,” centered around childhood memories of Christmas.

“We were poor, but happy,” she said. “I thought I’d enter it on a whim.”

She ended up winning third place and it gave her a sense of pride in her accomplishment. She placed the award on a wall of honor in her home.

“My husband, Ted, was an officer in the Navy and he had a wall with his awards and things from the service, so I thought I’d do the same for me,” she said.

Her romance with Ted would make for a story all on its own. When Bambrough was eight years old she met 15-year-old Ted, who was their landlord’s son.

“We instantly fell for each other,” Bambrough said.

Their romance was a remarkable one with tragedy, divorce and an unexpected reunion decades later.

The two decided to get married when she was 14.

“We got married with Dad’s permission on Jan. 15, 1962,” she said.

For Esther and Ted, their marriage was a difficult one from the start.

“We had a stillborn baby the next year and I went into depression, which ended our marriage,” she said.

Following the divorce, she went into a deeper depression.

Esther Bambrough sits at her home and talks about her inspiration to write and why she continues to send her stories to Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. (Photo by Yasser Marte/East Oregonian)

Bambrough said that over time, she came out of the depression, met a man named Jim Jack and they got married. Ted got remarried, as well. Fast forward many decades. She and Ted had not seen each other in more than 50 years and both were single when the unexpected reunion took place.

“Ted found me here in Pendleton,” she said. “After 52 years apart we remarried on Oct. 3, 2014. Ted was my first and last.”

Ted died Dec. 7, 2022.

For a time, she and her second husband, Jim, lived in Montana where Bambrough’s mother and brother Larry lived.

“We lived there for many years,” she said. “Too long.”

They eventually made their way to Pendleton in the mid-1990s. They didn’t stay long, however, as Bambrough said she had a premonition shortly after arriving in Pendleton.

“I had the strong feeling that I had to go back,” she said. “I told Jim and we begrudgingly moved back in 1995.”

Upon returning to Montana, Bambrough found her mother had become very ill and her brother Larry was slowly dying from the effects of Agent Orange he suffered while in Vietnam. She spent two years in Montana caring for her mother and brother before they both died in 1997.



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