I made this painting a few days ago for an exhibit called “Go Love People” at my church.
I worked all night Friday to finish the painting on time, and even though I didn’t sleep, it was a joyful experience. The act of painting it, and seeing it now, transports my heart to Ecuador again.
Especially to a moment in Ecuador when God was silent.
This painting reminds me to move forward even if it requires all the faith I have.
It was 2010 and our art ministry partnered with our missions ministry in sending five artists to “Iglesia La Viña.”
Kathy, LaWayne, Dana, Lisa, and I were to serve our sister church in Quito, Ecuador. Here’s what we accomplished in six days:
• painted an artistic stage backdrop for their sanctuary
• drew outlines for murals in the children’s Sunday School rooms which their congregation helped paint alongside us, using “color-by-number”
• painted their church logo at the main entrance
• set up art stations for the congregation to create artwork during Sunday morning service, with several art tables in the main sanctuary for the the adults, and two more art tables for children in their newly-painted Sunday School rooms
God definitely sustained us! As busy as we were, we still visited restaurants, went to marketplaces, and witnessed wondrous waterfalls at the foot of impossibly tall mountains.
But for our team, Sunday’s worship service was a highlight.
Their pastor, Bennie, had warned me beforehand that local people were shy and might be reluctant to participate in art-making. Undeterred, we prepared four large blank canvases. Our art team prayed together, asking God to give us an image to pre-draw onto the canvases and provide the congregation with at least the general framework or an outline to fill in, as we usually do.
But nothing came to any of us. We repeated our prayers, and still nothing. No ideas. None.
Hmm. This was very different from what we’d been used to. God historically speaks through thematic imagery to our art ministry team for the purpose of leading his church, often many months in advance of delivery; after all, God loves to connect with his people and always has a message to give local churches and individuals.
And so for several days before the worship service in Ecuador we prayed, but none of us received a direction.
It speaks to the integrity of our team that none of us pretended to receive a nudge. Rather, the five of us just shrugged, raised our eyebrows, and went forward in faith. We left the four canvases completely blank.
When the musicians began to play, our ministry team took a few minutes to quickly tone the background on all the canvases using the light, pastel tints of Ecuador.
Then we stood back and invited the congregation to pour out their hearts to God through the acrylic paint. And we wondered if any of them would participate.
As the band played and scriptures were read aloud in Spanish, people began inching their way toward the art tables, and suddenly the atmosphere completely changed. Five minutes into the service, each canvas was surrounded by people with long lines forming at each one.
During the next hour, nearly every person contributed to the canvas, and many painted on all four. Visual themes of redemption, transformation and living water materialized. There were no barriers between God and his people. They sang, painted, prayed, and smiled, responding to the Lord’s beauty and goodness.
Praise God for his faithfulness, and for his sweet presence among his beloved!