We were assigned to our new field in Europe to build an art ministry, and I had absolutely no plan for how to begin such an endeavor when I arrived. Nobody I knew did this kind of ministry. Nobody had any guidelines for me to follow—there was no existing framework in place. I had all the freedom in the world and no idea what to do with it.
I had researched artists that lived in our city and had already followed several of them for years. About a month after emigrating to our new country, one of the most prestigious artists posted online that she was going to give a class and those interested should sign up. I wrote within minutes of her posting, and she responded that it was already full, that she would put me on a waiting list, but not to have any real hope because nobody ever gave up their spot. My husband, Kurt, and I sat down and prayed. If I was meant to go down this road, then I would get into the class.
She contacted me a day later. Somebody had cancelled, and I was in. Miracle!
As a newcomer to this country, I found myself walking into the studio of a famous artist. The next person to arrive was yet another famous artist that I had followed for a long time too. I was taking the class with well-known professionals even though I had only picked up the brush a couple of years earlier. I felt completely out of my depth! But something amazing happened in that class that we artists still talk about: we had a connectivity that none of them had ever experienced before or since. I keep telling them that it’s because it was ordained by God. Whether or not they believe me is another story.
The five of us from that class still meet regularly, and I have exhibited with four of them. They have all taken a long time to trust me and initially labelled me as “the freak,” but in the course of journeying together they have begun to share with me, lean on me, and they have all heard the Gospel.
My world has expanded exponentially into an incredible web of contacts and stories with artists of the highest echelon in figurative art (not that I am at that same level, but God has placed me among art royalty). Millionaires, painters contracted by high-society barons and movie moguls, celebrity artists—and the struggling too—have all been providentially put in my path to be ministered to. Only God can arrange these kinds of scenarios.
Not that it has been all roses, lollipops, and rainbows. It is a very taxing ministry and has come full of mockery and criticism for my faith, both publicly and privately. I’ve had painting themes robbed, I’ve been lied to, excluded, seen and heard countless demonic tales, felt bone-breaking oppression, been taken advantage of financially and emotionally, and I’ve lost friends. I have cried many tears and I have been dead tired more than I’ve had energy, and yet this has been the most fulfilling period of my life.
I often ruminate over how amazing the past six years have been, and I cannot but give glory to the Lord for everything He has done to arrange this ministry. One thing I frequently mull over is why ministry to artists is important. I mean, I love it and cannot believe that I got chosen to enjoy this job, but why should others consider supporting this ministry or begin their own ministry to artists?
Besides the obvious answer that we are to be a light in the dark places of the world (and believe me, it is incredibly dark—I could dedicate a whole chapter entirely to this topic), I think that there are a few very important reasons why we should focus on the arts.
In my case, the sphere of influence that artists in Europe have is huge. At the highest levels, they are in contact with a list of powerful people who hold great sway in the country—and indeed are global influencers.
Secondly, I believe that Christian artists are to share a visual Gospel of sorts: the visual arts are a kind of global, language-less way of speaking the Word. It is one of the few ways we can engage the world on our terms, almost as a public liturgy.
When Paul says that “now we see in a mirror dimly,” I see that painting also reflects what is to come (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). Art is a kind of shadow of the spiritual realm, and we as believing artists have a chance to speak the message of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Romans 1 speaks of creation being a witness to the truth, and I believe that art can be that visual—though not silent—testimony.
What time of peace has anyone ever experienced without beauty being present? I believe that the two things are locked together, arm-in-arm. The beauty of the truth of God longing to be reconciled with mankind is the beginning of peace. Ultimately, that is the purpose of making beautiful art: that man can see that he can have peace with God.
I believe that whatever gifts we are given should not be buried; instead, all of them should be leveraged for the Kingdom! I love sitting at the easel and interceding for artists, struggling to paint well and praying, knowing that the Holy Spirit is infusing each brushstroke in some way that is beyond me. I love it when the Scriptures are being read aloud to me and listening for the heartbeat of God, trusting Him for the fruit, and trusting Him even in the middle of tremendous oppression and opposition.
I love meeting up with my artist friends and not being of their world. I love to watch my children love the “unlovely.” To see them effortlessly minister alongside me blesses my soul. I love that my family is an anomaly in the art world. I love being a testimony as a family. I love painting images that are full of light and having their subject spark conversation about God.
I am so grateful for those words that my mom spoke to me when I was first doubting whether I had heard the Lord right that I should begin to paint. She told me directly, “There’s one way to know if you’ve heard right—paint and see what happens.” I could never, ever, have predicted how wonderful life could be when I followed the dream that God had dreamed in my heart.
Used with permission from chapter 10 of the book, Making God Known: To Least-Reached People in Extraordinary Ways.