Thursday, September 30, 2010

For My Sister

Tonight was just spending some time laid out in His Presence, and realized that the the most treasured moments in my life have been in the dirt with Haitians. I thought of this past summer...We had finished up all our projects and were about to leave the next day. We were making our last rounds to people, tying up loose ends, and we happened down to the bakery where we did one of the murals.

At the beginning of the month, before we did the mural, the family's littlest son would kind of shy away from me. Then he got to paint. Specifically, one day, he was without a shirt, so I painted a smiley face around his belly button. When he would wipe it off, I would paint another white smiley on his little black and poking-out tummy. Somehow, after that, he would embrace me heartedly when he saw me. Who knew a smiley could do that?

Well, that last night, we were at the bakery, and he was there. He just sat on my lap in the darkening night on the stoop of the bakery, and I just remember not wanting to leave that spot with my arms wrapped around his little body in my lap. There was this stillness all around, in my heart, in my mind, in my body, in my soul.

All the paint projects, all the camps, all the good and great and awesome things God has accomplished and is accomplishing... I am so grateful, and I know it is His call, His doing. I just think He reminded me what it is really all about tonight. It is about that little boy I will see again in several months. I smile now thinking of him. I can't wait to hold him again.

And then, these pictures, below, serve as a reminder of that little boy and all those boys, you know, my Sister, that we are called to. To raise up. To be men of God. To feel loved. To feel loved. To feel loved. To feel valued. To feel called. I forget sometimes. Thank you, God, for reminding me. For reviving my heart for them, the ones we do not even know and the ones we do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Haiti 2010

This year in Passe Cataboise, Haiti, the plan was to do one mural, however we ended up doing two: One at the local bakery (a.k.a hangout for local shoddy people and my favorite place to be) and the other on the hospital. Below you will see pictures of the one on the hospital. The theme this year was magical, about dreaming beyond the possible. To create that feeling, the mural pictures larger-than-life flowers, the stars and the moon, and people in inspirational forms.

The highlight of any mural we do internationally are the people who help paint. This year, my favorite little painter was Chodly. We knew him from camp last year, and we ran into him in the mountains and told him to come back to camp this year, which he did. Then with the mural, he showed up every day, faithful and wanting to paint at the age of 13.

Wilfet was my second worker bee, who helped primarily on the bakery mural. Redemption Art has started to function as "business as mission," meaning people, like Wilfet, being empowered by having work through the business of Redemption Art.

Overall, it is such an honor to be able to paint out an expression of what I believe the Spirit of God is putting in my heart for a particular place, people and time. It is an expression of prayer and of worship as much as it is a tool for relationship and trust with the people or a way to empower them. I am continually humbled as I create the pictures I am inspired to paint out. Because while it is me, it is my hands, and it is my mind, it isn't really. It is Someone far greater in me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fulfilling His Promise

My sister and I just returned from a two week venture to Kenya doing a large mural project and art therapy with CTC International ( As we were debriefing one night after a long day's work in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, I feel like God nudged me, and reminded me this: In this trip, He was fulfilling what I believe He had promised me years ago. And that is, that I would go to the nations with my paintbrush.

Of course, the past several years, we have been going to Haiti to do a similar thing we did with CTC. However, 36 hours of travel one way and CTC itself took it to a whole 'notha level.

My heart has indeed been reminded of the vastness of His promise. Of course, Jesus is enough. Period. There is something though about fulfilling God's call. Doing His workmanship that He knew long before. I was reminded of that too in this trip.

Here are some pictures and some blurbs about the mural project.

The mural tells a progressive story of CTC's mission for holistic development its five initiatives of education, environment, economy, community and health. It is a mural that specifically speaks to the women and children of the community about empowerment. The mural itself coincided with a seminar for women who participated in art therapy and teaching on empowerment from a clinical psychologist. (Approximately 50 feet long and about 12 feet high.)

The mural began on the far left with the CTC International logo, which the five fingers of the hand all interconnected represent the interconnectedness of the 5 initiatives of CTC: environment, education, economy, community and health. The thumb spirals into a thread, a common tie in the mural to represent interconnectedness.

"Ubuntu" translates "I am because we are." The women from the seminar painted this word in purple to symbolize their empowerment. In the art therapy sessions, we discussed the meaning of colors, and then used colors to express various feelings. Purple symbolized the diva in they ladies. Above the word, you see the symbol CTC uses to communicate the progression of life transformation through their work. It then spins off to a thread and needle, pointing to a sewing machine, which is a form of economy they have developed for the women in the community.

The initiative of economy is represented in the sewing machine. The Malaika Mums sew by day, while their children with various disabilities, attend school there. The initiative of community is represented in the scene of the town--the mountains in the background, the CTC center, and the Matatus driving down the road (also known as the AIDS highway and the most significant road for economy in Kenya).

Throughout the mural, there are five threads, to represent the five initiatives and how they are all connected. There are also phrases written in English and Swahili. Across the top is written a quote by MLK, Jr.

This is a scene of the Malaika kids and their teachers in school to represent the Education initiative. They are dancing, to represent that education is more than just memorizing and textbook. It is also care and nuturing for these children with disabilities, who before CTC, received little of that.

This scene represents the Environment initiative. It shows the grandmothers of the community working in the gardens that CTC has started with them. The tree represents life in the background.

Lastly, this woman represents the initiative of Health. Her eyes are closed and there is a swirl that comes from her mind's eye, to represent a woman with hope, imagination, dreams,freedom and empowerment. Health being more than physical needs met, it is also mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs met as well. The most significant moment was watching a woman paint in "Uhuru" (Swahili for freedom), a woman who had shown there was much fear, danger and darkness in her life through the art therapy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For Jean Benson

A friend of mine and co-laborer in making art that represents Jesus well, mentioned to me that I should write down some of my thoughts… In regards to making art.

You know, quite honestly, I think I could leave painting behind, and I would be ok. I don’t wake up and think: “Yea! I get to paint today.” It is not my driving passion, my ultimate purpose, my reason for living. Painting for me is a tool. It is a gift. It is a bridge. It is a way. Let me explain.

First, let me say what is my heart’s passion. Boil it down. Jesus. Boil it up a little: the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the suppressed, the hungry, the abused, the abandoned, the neglected, the sick, the diseased, the wounded, the violent. These people, are my heart’s passion.

Take for example, the people of Haiti. What has happened to them. It makes me weep. Because they are the people listed above, and more importantly, they are my people in my heart. But, you know what made them my people? Of course, Jesus. Of course, my heart for them. Yet, there is another thing…This thing called art. Art was my tool to reach into their lives. It was a way for me to engage with them, to form trust non-threateningly with them, to build relationship with them even when I didn’t speak their language, and to begin the journey of life with them. Now, I consider many of them my brothers, like Jean Benson pictured above, whose whereabouts are unknown since the earthquake. Art led me to him. And now my heart hurts.

Art for me is my bridge to my ultimate passion: loving the most unloved, like Jesus did. Art seems to cross over these gaps that separate us: race, religion, age, perceptions, assumptions, socioeconomic status, social context, culture, technological skill… That is why I love what I do. It takes me to people. It takes me into relationships with people that might just be a bit harder without this gift God has given me.

Of course art isn’t the only way to bridge gaps between people. It is just a way. My way. And for that, I am grateful to God. Because in turn, through these relationships, He inspires my work. It is through these relationships that I see the living Word of God become active and real, and then it translates onto canvas and into people’s lives and hearts.

So, I guess art is my passion indirectly. Maybe I couldn’t leave it behind.