During the summer our church has regular outreaches in the main park in town. The format resembles a basic church service with the major difference being that it is all done outside over loudspeakers for all the people in and around the park to hear. There is worship in song, testimonies about the difference God can make in your life, a message preached by the Pastor, prayer, and an invitation to learn more about the love of Jesus. There is also a children’s program that happens during the service complete with painted cardboard sets for the Bible story that day.
Everyone from the church participates in one way or another. However, this past time the Pastor honored me with a special request. He asked if I would create some art during the outreach. I had told him stories about how I’ve used my art in ministry and now he was opening the door for me to use my gifts alongside them in their outreach. We knew this was a very important opportunity but it wasn’t until later that we realized just how important.
I was excited and nervous all at the same time. While I’ve done quick art during missions trips in the past I prefer to have time to make sure what I create is close to perfect. This piece of art would need to be created from start to finish within an hour. That is crazy fast for me, but I knew God was calling me to do it. I talked with the Pastor ahead of time about the message he would be giving so that I could reflect on it and prepare something for the painting I would do that day. The message was “God’s Love for Man.” I studied, prayed and tried to begin sketching during the days before, but nothing would come.
The day of the outreach as I was setting things up at the park just before things began I still had no plans for what I would create. I had to trust God to give me the perfect image. Sure enough, as the service started and I put brush to my cardboard canvas, God began revealing an image. As I painted the kids were really engaged with what I was doing and others passing by were curious.
Before I knew it, God had created an image through me about God’s love for man. The painting was another way to portray the truth we were sharing that day.
Many of the church members liked what they saw and wanted to hear about what the painting represented. Their interest was an encouragement, but what the Pastor said about it blew me away. He explained that my painting that day was the first time he knows of that visual art has been used in the church in Italy for evangelism. Our church is part of the biggest evangelical denomination in the country and yet he has never known art to be used in this way so far in Italy! Obviously art ministry is a very new concept for the local church here and it was a huge deal that they trusted me to introduce them to it.
In a land dripping with artistic influence and dependent on relationship building it is such a privilege to be pioneering as an art missionary alongside Italian brothers and sisters who support me and the platform God has given me for the gospel in the arts!