The Painting That Changed Lives {Artsfest 2019}

As a kid I spent every summer away at summer camp for several weeks. Every afternoon we were given the option to choose between five different electives: boating, lake swim, nature adventure, athletics, and arts & crafts. I was never going to be the camper to choose athletics and voluntarily embarrass myself, my momma never let me get dirty so rolling around in the mud with the nature kids wasn’t in my comfort zone, and the lake was too gross for five-star Maddie. Therefore, without fail I choose arts & crafts every time. There was something about the paintbrush in my hand, string between my fingers, or a huge project in front of me that I couldn’t stay away from. It was my happy place. Fast forward 10 years and I have been the art director at two different summer camps now with the unique opportunity to teach kids about Jesus through art. Before I go much further I should clarify that my artistic ability only goes as far as painting a tree or making a friendship bracelet, I know nothing about art history, and the only time I’ve actually been in an art museum was on a field trip in 7th grade but, I have a great appreciation for storytelling and think it’s the coolest thing in the world when an artist is able to do that through their work… especially when their story is about Jesus.

A couple weeks back an organization at my college brought in artist to be the chapel speaker for our annual campus Artsfest. There were rumors of this dude painting a 10-foot wall while sharing the gospel (also offering chapel credit) so I decided I was intrigued and grabbed a couple friends to go with me. Unlike every other chapel speaker we’ve ever had, this artist wasn’t a high up pastor or theologian but just a guy who dropped everything with no steady job or salary to travel the country painting and speaking truth because he felt God put a call on his life to tell others about Jesus with the gifts and talents he had been blessed with. From the start, I was in awe because even though on some scale that is what each of us is called to do, choosing instability and uncertainty is radical in today’s world.

As he and his partner painted, he spoke in “street gospel” like he was talking about his best friends. They laughed, screamed, and ran around the stage barefoot… not your typical Grove City chapel. I had heard all the main bible lessons before but this man told each story in a way that was directly applicable to our lives as college students and so different from any other way I have ever heard the gospel preached. The final painting was an image of Jesus on the cross looking over us:

The image and message was powerful but what came next nearly moved me to tears. A large portion of the artist’s message was centered on boldness. For the past several months, this has been something God has continually been teaching me and laying on my heart. I had flashbacks of Jamaican missionaries saying, “It’s time to start speaking the name of Jesus boldly and living in the image of Jesus” as this artist said the same thing. It got real emotional when he asked the audience at the end of his talk if anyone was bold enough to stand up and accept Jesus into their heart as their Savior and King. That night 4 people in a crowd of 150 Christian college students came to know Christ.

When you go to a tiny private Christian college, everyone always has on the mask of being “the perfect Christian” but that night I realized there are still people all around me that don’t know Jesus. I am so guilty of becoming complacent and comfortable in my faith at school but as followers of Jesus we are called every minute of every day to act in the image of Christ and speak his powerful name no matter where we are. My heart broke (but was also so full of joy) when I discovered that one of the girls who accepted Jesus at Artsfest was a second semester senior who has sat in front of me in many of my classes for the past two years.

When I think back on my summers as an art director it was so easy to share the gospel through a simple craft, it is easy to talk about Jesus when we’re suppose to. This artist dropped everything that was normal in his life to share the gospel with people he doesn’t even know and make disciples. For me, this night was a wakeup call to open my eyes to the people on my campus and in my life that don’t know Jesus. We are called to be light. If there is one encouragement I can give you from this story it is to step out of your comfort zone and boldly declare the name of Jesus to everyone in your life. Seek intentional conversations. Seek truth. And seek to make disciples of all nations as we are called to do.

XOXO,

Maddie G

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