Purpose: Enable community to inaugurate new worship space by creating images of hope
Major Takeaway: Witnessing the unique power of creating art to express a collective spiritual narrative.
January 2010 - Udon Thani, Thailand
My Friend was working with a Christian Economic Development company in Thailand. A man named EQ that she had gotten to know from her work in prison invited her to his village to be involved in a project: creating a space for worship for the village. While in prison, EQ became a Christian. Upon release from prison, he returned to his village and spoke to his family about his new relationship that he had with the Creator. The majority of the village decided to become Christians as well. EQ wanted to create a space within the village dedicated for worshiping God together. My friend invited me to be a part of this project by leading an art project that would be installed in the new worship space. We arrived and began the day by worshiping together in the newly crafted pavilion which was to be dedicated for worship. Two women sang a song that they had written telling the stories of Jesus’s days on the earth. Like most of the members of the village, they were illiterate and the song enabled them to remember these stories from the Bible.
We worked primarily with the women and children of the village as was culturally appropriate. We moved to another pavilion and we began to discuss the project. The art project was to create two canvases to hang in the new worship space. We began by reading Psalm 42:1-8. We discussed how there are tough times in our lives when our soul feels downcast, when we are in turmoil, when we feel that our “tears have been [our] food day and night.” We highlighted the response of the Psalmist in verse 6 to his sadness: “Therefore I remember you…” and he regains his hope in God. We asked the women to recall God’s movement in their lives. How was there life different before they had begun their relationship with God? Until this point, the women had remained quiet, hesitant to contribute to the discussion. When we asked this question, all of the women began enthusiastically answering at the same time. My friend took some time to listen before translating. She said that they were all recalling basically a similar story. Before God came to their village, it was filled with many spirits. They were demanding spirits and often needed to be appeased. The villagers lived in constant fear. But when God came to them, it was a more powerful spirit and so it drove out all of the other spirits. God was a loving spirit who protected them and made life better. One of the young mothers timidly said that there was more love in their village now, that people got along better. An older leader of the village boldly said that she was not afraid of the future because she was a little child of God.
We started the project by individually drawing symbols that represent their “new life.” Then they all chose a few symbols that they had drawn to be transferred to the two canvases.
The women decided they wanted to two canvases to say, “We do not fear - Because God is bigger than everything.” One woman volunteered to draw the Thai letters. Each of the smaller drawings were done by other members of the village. Eventually, the men also joined us and got involved.
We finished out time together with an amazing meal. One of the older women pulled me aside with my friend to translate. She showed me the picture she created on her own and told us that it was the first time she had ever drawn anything. She was going to use the drawing to tell her self to put her hope in God. I felt that we had all had a new experience that day which left us changed.