Keeping Missions Alive through Art

Mission work is a staple of thriving Christian congregations. How churches reach out to those in need describes the work that God is doing in the spiritual life of their congregation. Congregations initially work to find peace for their souls through worship. Worship leads to seeking direction for their journey through Bible study and conversation. An outpouring of peace for the soul and direction for the journey is then expressed as hope for the hungry, otherwise referred to as mission work.   

Watercolor map of Slovakia by Jill Hudson

Mission work can be as simple as donating money through an app for a local charity to use how they best see fit. Or it can be more hands-on like a food pantry or clothing closet where neighbors can come to receive that which they currently lack. Mission work can also take us outside of our neighborhoods. To other states, other countries, and other continents. When churches find places to connect missionally, spiritual growth and maturity in the church soon follows, both for individuals and the collective congregation. It is easy for churches to focus on the work that is being done during missional moments and not take time to reflect on that work. Perhaps a slideshow is presented about the work that was done, but humans require time to wrestle with complex thoughts and need multiple passes at ideas before they are fully grasped. It can also seem counterintuitive to take time to reflect on those experiences because it feels like the work is already complete. Reflection on mission work, though, is crucial to the life of the congregation. It invites the entire community inside of the experience, not just those who were able to “go and do.” The entire community is invited into the work that God is doing in the world.

Watercolor map of Mexico by Jill Hudson

When churches collectively step into these reflections, inspiration will often strike. A teenager will be inspired to take the next opportunity offered by the church to see God at work in a context that is different from their own. A newly retired person will imagine new possibilities for their Wednesday mornings, perhaps serving a hot meal instead of partaking in their usual retirement activities. A child sees pictures and videos of children in a different part of the world and strives to learn a new language to be able to communicate God’s love to them. Churches should be encouraged to use art to help them reflect on the mission work that has been done, is being done, and will be done amongst members of its congregation. Art can elevate the reflection experience, deepening our connection to the Creator of all. Visual art can also provide a more lasting opportunity for reflection when displayed in well-trafficked areas of the church building.   

Watercolor map of Arkansas by Jill Hudson

For these reasons, I chose to create simple watercolor art to represent places in the world where my church is engaged in missional activity. Some of this missional activity is praying and giving. Some of the mission work is teaching and leading. Sometimes the task is building and visiting. However, the places where this work is done are consistent, so that is why I chose to watercolor the locations. A fellow church member enlarged photos taken in the locations of missional moments and framed them to be displayed alongside the watercolor paintings. What resulted is a humble hallway full of missional memories, shown through photographs and punctuated by the watercolor art. As church members gather in that hallway for coffee and donuts on Sunday mornings, there are visual reminders all year long of what God is up to around the world, but specifically in places where we are engaged missionally.  Parents can point out children that are the same age as their kids. Men can look again into the eyes of those that they now call friends. Sisters can remember the physical exertion it took to build a house for the family smiling back at them. And the watercolor art of each location reminds us of God’s words to Jeremiah, “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only.” (Jeremiah 23:23 GNT)

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