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Art for the Heart

by Crossworld
in Arts and Media, Germany, Immigrant and Refugee Ministry, Story
Emma’s art class offers a creative outlet for burdened refugees.
GERMANY — A dab of magenta here. A swoosh of marigold there. Crossworld worker Emma strolled around the paint stations in her community art class, offering technical tips and admiring each student’s work. Most of Emma’s students came to Germany as refugees from war-torn areas. This is the first art class for many of them, but improving artistic skill isn’t Emma’s primary goal.

“I hear you are an artist,” a teenage boy from Central Asia had said to Emma one day, as if it was a secret. “Would you teach me? I love everything to do with art and creating. Please, I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember.”

Another of Emma’s students had a similar story. “I enjoyed drawing so much as a child,” the Middle Eastern woman told Emma. “But they said I had no talent for it, and I should knit instead.”

Appalled at her friends’ lack of creative opportunity, Emma opened a community art class. The easels come out, and as the background music starts to play, the muscles of each person in the room begin to relax. For an hour each week, the chronically stressed find relief.

Though art has been part of Emma’s life since childhood, she didn’t always see it as a ministry opportunity.

God, why didn’t you make me a nurse so I could help people heal? Emma used to pray over and over. But as she wrestled with the stress and trauma of living in a war zone for years herself, she turned to art — first as an outlet for her own sanity and then as an expression of her journey with God through the chaos. Experiences, Scripture, life, faith — her art expresses what her words often can’t.

And that’s what Emma hopes for her students, too. Students like Zahra and Nahal.

“I have severe pain in my legs and I’ve gone to many doctors, but no one can explain why,” Zahra told Emma. “Sometimes I go numb and can’t walk. Headaches follow, and depression plagues me. At university, I’m bullied because I’m the only woman in my program. That’s why I’ve chosen to take art classes — it’s very soothing and healing.”

“I was debating whether or not to come to your class,” said Nahal. “My headaches have been so bad recently. I decided to come because my son really wanted to. And when I came, my headaches went away! Now I look forward to your class every week.”

God didn’t make Emma a nurse. He made her an artist, and now she knows why. Week after week, Emma teaches her students to draw and paint. But more than that, she teaches them to find healing in creating … and in their Creator.

Your part in this story...

Crossworld worker Emma asks you to pray for these requests.

  • Ministry here in Germany can be dark and hard. This year we have helped three individuals struggling with suicide — two from our church who ended up in the hospital. Please pray for people to experience God in a healing and personal way.
  • The precious refugee women in my art class are struggling with various health issues connected with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and loss. Pray for their hearts to be moved by the Holy Spirit.
  • I exhibited my own art at a couple of local art shows, where I had the chance to share my faith in Jesus with my neighbors and friends. Pray for those conversations to continue.
The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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