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Stories & Blog

Painting in Hope

Painting in Hope

EAST ASIA — Fear clouded Chaya’s face as she walked into the process-art workshop for the first time. She wanted to heal from the pain of her past, but that meant reliving years of emotional trauma. Would it be worth it?

Chaya sat down at the table while Crossworld worker Shannon handed out paper, scissors, glue, and magazines.

“Today we’re creating a collage,” Shannon said. “The pain you feel in your heart — pour it onto your paper. Use the supplies at your table to illustrate your story with images, colors, or words.”

In the next session, Shannon asked Chaya to choose one of the stories from her collage and explore that memory with paint.

Chaya took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

She thought back to the days just after her father died when she was a young girl. Her childhood seemed to have died with him. Her mom soon moved to the countryside and left Chaya with an abusive aunt.

When she was finally released, she ran away — from home, from the church, and from God.

Chaya picked up a brush and started to paint as the memories flowed.

From her aunt’s, she moved in with a woman from her church, which seemed like a good situation at first. But the woman’s sons drank heavily and brought more violence into her life. Chaya began to distance herself from the family — which the woman interpreted as teenage rebellion and called the church to take her away for demon possession. For two weeks, Chaya was held inside the church against her will. When she was finally released, she ran away — from home, from the church, and from God.

Her face now stained with tears and her paper with color, Chaya set her brush down. Shannon listened as Chaya told her story through her painting.

The next week Shannon handed Chaya paper and watercolors.

“This week, I want you to tell me your story again,” Shannon said. “Paint your paper with colors that match your story as you tell it.” 

Revisiting her past felt less daunting this time as Chaya picked up a paintbrush and started working.

“Our pain can rip us up inside and leave us feeling broken. But God wants to give you a good hope and future that overshadows all your hurt.”

When she finished, Shannon said, “Now tear up your paper, but don’t throw the pieces away. Our pain can rip us up inside and leave us feeling broken. But God wants to give you a good hope and future that overshadows all your hurt. He wants to take your broken pieces and turn them into something beautiful.”

Shannon gave Chaya a new piece of paper and invited her to use the ripped pieces to create a new picture — one that represents the good hope and future God desires for her.

Chaya stared at her paper, unable to come up with anything to paint. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she turned to Shannon. “I want to trust God, but I’m fearful. Will He make me go to church and read the Bible?”

“God might invite you to do those things, but He won’t make demands,” Shannon said. “He wants to be with you.”

At that, an image came to Chaya’s mind and she started painting. She showed Shannon her new picture: an image of her and God watching a sunset.

“You should try it this week,” Shannon said. “Go and watch a sunset with God.”

Chaya agreed and returned the following week with more light in her eyes than Shannon had seen before. Week by week Chaya opened her heart to God more and more. By the end of the class, she had started to pray again — something she hadn’t done in years — and even said she might go to church soon. With the hopelessness of her past fading into the background, God is painting a new, beautiful picture in Chaya’s life.

Here’s how you can pray for this ministry.

  • Pray the Holy Spirit will lead people with open hearts to Shannon’s studio.
     
  • Pray for wisdom as Shannon engages complex and painful stories like these.
     
  • Pray for God to call people with past hurts to Himself, where they can find healing.

The people in this story are real, but their names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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