Painting talents provide joy, ministry
EAST ASIA (BP) -- For Ann Lane,* the "main thing" is sharing the Gospel with an unreached people group in the mountains of East Asia.
But Lane also uses a surprising talent in her life and ministry -- painting.
"I used to think that spending time painting was too self-indulgent because it's not the main thing," Lane said, but she's learned she can paint for pleasure and paint to help others, too.
Connecting with people
Lane, 49, is a single IMB worker who has lived in East Asia for about 20 years. Her main focus is ministering to her assigned people group by building relationships, telling the Good News, encouraging disciples and teaching English. She works to connect mainly with the women of this group.
To better connect with this people group, Lane is learning their heart language, which is different from the country's more prominent language she already knows how to speak. Though some of this people group's men also speak the primary language, very few women do.
Lane listens to recordings of the words of the heart language being spoken. The easiest way for her to learn is "to do something with my hands while I'm listening," so she often paints during her language lessons.
"And the more I listen, the more I can understand when people are sharing with me and when I'm talking with people," which is crucial to building strong relationships, Lane said.
Many brushstrokes, many ways
Though Lane also occasionally paints while she listens to audio recordings of the Bible, she uses her painting as more than just a listening comprehension tool. She often uses her artwork in outreach and ministry.
She has a national friend who is her "painting partner" -- they get together to create art, and during their time Lane can share about Jesus. Lane also hosts craft parties at her home, inviting women and children to have fun and craft together. But it is also a time for Lane and national Christian women to share with them the Gospel.
Lane gives her paintings as gifts to bless others and also puts her artwork onto cards or calendars to give away. Some of her art provides visual backgrounds for worship music DVDs developed in the minority's heart language. She sometimes paints outside by a lake in her city, which is also a way to start conversations and meet new people.
She often sits alongside groups of women enjoying the sunshine as they weave or embroider and their children play. She draws quick portraits of the children while an MP3 player plays the Good News for the women to hear in their dialect. The women enjoy seeing the portraits, Lane said, and the children enjoy receiving them.
Before Lane goes on stateside assignment to spend several months with family, friends and churches, she often creates drawings of "specific people I want my friends in America to be praying for," she said.
She puts those drawings, along with the person's story, on bookmarks to distribute or adds them in her prayer letters. These drawings are a safe way to show nationals' faces without the threat of persecution, which happens frequently to believers in this part of East Asia.
Balance is key
Sometimes, though, painting is just for herself -- "sometimes it's not related to ministry; sometimes it's a hobby."
Someone once asked Lane, "How do you find time to paint?" she recalled. She often paints at night after the day's tasks. Occasionally she paints during the day, too -- the key is balance, she said.
The International Mission Board worker recognizes the importance of having a hobby to enjoy while doing ministry, because it can be easy to get "burned out."
Hobbies can tie into spiritual life, too. Lane referenced a famous quote from Scottish athlete Eric Liddell: "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."
Lane added, "I can't sing, but sometimes I can praise Him when I paint."
But every so often, painting is simply just for fun.
"Painting is not the main thing," she reiterated. "... I have to balance it, but it can support the main thing."
Pray for Ann Lane and her ministry:
-- Pray that everyone in the people group she works with will clearly hear the Gospel, and that Christians in East Asia will stand strong against persecution and share Jesus with their own people.
-- Pray that Lane will continue to find creative ways to use her talents for Christ.
*Name changed. Laura Fielding is an IMB writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).