The colour of hope

Jane Knoop | United Kingdom

“I’m just doing what I can from where I am,” Janice says. She may be alone at home, unable to leave due to the UK lockdown restrictions, but she is not muted. Optimistic by nature but not immune to the challenges posed by the new coronavirus, she admits: “It’s not been easy but still, I know that God is moving, and I am hopeful.”

Janice is compelled to share this hope. She knows God is sharing simple messages with her that will bring hope and life to others too. But how can she share when she is stuck at home?

She draws on her windows.

One day a psalm. The next day, the cross. The next, an empty tomb. Janice learnt to write backwards; words of hope to accompany her pictures. Visible from her street, her neighbours walk by and see. Intrigued, people stop and look. This is more than a rainbow, commonly seen in the windows of homes in the UK. Janice’s windows tell a story; a story of a man who knew what it was like to be distanced from those He loved, to live in isolation and fear and to even face death. These windows tell the story of a man who was God, and who overcame it all to bring hope, not just then but now.

A natural overflow

This insatiable desire to share God’s love has been a defining characteristic of Janice since she first came to know His love. Aged 11, the reality of the gospel—in all its profound simplicity—struck her. She had been chosen by God. Adopted. His beloved child. This discovery superseded everything else.

“Sharing His love was a natural overflow, right from the start,” Janice shares, “It was just part of who I was.” So, going into missions after 11 years as a Religious Studies teacher was natural for Janice. Embracing every opportunity to speak of God’s love in her secular work environment, she knew she wanted to do it fulltime.

Janice’s journey with Jesus took her to OM. Her years as a teacher, leader, discipler—in Birmingham, onboard Logos II, in South Africa and back in the UK—gave Janice opportunity after opportunity to speak of Jesus and equip others to share His love. 

Yet, inspiringly, Janice describes sharing God’s love in such simple, empowering terms, “I just do what God tells me to do, when He tells me to do it, how He tells me to do it, with what I have in my hands.”

Mission through art

It was the desire to reach others with the gospel that led Janice to art. She recalls thinking: “I’m in missions, yet I go to the office and I come home, and I go to church and I come home.” It dawned on her: “I don’t know how many non-Christians I know other than a few of my neighbours.”

Initially, art was simply a means of meeting people and building new friendships outside of church and her work as head of Learning and Development for OM in the UK. In time, art became less a means of connecting herself with someone, and more a channel for connecting others with God.

“I found I would be sitting in a prayer meeting… doodling!” Janice shares. These doodles would be the result of strong impressions she felt during prayer, worship or even in the middle of planning meetings. As she began to share her drawings, she discovered that God was speaking to others through the images she had created; confirming something the Holy Spirit was laying on their hearts or moving them through a fresh message of hope.

On an outreach in Belgium, Janice discovered the full impact of art as a powerful, creative and effective way of reaching those who don’t know Jesus. A painting she exhibited, ‘Mother behold your son, son behold your mother’, based on John 19:26, invited a surprising level of interest and depth of conversation with those who passed by.

Within the year, Janice was head of OM Arts in the UK, fully committed to seeing how God can use art as a means of building His Kingdom. In humility she shares: “I’m not an artist. I am a person through whom God uses art to bring His message. I’m just someone who paints, and if God wants to use these paintings to show Himself to someone, then that’s His business!”

Finding hope

Before lockdown, Janice would set up her easel in a bustling city, inviting passersby to add a stroke of colour to her canvas with the question: “What colour do you think hope is?” They would pause, often surprised. But the conversation would then flow, naturally. “Where do you find your hope?” Janice would ask, and as the question returned to her, she would share: “I find all my hope in Jesus.”

Now, more than ever, people are looking for signs of hope. The paintings in Janice’s windows are bringing colour to the street and hope for those who dwell on them.

“I’m glad you closed the curtains,” one of Janice’s neighbours said to her recently, “I couldn’t see the picture of Jesus clearly when they were open.” Janice found her neighbours comment so poignant in a season when many are wondering where God is. “He’s always there, you know,” she responded, “even when you can’t see Him clearly. He’s there.”

For Janice, God is present so clearly and profoundly in this season. The whole world is quaking from the effects of the virus, but God is working in the brokenness. “We have an opportunity,” Janice says, “for the church to be born into a new way of doing things.” A new way of loving Him, and a new way of boldly and creatively sharing His love with others.

Published: Friday, 12 June 2020
Credit: Jane Knoop
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