In the months of preparation of our trip, we prayed into what our focus would be. In the past we have brought eyeglasses so that – literally – the blind could see. This did not feel like the focus of the trip. Through prayer we kept landing on “art” and “shoes”. With 160 elderly, of all different physical and cognitive capabilities- I had no idea how to roll out an art aspect! The Lord provided answers in little steps. First, we purchased watercolor kits, inexpensive watercolors, and cheap brushes. With a sharpie marker, I printed out 160 different Romanian words: Jesus loves me and Praise the Lord!. I had an art bag packed and ready to go, not sure how it would play out and if it would be received well. These were children’s watercolor kits- would I be insulting? Would they “go for it”?
I was there with one purpose and one passion, because BEAUTY MATTERS. Beauty pierces through the darkness and brings hope. A single rose is a protest against the violence, poverty, disease that is all around it. Color is the presence of LIGHT, in dancing hues. Blackness is not a color – it is void of color. To bring color into the soul is to bring LIGHT into the darkness.
Let me take you to the moving moments when the art bag was opened and color was released out into the world. There were gnarled hands, incapacitated from a stroke. There were trembling hands that shook. There were those that couldn’t even sit up in bed. Protests against the light were many – in the words of our translator: “We will not take no for an answer!” The paints were given out and we all stood and sat by each bedside. Sometimes we gathered in the garden, and other times we gathered in the lobby of their homes. Either way, paintbrushes were put into gnarled hands and encouraging words were spoken. Men with big hands, that had worked their whole lives- dwarfed the little paintbrushes- engulfing the tool of light so that it was almost not visible. And……they….painted.
Smiles played on their lips and sparkles could be seen in their eyes. It was if they had INGESTED the color, they were radiating out this message of life and light and color. We all wept to see the transformation that a simple pan of watercolors could bring.
One man, Rudolph, spoke gibberish constantly. He has been waiting for his mother to come and get him for years. We put the watercolors in front of him and he continued to babble and gesture wildly. One member of our team, took his hand and placed it around the brush. At the darkness often does, it protests against incoming light. He gestured, his eyes told the story that he believed he couldn’t do it. With patience, each stroke was laid on with the help of a team mate. His breathing slowed, his focus sharpened. She let go of his hand. HE continued on. He took a deeeeep, deeeep breath, almost breathing in the light and the color into his soul and continued on in silence- finishing the entire painting by himself.
And we wept to see the beauty find victory over the darkness.
One man couldn’t do it, though we tried and tried to convince him. Another member of the team sat by his bed and did it for him, while he watched in fascination. One might say that the beauty failed him, that beauty couldn’t pierce through his darkness. When we all left his room, a member of the team stayed behind and caught a picture of him, holding the little painting before him, soaking in the color and the light- as beauty pierced into the darkness and shattered the night of the soul.
And we wept for the goodness of beauty and a God that works in such an intimate way