God Things

by Anna Martinez

Through my whole experience painting the mural at the San Pedro Science Center, I have been reminded constantly that when we serve others, often we become just as blessed as those we are serving. I have had such a wonderful time of expressing myself creatively while building relationships and encouraging others. I was able to interact with various members of the community, as well as with the workers at the Science Center, and I am always amazed when I reflect on the “God things” that have happened as a result.

Anna Martinez happily paints a mural for a community centerFirst and foremost, our church was able to be a powerful witness to the director of the Science Center and his employees. He does not subscribe to one particular faith, but believes that if all religions could just work together, we could have peace and unity, which is another way of saying that all roads lead to heaven. When the other religious group pulled out of their service project agreement (as mentioned in my e-newsletter cover story), it gave the team from our church credibility that could only have been ordained by the one true God. Although the director never expressed it in words, I know he could tell that our group was different and that we were there to serve for a different purpose.

The only “religious” thing we did the whole time was to pray and ask God’s blessing on the morning of the service project. Another people group had offered to help us with the project, which we gladly accepted, but the day before, they announced that they would only come if they could thank the spirits and perform some rituals along with our opening prayer. We were upset by their attempt to commandeer our prayer, but then a “God thing” happened. Instead of our church having to confront this other group, we approached the director of the Science Center first. Even though he is a non-Christian, he was furious. He told the other group that we were putting on the project and going to pray in Jesus name alone! Needless to say, they didn't show up, however around 80 volunteers from around the community did (including some from the continuation high school next door), making it the highest number of people to attend Sharefest in our church’s history.

Anna, right, and two church friends team up as mural paintersAlthough the community service project took place in one day, I spent two months before painting the details of the mural so that the background could be filled in by volunteers. The day before the project, I was finishing up some painting when an elderly couple from the neighborhood walked in with their granddaughter. They were immigrants from Eastern Europe and didn't speak English very well. They were strolling around when they noticed the Science Center and decided to come in. I gave them a quick tour of the exotic animals, and their granddaughter was ecstatic. Her grandparents told me how much she likes to paint, and I told them they could come back the next day and I would let her paint. (I figured there wasn't anything a five-year-old could mess up that I couldn't paint over!) They kept thanking me, and I couldn't help but think to myself that these people must often get overlooked and marginalized, treated like second-class citizens because they were not as proficient in English as most people. The next day they asked for me by name, and brought their grandchildren back to paint. I gave their granddaughter a paintbrush, and she did a surprisingly good job—I could tell it made her day. I thanked them for their participation as they left, and about 2 hours later, they came back with a huge chocolate bar to thank me for paying attention to their grandchildren. I was so touched by this gesture that tears welled up in my eyes, as I remembered that all of us are God’s children, and that He shows no favoritism.

During my time there, I got to talk with all of the employees who would occasionally peek their heads in to see how the mural was coming along. The Science Center doesn't have normal school hours because employees have to work on the weekends to feed the animals, so often the workers are spread thin. One lady works 60 hours and puts 40 on her timecard to keep the place going. Many of the workers volunteered to work overtime so they could help out with our project. One man would come visit me while I was working, and just talk about life. Sometimes people just need you to sit and listen. Affirmation is something that money can’t buy, and this is definitely one of the “God things” that came about because of our project.

All in all, the main highlights of this project for me were using my artistic skills, building relationships with various people from the community, and seeing how God worked through us. I know that we raised a lot of awareness about the Science Center. Hopefully our good deeds have inspired others to go out and do the same. Colossians 4:5 reminds us, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” Most of my friends have a postmodern mindset where experience is the only thing that can define truth. So my goal is for them to look at my lifestyle and see Jesus.

“God things” happen around us all the time, so I encourage you to keep your eyes open and fixed on Him.


Anna

PS. Please take a look at my "before" and "after" and "close-up" photos, below, showing how the Lord enabled my church friends and me to help the Center.

"Before" Photos "After" Photos

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A before photo showing bare walls above cabinets at the San Pedro Science Center

Bare walls above closets — Before

 

The finished mountain landscape mural towers above the cabinetsAnna outlined the landscape. Then, a lady in her church, an actual landscape artist, filled it in beautifully. They freshened up the unsightly teal cabinets using a nice warm brown color.

Landscape painting above closets — After

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This before photo displays a dreary, cluttered classroom

Dreary, cluttered classroom — Before

The newly painted classroom has fresh murals on its four wallsAnna and her team spruced up the dingy, cluttered room by painting its four walls with bright colors and eye-catching designs for the children to appreciate.

Freshly painted murals on all four walls— After
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There's no focus to this plain corner of the room

A plain classroom corner — Before

The same room corner is now enlivened with a swirling water-like backgroundThe room had had ugly plaster fish in addition to old yellow-painted walls. The "new" room was primed and painted with a lively water design (perhaps in case the plaster fish would reappear).

The enlivened classroom corner — After
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The final before photo shows a pair of drab poster-filled classroom walls

Drab, poster-filled walls — Before

Now the walls are painted in a rainforest jungle themeThe room's walls, covered with old, peeling posters, needed help. Anna's team cleared the clutter by creating a rainforest jungle mural designed to help the children imagine that unique habitat in which many of these painted animals live.

New rainforest jungle walls — After
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"Work in Progress" Photos

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This beginning photo of two turtles displays Anna's first of two progressive photos

Turtles painting in progress — Before

The completed painting highlights two turtles and their watery reflectionBecause oil paint takes a long time to dry, Anna first painted the contrasting colors on these turtles. She then added details and swirled the lower colors together to create the look of a swampy marsh, along with a stunning reflection.

The completed turtles painting — After
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The first of three progressive images of a dragon couple, painted with primerThe artistic process at work: Anna painted all the animals in oil paints while water-based paints were used for the background. In this first of three progressive shots, she first painted the bearded dragons with primer.

Bearded dragons, first primed
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This second progressive photo shows the completed dragonsIn this shot, Anna has painted within the primed outlines using oil paint. Her dragon designs were based on images that she had found online.

Dragons, painted with oil paint
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Totally complete, Anna's pair of dragons appear lifelike on the classroom wallAnother artist at Anna's church completed the end of the wall by painting the desert stone background.

Desert stone completes this painting
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Completed Murals on Four Walls

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Wall #1, the painted blackboard wallThe finished product! In addition to the mural, new blackboard paint was applied to the old green blackboard, sprucing it up with a high-contrast black.

Wall #1
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Wall #2, dual-background mural over another blackboardThe newly painted swirling sea fades into the jungle habitat of the chameleons. (Can you see them?)

Wall #2
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Wall #3, highlighting the mountain landscape mural above the tall wall cabinetsThe mountain landscape has become a beautiful background for the really cool taxidermied birds on display.

Wall #3
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Wall #4, the long window wall of dragonsThis wall's desert habitat features bearded dragons that look menacing. But they are as harmless as can be.

Wall #4
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Anna's Mural Close-Ups

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Close-up of Anna's painting of a Helmeted ChameleonThis is a close-up of Anna's favorite animal, the Helmeted Chameleon. It reminds Anna of her home in Kenya, where she frequently caught them in her yard.

Wall #1
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Next to that one is this other close-up of a Jackson's ChameleonHere's a close-up of a Jackson’s Chameleon, one of Anna's childhood pets. Note: The Science Center acquires many animals that are confiscated by the government due to faulty permits or having been brought over illegally.

Wall #2
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Anna in Action

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Anna actively painting the long window wall from top to bottomAnna enjoyed presenting different habitats in this classroom. Instead of painting just one wall, she wanted the room to have a complete feeling and painted it from ceiling to floor.

Anna in action: Every wall, from floor to ceiling, is painted.
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Anna is happy to work on the final mural segment: a sitting toad.Anna in action, adds to the mural with her final painting of a toad.

Anna feels blessed doing the work that God has asked her to do.
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