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Painting a bright future on blank canvas

Painting a bright future on blank canvas

Painting a bright future on blank canvas

Brushing up on mission: The designated creative arts space inside The Salvation Army’s New Hope building in Tokyo where art classes a run as part of the mission expression's innovative community ministry programs.

The Salvation Army in Japan was given a blank canvas when it opened its New Hope building in Tokyo, but it has already begun painting a bright future by drawing people into the fellowship through innovative community ministry programs of creative expression.

The building in the Azabu district of the city, which was opened on Christmas Eve last year, was intentionally designed with floor-to-ceiling windows along the front so the public could see inside which the Army prays would spark curiosity and conversations around “what’s this all about?”

Azabu is a busy and diverse part of the Japanese capital and is known for its cosmopolitan, international vibe and popularity with families.

As part of its goal of incorporating creative arts ministry into events and programs, New Hope Azabu held a ‘Paint Night’ recently where people were given a large stretched canvas, paint, brushes and other materials to work with.

No previous experience was needed as each person followed verbal and visual painting instruction step by step. Everyone painted the same image but added their own style.

In artist Sara’s classes, works begin as single pieces (top) but, at the end of the night, they unite as one piece (middle) as Miwa and Migiwa show. The classes are held in the Azabu’s New Hope building in Tokyo, Japan (bottom)

At the end of the night, a short devotional thought was shared with the group which was linked to the painted image.

Envoy Daniel LaBossiere who, with his wife Leann, is responsible for the initiative, believe associating the scriptural thought with the artwork means that participants can recall the Bible message as they admire their painting in the future. 

“We hope to reach new people for Christ through innovative programs of creative expression [which is] something the community might not expect when they think about ‘church’,” Daniel said. “Let’s use the same message of the Gospel and try something new with it.”

Leann said it was “truly beautiful to see just how much God showed up. He presented so many opportunities for me and the staff to connect with members of the community.”

Daniel said Paint Night was a trial run for his team of young adults who worked at the building, but it was a success: “God showed up in abundance. We were shocked to see the numbers of people who stopped by during the event to come in and say hello.

“There were people walking past the glass windows discussing what was happening. Many stopped to talk with our staff and ask questions. Several even asked to come inside to take photos.”

New Hope Azabu Salvationist Shogo Takabatake said the building was the first place of its kind in the area to work, learn, create and interact with people using art and music: “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to live our daily lives in a whole new way. What used to be commonplace is no longer the norm.

“We cannot live without person-to-person connection but, as we live this new life, some people feel lonely or somehow constricted as they lose their connection with others. Through the work of New Hope Azabu, I trust that it will be a source of comfort and connection for those who feel this way and a place for people seeking new encounters and inspiration,” Shogo said.

New Hope Azabu is running a children’s art club, junior English classes and parent-and-child activities.

Leann said the sanctuary did not have pews or a pulpit, but “we believe that the Lord will bless us through paint and brushes as we continue to follow his leading in this way”.

Daniel said that whether preaching on a Sunday, meeting with people at our corps buildings or painting in a classroom, “our focus should be on sharing the love of Jesus with others”.

“Making connections and building relationships is what we were created to do. Paint Night has sparked an interest, it has started a conversation and it has opened the door in Azabu for us to share the love of Christ,” he said.

Edited from an International Headquarters Communications report




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