How to represent Jesus in a live painting? White with a beard as he is often represented in churches? Not really! We had it in our hearts to paint a colorful Jesus, a Jesus in green, yellow, blue, white, red and orange.
We are the camp “Juntos in Portugal.” Organized by Joy and Life (Joie et Vivre) in partnership with Mennonite Mission and the Youth Commission of Association des églises évangéliques mennonites de France (the Mennonite church in France), this camp made it possible for 13 youth and five accompanying adults to travel to the gathering of Portuguese Christians this summer.
During the camp, we experienced the joy of leading worship in two churches, the Mennonite Brethren Church in Loures and the Christian Community of Algueirao as well as a praise time in the Bible Institute of Portugal where we were staying. We had it in our hearts to praise God through a live painting representing Jesus.
Our internal reflection was as follows: we can’t reduce Jesus to one color, to only one color. Jesus is not monochromatic, he is multi-colored. He loves diversity. He created diversity. He loves differences. He created us different.
We were able to try out our differences during this camp, joyfully and as a challenge.
Among us we were already different.
- Some were Mennonites, others not.
- Some wanted to go into biblical studies, others into different subjects.
- Some wanted to serve the Portuguese as much as possible, others were happy to discover Portugal.
- There was the language difference with our cook, who spoke only Portuguese, a language that we haven’t mastered.
- There were cultural differences and differences with regard to program planning.
Finally, Jesus brings us together in our differences and teaches us to love difference.
During out times of praise we were Portuguese, French, English, Germans, and Spanish, “Juntos” (together) praising and worshipping one person: Jesus. Not a white Jesus, but a Jesus of a thousand cols.
Doesn’t our mission begin with recognizing the fact that our vision often reduces Jesus and humbly asking him to open us up to other ways of seeing him and serving him? Because that is what allows us to join with others sent by him with their way of seeing him and serving him.
Is it not a witness simply to live in unity with these Christian brothers and sisters?
Is it not the will of God to see his children united as a family, gathered to worship and serve a Jesus of a thousand colors?
As many participants in this camp have said: “We sensed the presence of God during the moments of praise in a number of languages and nationalities because our differences fade away. We are all part of the family of God! And this is clearly a foretaste of heaven.”
—Benoit Nussbaumer is the Joie et Vie youth camp director.