By TRAVIS HANDY
“Be still and know that I am God.”
It’s a simple phrase from the Bible, but it was the final touch on a series of murals—a labor of love recently completed inside Tower of Refuge in Dublin. The walls of a basement room are now adorned with vibrant, colorful vignettes depicting symbolism from the stories told in the Bible, and simple reminders of the work that went into creating the foundations of Christianity.
The artist, Susan Thompson of Callaway, is very modest in her approach to her work. She gently insists she is using her gift to enrich the lives of the members of the congregation, and hopefully to draw even more people into the small Pentecostal Holiness church.
“It’s been a journey. I guess people think that because you’re the one painting it, that you have a preset plan, and you’re just doing what you’re doing,” said Thompson. “Actually, you have general ideas, but so much of the mural is happening as you’re painting it and you see different elements that can go into it. So I think it really is a painting that is inspired by God. This is for him.”
The church’s pastor, Stacy Cope, also believes God brought Susan into the picture. “If I could put it into one word, I’d say ‘amazing,’ because she is,” Cope said of having had Susan create the murals. “Not only just in her talent, but her spirit and her attitude, and just the way she’s worked with us, being a small church, too—and still working with us—but she’s just amazing. Really. We’ve just been really blessed that our paths crossed and I believe it was a divine appointment when that path did cross, and I just thank God for it.”
As one’s eyes move around the room, they are drawn to the different elements in the paintings, which Thompson lovingly describes: a table with the scroll for the book of Psalms unrolled as though in progress; a chair draped with a prayer shawl; a lion lying down with a lamb; a basket of fish and loaves of bread; Joseph’s coat of many colors. There is also the focal point, and both Susan and Stacy’s favorite element, a “larger than life” nine-foot wide by six-foot tall bookcase filled with scrolls representing the books of the Bible. Each scene is a reminder or a tool to be used in educating the children of the congregation about God and His word.
“I pray (the murals) will continue to draw more kids in so we can teach them about Christ, and not only teach them about Christ, but that they will give their hearts over to him,” said Cope. “Being an old youth pastor of 12 years myself, I understand the importance of kids learning about Christ, but also having a wonderful time while doing it. That’s one reason why we wanted to invest in this project so much, to do the best we can here at Tower of Refuge.”
Thompson began the project in October 2012 and completed it this week. She traveled back and forth, the nearly two hours between Callaway and Dublin, staying overnight with Cope and his wife in their home in order to work two days at a time. She said she went through “a significant amount of paint” in the process, worked 200 hours, and did some learning along the way herself.
“I think God gives us all different gifts. I think somebody gets a gift of teaching, someone else gets a gift of healing, somebody gets a gift of painting,” said Thompson. “An example in my life is work the gift that God gives you. So many times so many people end up doing things in their life that don’t even have to do with the gift that God gave them, and you know, that’s a sad thing. Because you are blessed when you work with that gift.”
Cope encourages anyone interested in commissioning Thompson for a project in this area to do so, and offered up his home for her to stay while she is here to work, free of charge. “That’s how much I would like to see other places take the opportunity, because she is so wonderful,” said Cope.
“I think what I would like to see for this church is that this is a really good tool to help them grow,” said Thompson. “It’s just one of many, like Stacy said, prayer. There are so many elements to the church. This is one element. It’s also the scope of it, you don’t see in many, many churches, and I hope it does become something that people do come and see from outside and I think that would be a great tool for them to bring people to know Christ.”
Cope invites people to services to view the artwork. He also offers the opportunity to see it outside service hours by contacting him at (540) 320-7981.
Susan Thompson’s work can be seen online at ArtFromTheHeart.biz and Facebook.com/ArtFromTheHeartBySusan. She can be reached by emailing HappyWalls4u@gmail.com or at (540) 489-4284.