As faithful climb the stairs leading to the Chapel of the Watered Gardens, they will be greeted by the welcoming arms of Jesus in a painting recently donated by a group of local artists. Representatives of Watered Gardens and the artists both hope the artwork will offer hope to those seeking help.
The mural depicts Jesus walking on the water, bathed in the warm shades of yellow and blue of the sunset. His arms are outstretched in an open gesture as he walks towards the viewer. Doves, representing the Holy Spirit, fly over the water in the background.
The presence of water is important to Watered Gardens, not only by name, but also by its belief in the importance of faith in times of trouble.
“Sometimes life is like water and we lose our grip, we feel like we are drowning,” said Rick Crouch, director of evangelism at Watered Gardens. “We lose our focus; then we have to focus on him. I wanted something with the welcoming arms of Jesus, saying that he is here to help.
The colors, details, body language and scale of the painting have an eye-catching quality, Crouch said. The figure of Jesus is almost life-size in the painting, estimated to be around 5 feet 8 inches.
“I didn’t think he was a super tall guy,” Crouch said with a smile.
Watered Gardens, headquartered in Joplin, is dedicated to seeing the church boldly engage with the homeless and the poor in a relational, responsible and compassionate way. It provides shelter, food, clothing and vocational training to those in need. Crouch first thought about finding an artist to decorate an upstairs chapel wall that serves both residents and the community.
Watered Gardens contacted Local Color Art Gallery and Studio looking for artists. After seeing sketches by Paula Giltner, who designed and helped paint the piece, the organization decided instead to place a painting on the staircase leading to the chapel. It turned out to be the perfect place for people to see Jesus’ welcoming gesture.
“You start to go up the stairs, and looking up it’s awesome to see,” Crouch said. “As you enter the chapel, you see Jesus welcoming you there. Then when you leave the chapel, you see him again and you go out with him.
In addition to Giltner, three other Local Color artists have answered Watered Gardens’ call. Mary Parks, Percilla Penner, and Nina Johnston all helped paint. Annie Spiering, an 11-year-old girl mentored by Giltner, also contributed.
Giltner said the artists donated their time, while Watered Gardens provided the materials for the painting. She drew on her background in wall painting and theater sets for the 7ft by 9ft painting, which took a few weeks of design and a few weeks of painting by the group.
“I pray that it reaches the viewer and I hope it reaches the people who come to Watered Gardens for help,” Giltner said. “I hope they understand that they belong and that God loves them.”
Giltner said she appreciated the opportunity to work with Watered Gardens on the painting. After collaborating with the staff and meeting volunteers there, Giltner said she was encouraged to see so many people working hard in the name of Christ.
“I think they have a good idea of how to help people,” Giltner said. “It’s not just about giving people things they don’t have. It is about helping a homeless person to be in a community and to have the necessary skills to return to a functioning society. They help people find purpose in their life.
At Watered Gardens, every resident, volunteer and devotee will climb the stairs to the chapel and see the painting of Jesus walking on the water. Crouch said it was especially encouraging for him to see other believers worshiping alongside residents during Friday services, where all members of the community are welcome.
He said he liked the new paint and its welcoming statement.
“My reaction is beyond words,” said Crouch. “This is something you desire to do and it turns out to be much better than you ever imagined. It’s beyond what I even imagined for this space.