Updated: May 22, 2021
Christel Neuendorf grew up with a love for God’s Word. As a young girl, she would often write down scripture to paste on magazine ads or write Bible verses on blank spaces she found within ads. She would send these “visual faith creations” off to friends or post them around her room.
Now a missionary and deaconess in Puerto Rico, this practice of sharing the Word creatively was rekindled through inspiration from her missionary friend, Lizz Warren, a Christian lettering artist, and family members who introduced her to Visual Faith™ Ministry. Christel very often finds herself serving groups of women, children or the elderly….and the ideas have begun flowing!
Christel initially saw some Visual Faith™ Ministry prayer cards by Pat Maier and was struck by the opportunity to not only create art and pray, but also to share that “visual prayer” with someone in need of love and care. She worked with Lizz to create the Compartiendo Los Salmos (sharing the Psalms).
They chose eight psalms – prayers of lament, ascent, and praise - that have been shared time and time again in song and worship, through dark times and times of joy. Christel calls this the “gift” of the Book of Psalms — “prayers written by people like you and me, going through this life like you and me, inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
Four cards identify each psalm visually. After a Bible study, a visit, or a devotion on a psalm, participants might color or paint the cards, praying or simply embracing the time together in the Word with their fellow believers. Cards can be shared with friends or neighbors, given as an invitation to a church gathering, or kept as a personal remember of the promises of God.
Using the Compartiendo Los Salmos provided for many opportunities to gather around God’s Word and paint cards with local missionary women, seminary wives, and Spanish teachers. Sharing with missionary women from across Latin America led to the devotions being shared with many other congregations and small groups.
Christel found that promoting a gathering as an evening of devotion and “manualidades” (crafts) resulted in good turnout, leading to community building among women of the churches and their neighbors. Very often, attendees are women - working full time, raising families, and new to the church. Sharing a technique like watercolor (not a common pastime for adults) made it FUN and helped them to embrace their creative side.
She remembers one woman saying, “I am so relaxed right now,” as she painted several scenes (cards). Christel explains, “ In our Latin American churches, we care for women who hold many (and often heavy) vocations. They are daughters caring for their parents, mothers caring for their children, the bread winners of their households, and more. These women, just like many of us, forget to take time out for themselves. We all need to allow ourselves to be creative and have a space to relax. At this Bible Study, we tried to provide that space in the Word, in art, and in fellowship.”
In Ponce, Puerto Rico, art is everything. Expression in art form is all around. Working off of this cultural understanding, events are often planned with this in mind. For example, Christel’s sister-in-law and friend, Katie Helmreich, “zoomed in” from the U.S. to join in a devotion with some of the missionary youth to share tips on shading and other art techniques with colored pencils.
Recently, Katie (pictured top left) traveled with her family to visit Christel and led a watercolor workshop at Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life) Church in Poncé, whose mission is to be the place where people meet Jesus in the midst of their everyday life to experience His life-giving water. They delighted in a wonderful morning with a wide variety of ladies from the surrounding area who came because of seeing the event advertised on Facebook! Katie pointed out that “only one or two had any prior relationship with the church. It's an incredible blessing to find that art can draw people close enough for relationships to blossom!” Their prayer is for the Holy Spirit to bless these women and draw them to the life giving well over and over again!
Christel explains: “The Word never returns empty (Is. 55:11), and as missionaries we often have to remind ourselves of that. We don’t always see the fruits of our labors. However, we do know with complete confidence that when the Word was shared, not only was it heard, but it was seen, it was read, it was painted, it was colored, it was prayed. That’s one of the reasons we love the ministry of Visual Faith. For those of us who appreciate and take in the visual and the tactile aspect of learning, Visual Faith allows us to “inwardly digest” the Word to a whole different level.
Jesus comes to us in our Baptism, in His Body and Blood, and through His Word — this is the gift we have as Christians. Visual Faith ministry helps us share this gift with our community; we give a piece of artwork with His Word and that endures forever (Is. 40:8). This is our hope and prayer for these cards. We hope they give opportunities to take in the Word, to pray it, and to share it.”
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Christel Neuendorf serves as deaconess and missionary for the LCMS in Ponce, PR alongside her husband, James. She cares for the women, children, and elderly in her congregation and community, often using visual faith resources to do so.
We are grateful to Christel (and Lizz & Katie) for the privilege to glimpse how visual faith works in a foreign mission setting, inspiring us to be aware of and reach out in our own “mission fields” in our own communities, down the block, or right next door!
Spanish resources, including the Sharing the Psalms devotions and prayer cards by Christel and Lizz, are available for ministry use at no cost on the Visual Faith Ministry website here: