Painting in Antofagasta Leads to New Contact
It all started a month ago (July) when I was invited by my graffiti teacher to join a community painting project near our house. It is a poorer area of the city, a neighborhood in need of hope, with two schools bordering the area. If you can, imagine houses (think apartment sized or smaller) squished together, garbage littering the sandy walkways, dusty sidewalks and graffiti-covered walls. I figured it would be a great opportunity to gain more painting experience, continue working with the artists of the city, and to get to know new people, but little did I know that it would become "THE" experience. It became an experience that I will never forget, sharing with the locals of this neighborhood, helping neighbors, and being able to share about who I am and why I am here in Chile. I can never express how thankful I am for the group of Spaniards who came to help, the locals whom I met and the time I had to share in making this a better place. It started off as an idea for a neighborhood further south, and the neighborhood about two blocks up wanted to partner with Boa Mistura, and have their own clean-up and painting project. So they (Boa Mistura) designed two different plans; one being the masks from the Fiesta de La Tirana (a traditional Chilean holiday) or a design that was simpler with just blocks of color. The neighborhoods joined together and decided on the masks. I personally love how the end design turned out, because you cannot tell that they are masks unless you look for it and the design still leaves room for interpretation. I ended up working with Boa Mistura and locals from the group Creo for almost the whole month long project, loving every minute of it (so much so that I spent more time there than at home!) and meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds. I can't even begin to tell you all the stories of the people I met, the Spaniards who were in charge, local graffiti artists and many other locals who volunteered their time to make a difference in this neighborhood.
I want to share one story about one of the locals that I was able to meet, her name is María. She was born and raised in Antofagasta, unfortunately she was raised by a single parent who did not have enough time for her. We did not really talk a lot about how she grew up, but I could tell that there were some things still affecting her from the past. She shared with us about her work as the president of her neighborhood, her broken marriage, her only daughter who is now studying at the local university, and how her daughter does not care for her child. María is the only "parent" for her granddaughter, working and caring for her when she can. She does not have a lot of hope for her life, in fact so little that she tried committing suicide twice.
I know that God brought me to the painting project to meet her, so that we could share the hope that we have, that there is someone who loves her besides her granddaughter - the Creator of this world. Listening to her story brought me to compassion and it was a moment of fresh energy and hope when we prayed for her future. We believe in the power of prayer and that it can change her life, even if it does not come in the time we think. We got the opportunity to invite her to our House of Prayer, but she has yet to come because of travel for her work for the community. If you think of María, pray for her, her future, being able to make time to attend our House of Prayer, that she would recognize that a relationship with God is all she needs, and that through Him she has hope.