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From New Age to new life, Art ministry in Spain leads to salvation

The Basque region of Spain embraces its history through art and religion. They revel in the old buildings and cathedrals that make up their area. (IMB Photo)

Henar was searching for the truth everywhere she thought she could find it — her Catholic background, through Jehovah’s Witness friends and even New Age religion. She tried crystals, meditation, energy and healing.

The search left her overwhelmed and without peace.

That’s when she met Emilio and Hannah Marrero, International Mission Board missionaries to the Basque region of Spain, through an online Bible study. She connected deeply with them and the message they taught using art.

The Marreros use a unique outlook on art to share the gospel. The approach works in a region like Basque where they take pride in their history. Art and religion are part of the area’s historical culture and current pop culture.

“I studied art history and all we did was look at pictures of Jesus throughout the histories of European countries. Art has always been united with a religious perspective,” Emilo said. “A post-modern artist is already creating religious art. It’s just a relativistic, chaotic piece though.”

Anywhere the couple went, they saw brightly colored pop-culture posters touting everything from feminism to nationalism plastered on walls, poles and windows. Beautifully designed pamphlets were also everywhere. The mixed messages were countering and confusing. The couple wondered how they could make a gospel impact through this medium the people of Basque already understood.

So, the missionaries decided to enter that artistic space with the hope of the gospel.

They designed some posters and pamphlets that emphasized different gospel truths. The street art is designed to not only give a quick message about Jesus but to start deeper conversations, like the one they had with Henar. On each poster and pamphlet is a QR code that leads to a website called Atejejo and an opportunity to share the gospel in a clear, narrative-based way.

“We are intentionally trying to go back to bringing the gospel narrative to the forefront,” Emilio said. “Everybody’s already being religious in art, and we just want to show the gospel.”

A post in an online community for the Marreros’ Bible study lead to Henar’s first encounter with the missionary family. As she joined the Bible study community, her interest was further piqued through their work. Henar read their pamphlet “Todas Las Cosas,” explaining their faith through illustrations, and she connected on a heart level with the art and messages in a way she’d never done with other pamphlets of information. She wanted to know more about the Marreros’ God. As they reached out, she saw their love for people and their community. That’s when everything changed.

When they looked through the narrative and discussed gospel truths proclaimed in their art, Henar knew she couldn’t keep one foot in Christianity and one in New Age. It was time to fully step out and put her faith in God.

What makes Christianity so different from everything else I’ve tried is the simplicity,” Henar said, referring to the hours-and-hours she spent each day meditating and partaking in crystal healing practicing New Age beliefs. “With Christianity, you only have to put your faith in God. It doesn’t mean that my life is perfect, but my mental health is much better, and I feel so much peace knowing that God, Yahweh, is holding my hand.”

With so many different beliefs represented in a post-modern world, Emilio isn’t surprised at how much energy goes into trying to find this peace. He knows the world’s greatest problem is spiritual lostness. So, the IMB missionaries found a way to present the gospel solution in a forum most in Basque understand. The combination of art posters, pamphlets and their website allows them to have deep conversations in a space where people are already giving ideas.

“The art is central to the gospel, it defines or redefines everything that is bleeding into this culture — the hope of having peace, Shalom and harmony and understanding who we are as humans,” Hannah added. “It starts to just point in a different direction.”

For Henar, that difference is being “all in with Jesus.” She’s being discipled. She delights in His Word. The Bible is her best friend. And she is so grateful for the supportive Christian community around her — a direct result of the Marerros’ ministry.