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An artful Oma and the heart of the gospel

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There was little room for the arts in my Oma’s life. Oma survived famine in Russia, lived a refugee life in Poland and Germany, then immigrated to Canada with a husband, 4 children, and 2 boxes– all by the age of 40. Who had time to indulge the imagination with mouths to feed? How could one paint pictures when there was real work to be done? What good could come from make-believe stories about pretend characters played out upon a stage?

Not surprisingly, Oma was unimpressed with my love of comic books. She didn’t realize that comic books were leading me to the heart of the gospel. She didn’t know that Superman taught me to expect salvation to come from unexpected places in unexpected ways, from someone who was a man, yet also superhuman. Oma didn’t appreciate that Batman was the epitome of justice, a caped crusader who sacrificed his life to defend the weak and the oppressed. Oma didn’t understand that Spiderman illustrated how forgiveness, faith, hope, and love could restore and sustain even the most broken person through the blackest of nights.

One of my Oma’s primary concerns was that her children and grandchildren become friends and followers of Jesus. Like a good artist, Oma recognized that if she wanted to direct my heart to the gospel, she would have to communicate through a medium I loved. So like a good artist, Oma got creative: despite her misgivings about the arts, Oma gave me a comic book version of the Bible for my tenth birthday. And like a good artist, Oma didn’t tell me what to think, or feel, or do. She graciously stepped back and allowed me and God to encounter each other on the comic book page.

As it turns out, my Oma was both artful and heroic. Because of her, I experienced the heart of the gospel – I met Jesus and was saved.

Thanks, Oma.

–J Janzen

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