Art on a Mission

08/20/2015 .
Kayla Johnston  .  Storytelling Intern

The beauty of art is found in its ability to bring together people of all ages, ethnicities, classes, and genders. Regardless of background, art exists to create a space of peace, beauty, and truth within those who experience it. Ex Creatis, Saddleback Church’s arts initiative, hopes to do just that. By providing a creative space for artists to paint, draw, sculpt, dance, and everything in between, Ex Creatis aims to transform the community through creativity.

In an effort to engage the global community, Ex Creatis gathered 11 artists for a monthlong training and teaching trip to Europe. The first half was spent working with EDGE Project, an annual summer mission project in Altea, Spain for artists to grow their faith, community, and skill. From there, the team moved on to Berlin, Germany, the art capital of Europe. Working with Saddleback Berlin, the team trained volunteers and spent time with the local community in order to gather a group of artists hoping to create their own arts initiative.

Though the goal of the trip to create and launch an art ministry, the team spent time in the streets of Berlin, ministering to anyone willing to stop and watch. A hip-hop artist dancing along the sidewalk, sketch artists drawing portraits, and musicians playing guitar for anyone to listen – this is Ex Creatis.

One of these artists is Megan Sauder, a musician and, more recently, a floral designer. In the year prior to the trip, Megan began experimenting with flowers. “I got a bouquet of flowers from my mom on Valentine’s Day, and just stared at the flowers one afternoon,” Megan says. “I started picking off petals and arranging them in different ways. I realized how easy it was to create something beautiful.”

Megan thought about how she could use flowers as an art form, and after talking with her friend Mandy Hinkle, it all became clear. Mandy is an incredible chef hoping to launch her own business centered around the idea of food bringing people together. With this vision in mind, Megan knew she and Mandy could team up using their skills in floral work and cooking to create a gathering for women in their community.

After weeks of prep, their first floral gathering was a hit. The women in attendance sat on colored blankets in the backyard crafting floral crowns while eating various hors d'oeuvres and desserts. As Megan saw how the gathering allowed for authentic conversation, she knew it would be a great opportunity to connect with the the people of Altea and Berlin.

Although their resources were limited overseas, members of the Ex Creatis team came together to put on a floral gathering in Spain for members of the EDGE project. After all the prep work had been done – flowers purchased, room decorated, food cooked – only two people showed up. “We were a little discouraged at first, but the women loved it. We were able to have great one-on-one conversations with them that we wouldn’t have been able to have if more had come,” Megan says.  

As the team migrated to Berlin, Megan and Mandy decided to put on another gathering for the women of Saddleback. “It’s such a special to time to encourage these women and pour into them, then see them leaving uplifted. You can tell they feel beautiful.”

Megan and Mandy saw the impact the gathering had on so many women, and Isaiah 62:3 soon became their mission statement. “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

“We want this floral gathering to be a place for women to create something beautiful to wear and be reminded of the beauty God sees in them,” Megan says. “God has placed this crown of beauty upon us and that’s what we want to do for them.”

Megan pulled one young, German woman, Feli, aside after the floral gathering. “I hope you feel so beautiful wearing this crown,” Megan said to her as they stood clutching hands in the middle of the street. Not thinking much of the conversation, it wasn’t until a couple days later, as Megan and Feli were saying their goodbyes, that it was Feli’s turn to pull Megan aside. “I want you to know how much that floral gathering meant to me,” Feli said through tears. “I left feeling so loved and valued. I felt so pretty. Thank you.”

It is conversations like these that motivate Ex Creatis to continue sharing the value of art. “Dancing, sketching, painting, floral work, we have an opportunity to reach out to these people,” Megan says. “Art allows us to open up a window of conversation that we wouldn’t have by just approaching people about Jesus on the street. With art, they come to us.”

If you are a local artist, or want to try your hand at painting, drawing, sculpting and everything in between, Ex Creatis would love to have you. Ex Creatis meets each Saturday for “Open Create,” a time for artists to come together at the Lake Forest studio and create together. Visit excreatis.com or email jasonl@saddleback.com for more information.



Related StoriesSee More

Jey took a big step of faith signing up for a PEACE Trip, but found that God could use his talents to serve others even in a completely foreign land.

God used Cordelia to reach further than she ever dreamed.

Ahmir’s story is just one of the stories from the nearly three-million refugees and displaced people in Iraq and Lebanon alone.

How can one woman affect Syrian refugees?