Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Three years ago, an art therapist from an Eastern European country, who lives in Malta, contacted me and asked about opportunities. I will call her Elena.
Although I could offer nothing at the time, we stayed in touch. Somehow, although our communication was only through email, I liked her. So it was a pleasure this year to say I was coming to Malta, and could finally meet her.
When I did, spotting her first in the crowd, I smiled. This was an artist and a fashionista! (Indeed, Elena would also like to be in fashion design.) We chatted briefly, I introduced her to the people I was with, and then we went to a nearby beach cafe to chat about art therapy. It was the loveliest of nights, in which to hear another grueling story of survival.
Ten years ago, Elena emigrated for a job opportunity in Malta. The job was not so great, so she left it for another, which was also not so great. That began a string of disappointments, and I wondered if I was reading too much into the story to wonder if this single woman from Eastern Europe was being baited into the sex trade. Elena is now about one notch above the refuges, broke and sinking under the weight of trying to be a professional artist as a single woman in a foreign country.
We weren't finished, but I had a bus to catch. We agreed to meet the next day, and I would introduce her to our team; maybe one of the long term workers would have an idea for her.
Elena came with her portfolio, which was stellar--world class. What was she still doing in Malta?! In my two weeks in the capital city, I only saw one art gallery that did not cater to tourists, and visited the Fine Arts Museum, which underwhelmed me except for its architecture.
I heard more of her journey, and now the internal one surfaced with the external one. I sensed my role here in Malta was going to be more about getting this art therapist 'online' than getting art therapy in place. This art therapist needed some therapy! I revved up my pastoral care counseling skills when I heard this sentence:
"I am a nail in the water. How much longer can I float?"
Elena was in a pretty deep depression; was she suicidal?
"No," she said, "but if I wasn't a Christian, I would have committed suicide already."
"Don't think being a Christian will stop you," I cautioned.
We then spent many hours together in the park, sorting out the issues, and I was grateful to learn she had theological training, which helped her connect dots quickly as I basically brought her through a short version of Neil Anderson's Steps to Freedom in Christ. I watched her relax as truth penetrated with its hope. Her face began to light up as she rejected lies she had believed, confessed sin, broke inner vows, and forgave one person. I thought to myself, "So this is why I'm in Malta." With that, she said, "So...God sent you all the way to Malta to tell me these things?!"
Sure seems like it...in spite of the grueling story, there is something extremely satisfying about knowing you showed up at the right place in the right time.
This is a woman who either needs to leave Malta, or is God's choice for Malta. I was amazed by her courage, tenacity, ingenuity and integrity. She also showed an entrepreneurial spirit, which will serve her well if she can make it through the depression and adverse circumstances. Can she reset her spiritual life to draw on God's resources? Time will tell.
Her heart's desire is to help the children in the family camps. And as it turned out, she had worked in the men's camp where I had just worked; unfortunately, she could never obtain proper paperwork to work legally, and eventually had to leave.
I've been in contact ever since, with encouragements and ideas, coaching her through tentative first steps to rebuilding a solid foundation out of the misery and into the realization of her call and vocation. Her portfolio is stunning but her needs are staggering.
Skill and ability alone do not make the artist, but this is an artist with world class talent. So if you are reading this, please consider yourself invited to be part of the solution. And contact me for more info.