I’ve been in Northern England for well over a month now. In this time, there have been many surprises and unexpected circumstances. The most significant for me personally has been gradually developing over time, but that time began about 2 weeks after my arrival.

It happened this way: all the interns were gathered around Pastor Lois Gott, one of the pair who spearhead the House of Prayer. I first met Pastor Lois in Tennessee when she and her husband Pastor Ken came to teach a course on revival history. Now here she was, addressing the group and giving us our individual assignments. The worship leaders were easy to spot. They were the ones who came from Nashville with guitars. The singers, too, with their melodious lilts and blasting projection were assigned naturally. Then came the media and administrative roles. And then she came to me.

Now, by this time I was bracing for impact. I have a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education. I’ve taught school and worked with young children in cognitive neuroscience. And I’ve volunteered with children’s ministry. In fact, the last time I saw Pastors Ken and Lois, I was babysitting for their grandchildren in Tennessee. So I was expecting her to say, “Mary, you’ll work with the children.” Not because I dreaded it, but because it’s how I’ve been known professionally.

Imagine my shock, then, when out from her mouth came, “And Mary is our artist!”

What? Really? I’m sure I smiled, but I was stunned. I listened to hear if she would add on anything about children. After all, her granddaughters loved painting and creating with me. But no.

Instead, Pastor Lois began describing how she wanted the walls filled with art. “We’ll get you some canvases and an easel! You’ll paint in the prayer room and we’ll hang them around the HOP.” I’m sure I smiled. I know my eyes filled with tears.

Because, you see, I studied education believing I would eventually be a missionary, and as such, teaching would be a marketable trade. My mother always said, “Mary, you don’t have to move anywhere to be a missionary. You can be a missionary right here at home.” And sure enough, she was right. I taught children of poverty, I served pagan faculty, I prayed for suffering coworkers. But my heart’s passion is in creating – whether through fabric, yarn, or pigment.

So finally, here I am, a missionary. And God’s sweet kindness is this: I have given Him what He asked of me, and He has given me what I scarcely dared ask Him and hardly believed. I am the house artist. The HOP is my studio and gallery. Now my job is to create from the overflow of my relationship with Jesus and from the joy of my heart.

I have fulfilled many childhood dreams in my life already, but now I get to do what makes my heart sing! I am overwhelmingly appreciative of the opportunity, and in the spirit of it, I now begin to share my art with you.

The painting below came about during that course on revival history. While Pastor Ken was teaching, this image dropped into my spirit. I pulled out my paint at lunch. As I did so, a young man asked about my process. Another interested girl sat across from me. Little did any of us realize we would all move to England to serve under Pastor Ken – both onlookers are worship leaders. And little did I realize I was painting intercession – standing with our Father, staring at a mountain, and calling for it to pick itself up and be thrown in the sea.

So here is my mission in watercolor form. For Sunderland and the North!