"Restoring Hope"

Author P. Butler
Italy 2010 OM Artslink - Western Asia - Restoring Hope

An earthquake of 5.3 hit in April 2009. One year later, restoration is moving slowly; citizens are angry, depressed, and frustrated. Except for one...

A student asleep in her dorm when the earthquake hit, Antonella flew under a table and cried out to God to save her. She gave her life to Christ in that moment—a true 'foxhole' prayer that is bearing fruit a year later. Antonella escaped miraculously; the stairwell in her dorm collapsed, but she found herself outside the building, running up the street away from the crashing structure.

Behind her, a human pyramid formed to rescue those trapped on upper floors. If you ask most Aquilinos about the earthquake, they will share their grief, their anger and frustration. If you ask Antonella, she will answer that it was the day her life truly began.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." (Ps. 127:1)

OM Artslink - Western Asia - Restoring Hope

Sensing the deep anger and frustration of the Aquilinos, the art team was also struck by critical spirits, blaming and finger-pointing. While they wanted to bring messages of hope and restoration, God seemed to continually point them back to the corruption. That had to be dealt with first; if the city was to be rebuilt, its citizens would have to rebuild their hearts.

Not an easy message to deliver! But in Antonella, a person whose heart had been radically changed, there was a compelling story of someone who had not gotten stuck in the blame game, but who had found her joy in Christ. The team focused on that, producing 40 pieces of artwork that captured her story, and called the Aquilinos to examine their hearts. A final section of the exhibit portrayed the refreshment and healing that can come when God renews the heart.

Did they succeed? Heaven knows, but here is one glimpse: a piece one of the artists made, "Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh," was based on Ezekiel 36:26, where God promises to remove a heart of stone and give instead a heart of flesh. The piece called viewers to examine what kind of heart they had, and to ask God for a new heart.

OM Artslink - Western Asia - Restoring Hope

Meanwhile, Antonella was busy telling her story, and the Italian team was engaged telling their stories. Countless conversations and scores of books and Bibles went out to the hundreds of visitors they welcomed. Antonella's story went out in the form of 500 brochures printed up. On the cover of that brochure was a scripture the team firmly believe is for L'Aquila:

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you." - Isaiah 54:10

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