Suriname Artist Ludwig Yzer (left) unveils a painting with Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Suriname Clifton Braam at the opening of the art exhibition hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Suriname to reach the community in Paramaribo, on July 5, 2023. The event drew more than 450 people from the community and students from several schools in Suriname. [Photo: Esmeralda Hok-Ahin]


Paintings of Jesus’ Miracles Offer Hope in Suriname

Creative outreach initiative provides tangible spiritual and social impact for citizens in capital city

Suriname | Vanessa Draaisma and Inter-American Division News Staff

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Paramaribo, Suriname, hosted a special art exhibition in July 2023 for the community, in which paintings depicting the miracles of Jesus were showcased. The works were painted by Ludwig Yzer, a Seventh-day Adventist and native of Suriname, who illustrated Jesus in a contemporary setting, reflecting the current state of society with the objective of inspiring believers and non-believers through Jesus’ parables and miracles.

Clifton Braam, Suriname’s Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education and Culture, unveiled the exhibition, displayed at the headquarter office of the Suriname Mission, and emphasized its importance in today’s society, where societal norms are becoming increasingly blurred, particularly among young people. Braam praised the artist for incorporating the story of the Good Samaritan into a modern context and commended the Suriname Mission for involving schools in viewing the exhibition.

The art exhibition saw more than 450 people from the community visit the church offices during the 25 days it was showcased, including three elementary schools, one secondary school, and children’s clubs of all ages.

Themed “You Raise Me Up,” the art exhibition included 22 works on canvas and featured an opportunity for visitors to paint with the artist.

It was the first such event to engage so many people from the community to learn more about Jesus and give the community the opportunity to get to know the Seventh-day Adventist Church better, organizers said.

“At a time when there is an increase in suicide and hopelessness, we wanted to say through this art expo that there is hope and that God can pull anyone and raise everyone up from the deepest valley in which they may find themselves,” said Pastor Guno Emanuelson, president of the Suriname Mission. “This event was an invitation for everyone to experience art, to have in-depth conversations, and make connections with people from all backgrounds.”

The Suriname Mission had hosted music and poetry events for the community in the past, said Emanuelson, but when Yzer brought a plan to display his works as a community outreach initiative, church leaders moved fast to plan it thoroughly. “At a time like this where we are startled daily with one message after another that makes us think or that makes us wonder, ‘What is happening in Suriname?’, we need hope,” Emanuelson added.

Yzer was born and raised in Suriname, left for the Netherlands in his 20s, and later returned to Suriname and became a Seventh-day Adventist. He has been an art teacher and currently lives with his wife and daughter in the United States. Yzer believes many will retain a lasting impression because “art has the power to elevate the spirit and bridge the gap between the divine and the everyday.”

As students visited from several Christian elementary and secondary schools, they were shown an animated film about who Seventh-day Adventists are, their faith, worship practices, and the significance of the Sabbath. In addition, students were encouraged to create their own paintings, drawing inspiration from the artwork on display.

At the end of each visit, students from visiting schools and clubs painted natural landscapes with the artist. In addition, a group of elderly people was started; they were taught once a week to paint a self-portrait on canvas.

The exhibition surpassed expectations, not only spiritually enriching the community but also acting as a conduit for dialogue and introspection, said Emanuelson. “We are excited that so many showed up and we have been able to continuously tell the community about God’s love for everyone. The exhibit had a threefold impact: spiritually enriching the community, fostering a sense of community engagement, and inspiring attendees to reflect on the messages of hope, love, and faith.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division website.