Vincent and I

a photographer in the style of Vincent Van Gogh


Unique knowledge we have about historical figures and times, stories of all kinds, and personal experiences, can become a powerful source God uses to speak to us. These sources of information and experience may shed light, as analogies, into some reality God wants to communicate about the person to which we are ministering. The key is to see the specific focus God is taking with those stories to be able to more accurately pinpoint the unique message. This prophetic word is a great example of that!

Here is a prophetic encounter I had at the LA Superior Courthouse, where a group from PIHOP sets up a table every Tuesday 11am-1pm:

February 27, 2018

On this particular Tuesday, I happened to be praying for an African-American woman in a very trying situation (many who receive prayers from us come out of court cases and are shaken up by some of the injustices they have yet to overcome), and then comes this young man who gets fairly close to the two of us, to take a picture of this intimate prayer session. I was at the end of my prayer and when I opened up my eyes I saw him with his camera taking a picture. I should have felt a little bothered by the intrusion but no, I actually was inundated with the sense of the humility on this man.

Almost immediately I felt God impress in me a connection between him and Vincent Van Gogh and I knew it was especially related to Vincent's two years at a coal mining district in Belgium where he was on an evangelistic mission assignment, sent by the preacher school he was attending. I knew God was revealing clear insight into this photographer's life. I quickly engaged with the visual impressions and what I knew about Van Gogh during this unique time period in his life, to get the jest of the message He was forming in my mind.

Vincent felt deeply for the coal miners for which he was sent to share the Gospel and preach. Almost by instinct, soon he also felt moved to capture their plight through drawings and paintings. His desire to draw really gained momentum in this environment and we know now this is where Van Gogh's career as an artist began.

Van Gogh's artwork from this time period had lots of browns, blacks, and grays, like his fairly known artwork, “The Potato Family.” Such use of these colors and common day scenarios of the poor were just not accepted in art pieces in his day because no one wanted such depressing scenes. His artwork was not appealing or moneymaking.

As I processed quickly all that God was relaying to me so that I could come to a deeper understanding of this young man with a camera, in his situation, God also brought to mind the song, "Vincent" by Don McLean. Here are the lyrics I focused on:

And now I understand

What you tried to say to me,

How you suffered for your sanity

How you tried to set them free.

They would not listen

They did not know how.

Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you

But still your love was true

I relayed to this young man, what God had revealed to me. I mentioned that I felt a correlation between him and the artist Vincent Van Gogh. In particular, I felt the cold reception of others, including rejection, to what Vincent and, in likeness, to what this young photographer was doing.

Well, it turns out this story from the life of Van Gogh was a powerful prophetic word of encouragement and a most appropriate story because it related directly to what this young man was doing. This "photographer," turns out, has been documenting homelessness in Los Angeles for a while now and is also capturing other needs around the community, to be made into a book of mostly pictures - a photography book. True to the humility I felt initially, he received the message gladly and quietly, with a smile.

What God was clearly saying to this young man, through these impressions I was getting for him, was this,

I know your heart, I know your passion, and I know that few people get what you do. Many do not see value in what you do but I do. I love what you do and it is special and dear to my heart. Be encouraged, and be of good cheer. Keep doing what you are doing.

To be seen, known, valued, cherished, and affirmed by God, even when others reject you, is a powerful life-changing experience. This is why I go out, to make the invisible God and His great love for us, tangible to people.

Psalm 139: 13-18

Created & Known by God

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. - Psalm 139:13-18

Van Gogh's Art from this Time Period at Borinage Coal-Mining Region

Most of the drawings Vincent did here were destroyed (He used them as kindle to light fires in his hut)

Quotes Related to this Time Period in Van Gogh's Life

"Vincent lived among the miners, sharing their poverty. He went down to the mines to be with them, breathing into his lungs the same black dust they breathed into theirs. He visited the sick among them, bandaging their wounds, praying for them. And he preached to them on Sundays, trying the best he could to infuse a little light, a little hope, a little encouragement into their coal -dark lives." - Ken Guire

"In mining country, van Gogh followed Christian teaching literally to the letter—to the dismay of his father and other pastors on the missionary committee—behaving, truly, as if he were Jesus Christ, sacrificing all he had. But in the end, after he had given away everything and was sleeping on the floor of his abandoned hut, feverish and delirious, barely preaching anymore, the townspeople began, as people would for the rest of his life, to think him mad. Enormous explosions rocked the mines and he had nothing to give the people to help, but still he ran from hut to hut, tearing up his remaining clothes to use for bandages." - Nellie Herman in the Paris Review

"Most of the miners are thin and pale from fever; they look tired and emaciated, weather-beaten and aged before their time." - Vincent Van Gogh

“I should be happy if some day I could draw them, so that these unknown types would be brought before the eyes of the people.” - Vincent Van Gogh

"And so he becomes what is called an evangelist, and he goes to a mining district and tells the people the story of the Gospel. And while he talks, he begins to draw. And finally he doesn't even notice how he's stopped talking and is only drawing." - Rilke, a poet, writing of this time period as the beginning of Van Gogh's life as an artist

"After almost a year in the dark and poverty-stricken landscape of the Borinage, he was losing any clarity he had about what his life was for. He had brought himself to the furthest limits of his Christian understanding trying to help the destitute community he found there, giving them all of his money and clothes, moving out of the comfortable home he was living in and into a run-down abandoned miner’s hut, trying to live like them and care for them as Jesus would have, and yet it had come to nothing—no one was saved." - Nellie Herman in the Paris Review

"Vincent never returned to the Borinage, though he often spoke of it. His time there had changed him in profound ways, and had left him with the unwavering commitment to being an artist." - Nellie Herman in the Paris Review

“Wait, perhaps someday you will see that I too am an artist. I don’t know what I can do, but I hope I shall be able to make some drawings with something human in them... The path is narrow, the door is narrow, and there are few who find it.” - The last letter Van Gogh wrote to Theo from the Borinage, on September 24, 1880.

"I think that everything which is really good and beautiful—of inner moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works—comes from God, and that all which is bad and wrong in men and in their works is not of God … But l always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something—whatever you like—you will be on the way to knowing more about Him … To try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another, in a picture." - Van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo

"Art, [Vincent] was beginning to see, could serve as a true channel between religion, labor, and beauty." - Nellie Herman in the Paris Review

"I want you to understand clearly my conception of art. I want to do drawings which touch some people... In either figure or landscape I should wish to express, not sentimental melancholy but serious sorrow... I want to progress so far that people will say of my work, he feels deeply, he feels tenderly." - Van Gogh

"Vincent" Lyrics Video by Don McLean