Graphics as a Calling

When I came to Israel to be a graphic designer about 14 years ago, I was driven by a strong passion to serve in an important, vision-driven ministry. Hearing about the vision of Caspari Center I immediately felt called to be a part of its great team in Jerusalem. I was introduced to a vision big enough to provide a challenge for many years, but small enough to have work for a Finnish graphic designer, who knew just the alphabet and some basic words in Hebrew but had a calling to serve in Israel somehow.

It wasn’t always easy in the beginning. I had to go to HEIDI GRAPHIOCS1a-optan ulpan—a Hebrew class—and also carried my
Hebrew-Finnish dictionary in my pocket at all times. Sometimes I also carried a small sketch pad with me, since I did not always know how to express myself even in English. I remember drawing a funny cartoon-like picture of a twisted ankle for a pharmacist in order to buy a bandage for my leg. I got my bandage. Illustrations have the power to help us communicate without a common language.

It is an overused cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is still true. But I had to learn quickly that the graphics I created needed to include more than just typical Christian symbols like pretty angels, doves, candles, crosses, and hands crossed for prayer in the Finnish way. In Israel menorahs, oil lamps, Bibles, and Jewish prayer shawls were used a lot. How could I find fresh new ways to express what Caspari Center has to offer, keeping the Jewish imagery but opening hearts to the ministry’s vision? Would it be “kosher” to mix some Gentile graphics with the Jewish ones?

All the themes were quite challenging: the church and the Jews through history, the new anti-Semitism and Jewish evangelism, the gospel and the Jewish people, the legitimacy of Israel, new age influences on postmodern Judaism, salvation and the Jewish people, the Messianic movement in Israel today, Messianic Jews and Muslim evangelism, the divinity of Messiah, the Qumran Scrolls, the Holocaust and Jewish evangelism, Messianic Jewish theology, Torah in practice . . . I had to study some theology at Caspari’s library in order to understand!

There have been a lot of challenges to fulfilling my calling in an inspiring way. I remember having long discussions with local believers. I learned a lot! But most of all I learned to pray for wisdom in everything—even creating graphics.

I will always remember my very first poster. Caspari’s previous CEO, Torkild Masvie, asked me to make a poster in which Caspari’s whole ministry would be presented as a kind of fountain, delivering “waters of education and knowledge” to the Messianic movement, making congregational life grow and producing fruit through educational tools. He quickly sketched a fountain where the water was channeled around in small ducts to illustrate what he meant.

I remember having just a few hours to make the poster, and I didn’t yet have any photos of Israeli fountains—or any fountains, for that matter. What should I do first—pray or just create something on my computer? I wondered.

HEIDI GRAPHIOCS3-optI took my camera and went to the city hall park near our office just to think and pray. I sat with my sandwich on a stone seat. I prayed for God to provide everything I needed. Suddenly I heard the sound of bubbling water. I turned around and really looked at my “stone seat.” It was actually a beautiful, round fountain, with sparkling blue steams of water running through nice little channels around city hall. It looked exactly like the picture Torkild had drawn. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I quickly took some photos, ran back to the Caspari office, and made a nice poster in a couple of hours. That poster was used to present our vision, and I was very happy. God really cares about graphics, too.

During my years at Caspari I have created book covers, newsletters, posters, all kinds of photos for our articles and presentations, and some children’s materials as well. Sometimes it is just making a thing look nicer, sometimes it is creating some depth as well. Sometimes you can see the fruit of your work immediately, and sometimes it takes years. I have to say I was touched on a visit to a congregation in the south of Israel that was facing some persecution at the time. I entered the children’s classroom and saw my very first Hebrew activity pages, about the parables of Yeshua, hanging on a wall! I already had forgotten that exercise about the parable of the mustard seed. But those kids did everything in that activity exactly the way I wrote it in the book. They even glued small seeds to the picture. I felt good that in the middle of persecution and challenges, these kids were taught to have faith and believe in God’s power, love, and help.

We are doing something fruitful at Caspari Center. Everyone in our team has an important role in the process: all gifts are needed in the kingdom of God, and all work will water the dry land and make things grow in the right time!

Heidi Tohmola