Stories from The Character Design Cohort 2021 - Part one

In the summer of 2021, a group of artists from a local church in Los Angeles, illustrated character designs of Frontier People Groups.

Each artist researched, designed, and wrote short stories for 31 people groups who have little to no access to the Gospel. The project has been highly received and has been an encouraging journey for the local church. Furthermore, it has mobilized young adults to share about global missions to families. These are their stories.

Ben Tong - Art Director and Mentor, DreamWorksTV

At the beginning of the cohort, I was learning how to lead. 

A lot of this time was spent focused on the needs of the individual students. Since everyone was at a different level, each person struggled with several aspects of design. At times I felt frustrated with the process of teaching. I thought my teaching was clear and obvious. I expected everyone to “get it” and produce a certain result, but it didn’t always pan out that way.

It was at that point that I learned to meet the students at their level. This was a journey to take them through their struggles in design. It was for me to let go of the more advanced design techniques like details and anatomy. The outcome of everything I taught was not in my control no matter how well I thought I did. At that moment and even until now, I am learning to live with it.

Another lesson I learned was flexibility. I scheduled meetings and office hours at the students’ availability. We also adjusted the timeline depending on the progress of the students. We were behind schedule, and a lot of prayers were appreciated to push us through to the end.

I also had to consider that each student had their individual tastes and styles. It was a challenge to find the balance of guiding them to grow their artistic sensibilities. I would teach design principles and tried to steer away from teaching them to only “draw like me.”

In the end, I saw that God was teaching me to let go of my own sense of control in this project. My idea of “perfection” in each design was not the priority. Instead, the results were up to Him. 

My experience working in the animation industry and now repurposing it for a digital missions project has been all God’s grace. He was the one to inspire us, redeem our gifts, past experiences, and secular skills to be engaged in missions

It might not be a children’s book, but God can use any career path to further His kingdom – whether it be coding, medical, administration, photography, video editing, or something more.

JEssica Tse - Graduate Student, azusa pacific university

Time flew by looking back at this missions project! 

I still remember when we first met together as a team. I had so many uncertainties going into this project because everyone else had an art background.  I did art for fun and never saw myself doing anything more professional with this hobby.

We also had no idea how this project would turn out because this was the first time our church engaged in digital missions. This process has been so encouraging and eye opening. As someone who enjoys going on overseas short term mission trips, this project changed the way I viewed missions as a whole. 

I knew there was more to missions than “going” and “sending” and I knew about the 10/40 window. But I did not know exactly what other roles – like mobilizing – looked like and what could be done to spread the Gospel to unreached people groups.

As someone pursuing a career in education, we had a great idea. Through an illustrated book, we could introduce children and adults to Frontier People Groups. Especially as this would help them realize how many people in the world have never heard of Jesus before and what their needs are. 

I was also learning more about the FPGs assigned to me – who they are, what they do for a living, their living conditions, their culture. To be honest, this process has been a challenge.

There were so many components to character design and drawing in general that I never considered when I drew for fun. I had to keep in mind this was a missions project and I was part of a team/ This was not an assignment that I did alone.

On top of everything, I am a huge procrastinator. There were days where I did not want to draw or think about drawing. But, I was encouraged by my team members and God. He opened my eyes and heart to see beyond the small efforts and my own inexperience. He can still use the talents He gave me and whatever He inspires me to make to glorify Him.

The presence of my team members was also inspiring and encouraging because I could see the artistic gifts God gave them. They approached art with their faith, and they offered to help whenever I struggled.

Although I was not able to take part in an overseas STM trip this year, I realized how important other stages of missions (learning, mobilizing, and praying) are. There is still so much for me to learn about FPGs and the work God is doing around the world. While I may not always be able to go, I can always be praying for FPGs and others who do not know God. God can meet them where they are and change their hearts.

I want to encourage anyone reading this that God works in crazy ways! You don’t have to go across the country or world to engage with missions. I always thought I would be doing something teaching-related when it came to missions. That’s why I pursued a career in education. 

But God chose to take a hobby of mine that started up again during quarantine and use it for this mission project. Whether it be a hobby or vocation or even an interest, be open to the opportunities God presents you! Who knows how He can use it to bless those around you and further His kingdom!