Church murals bring Bible stories to life

Pat Van Eaton has taught Sunday school to Kindergartners through second graders in the same room at First Christian Church for more than 15 years, trying to bring the stories in the Bible to life.

Thanks to a new collection of murals painted by one of the church’s members, that’s easier now.

The artist, Ken Nielsen, declined to have his photo taken or be interviewed for this story. But he couldn’t stop Van Eaton nor children’s and youth pastor Caleb Morris for giving him credit.

“He doesn’t do this for the recognition,” Morris said. “He does it for the kids and this is our way of showing the community how proud we are to have him here.”

The murals in the Sunday school room are the second Nielsen has painted at the church, where he also does repairs. About 10 years ago, he painted a landscape with the verses John 3:16 and John 7:37.

His latest mural includes a photo of Jesus with a group of people meeting over fish and bread; Moses carrying the 10 commandments on tablets at Mount Sinai; a scroll with a children’s version of the 10 commandments; and a map where most of the Bible stories take place.

“When you’re teaching Sunday school, I have a hard time having words to express how the people lived, dressed, communicated with each other,” Van Eaton said.

“They get to see the clothing. It just explains a lot and then the map really has helped them because when you say in a story Jesus walked from here to here, it gives them a perspective that I wanted to give. The kids can relate, especially in this day in age, movies, pictures, cartoons, it just seems to be the lifestyle. Instead of coming up with a picture in their mind, they can actually see and I can teach from that.”

The painting of Jesus is not specific to one story. Van Eaton said the people gathered around Him could be the disciplines or any of the multitudes that came to watch him speak.

When Morris sees the mural, he thinks of the time when Jesus fed 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish. But fish and bread and featured all throughout the New Testament.

Van Eaton noted Jesus’ disciples were fishermen.

“It’s one of those pictures where you can look at it and associate it with any story,” Morris said.

The mural was completed at the end of last year. Nielsen started it by drawing with pencil.

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