Culture of LifeTue Jul 3, 2012 - 4:28 pm EST
‘Let the little children come unto me’: pro-life artwork saves unborn child’s life
LONGMONT, COLORADO, July 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Jennifer Boeke knows the worth of a picture, and it’s more than a thousand words. Sometimes, it’s the difference between life and death.
In 1983, the budding artist had just converted to Christianity along with her husband, Henry, and the pair were preparing to launch a new business, Morning Glory Art. The plan was for Jennifer to turn her artistic talents towards illustrating Gospel stories. Neither of them had any previous involvement in pro-life work, and they were stunned to learn from a friend at church that one of Jennifer’s illustrations had prevented an abortion.
The drawing was a simple, bucolic scene: a young girl in a farmyard, embracing a baby lamb. Beneath the illustration was an inscription from the tenth chapter of Mark: “Let the little children come to me.” The Boeke’s fellow church member had sent it to a pregnant friend in Oregon, not realizing that the woman had made an appointment for an abortion, under pressure from her husband.
It arrived in the mail the morning that the abortion had been scheduled, and the young woman was so moved by it that she cancelled the appointment.
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“We didn’t have, when we designed it, the intention that this would be a pro-life card. God had the intention,” Jennifer told LifeSiteNews.com. “When you see that a life changes because of a drawing or a painting, we said, ‘How can we ignore this?’”
Inspired, the couple took a leap of faith and shut down the woodworking business that Henry was running out of their rural home in the mountains of Washington state, dedicating themselves full-time to Jennifer’s artwork. While Jennifer painted, Henry set up his office the family’s former chicken coop, and became her marketer.
“We need to get out of the mountains,” he remembers telling his wife. “We have to show somebody what you’re doing, because we’ve had enough affirmation.”
With two dollars in his pocket, Henry made a 1,300-mile trek to Los Angeles to see if he could market Jennifer’s talent to a Christian organization. He lived out of the car, trading cards with Jennifer’s illustrations on them for gas and food.
He arrived at the office of Focus on the Family with 65 cents in his pocket and a portfolio of Jennifer’s artwork, and landed her a contract for an illustrating job on the spot.
Twenty-six years later, Henry estimates that there have been over 20 million reproductions of Jennifer’s artwork.
Part of the reason for prolific spread of her work has been the couple’s generous attitude towards clients who want to use their artwork for Christian or pro-life purposes. Their licensing agreement allows organizations to pay a flat fee and use Jennifer’s images for any purpose they want, rather than having to pay per use.
The reason for their generosity is simple, according to Henry. “It’s God’s art,” he says.
Their faith in God’s plan for Jennifer’s art has truly moved mountains on more than one occasion. A deathbed conversion and a prevented suicide have both been attributed to her work.
Jennifer’s images are simple, striking, and intensely personal. She paints from her experience, often drawing on memories of the women she has met through her work at Crisis Pregnancy Centers. When asked how long it took her to paint a work, she often likes to say, “All my life.”
One popular image that has made its way into the banquet programs, conference materials, and mass mailings of pro-life organizations across the country is titled, “The Right to Bare Arms.”
It depicts a post-abortive woman with her arms outstretched, as if cradling an invisible infant. Behind her is the Supreme Court, the place where, Jennifer notes, the woman’s “right to all this pain was granted.”
More often, though, her pro-life works focus on depicting the joy of new life and motherhood.
As a “live artist,” she often paints beautiful images of beaming young mothers gazing into the eyes of their children at Crisis Pregnancy Center fundraisers. As the speaker describes the work that the center does to help women, a smile seems to spread over the face of the woman on Jennifer’s canvas, and a light is kindled in her eyes.
She has performed similar demonstrations to accompany pro-life sermons, painting an image of an unborn baby as the preacher expounds on the sanctity of God’s creation and human life.
Watching a unborn baby “come to life” on canvas has proven a compelling way to drive home the point, but Boeke is self-effacing about the impact of her ministry.
“I very much don’t want to be the star of the show,” she says. “I want the message to be what’s remembered, not the artist. And praise God, most people say, ‘I don’t even remember seeing you. I just watched the art.’”
To find out more about Jennifer, visit her website here.