Iglesia San Francisco de Borja, Santiago, Chile

Sometime in January 2020, after agreeing with Virginia what the characters of the book would look like, it was time to design the church. Virginia asked if I had any preference in architecture style or color and, to my own surprise, I didn’t. I enjoy beautiful architecture, and when it comes to houses for God, it makes sense that they should be the best work man can do. I was so happy with how the characters turned out, I was confident that whatever Virginia designed would be perfect. She’s the illustrator after all, not me.

She said she had an idea, and that she’d tell me the story behind it later. Ooo, a story? Yes please!

I wish I could say the story was a happy one. However, at the time of our conversation, Iglesia San Francisco de Borja a church in Santiago, Chile (where Virginia lives) was severely damaged by a fire set by protestors. The pictures were gruesome with protestors wearing smokescreen masks taking selfies with burning statues. It’s one thing to see a church on fire. It’s another to see its destruction celebrated.

Virginia shared several photos with me of the damage alongside her illustrations depicting those same places in their former glory. The contrast between the scorched stone and the bright illustrations hit me hard. The next few days were an emotional ride. I found myself mourning this church alongside the people who once worshiped there. I hated how much I loved the illustrations and the story behind them, feeling like I was using someone else’s pain for my profit. I was amazed at God’s perfect timing and Virginia’s skill that made the artwork possible.

In October 2020, I learned that Iglesia San Franciso de Borja was burned completely from a Catholic News Agency article. They provided a video of the steeple crumbling to the ground, and again I felt my heart drop for this community a world away. I emailed Virginia that I heard about the church and offered my prayers for her and the people of Santiago.

This was her response:

“They burned what was left of it along with another beautiful church. This is truly demonic. To be honest I do not have the stomach to watch the news. But I do feel I was given the opportunity to honor that church twice: by the reparation Mass after the first attack in January and then by illustrating it for your book before they burned it to the ground. I am so happy it will live in your book with your candle. Thank you so much for your prayers! I am praying for you and the USA as well! It is exciting to fight the good fight in such hard times!”

It blows my mind that God planted this seed for a little story in Fargo, ND and connected it to a beautiful church in Chile. There was no way I could plan for that. But God has a way of bringing light out of darkness. Just as Jesus was born a tiny baby in some obscure cave in some backwater town, he uses the smallest, the most insignificant to bring about his greatest plans.

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