Published January 1, 2009
J.R. Moreno and his wife, Cathy, were on their honeymoon in Biloxi, Miss., 30 years ago when they saw the artistic work of a college student. The student was airbrushing T-shirts. Moreno was so impressed that he purchased two of the shirts and commented to his new bride, “I can do that.”
Cathy responded with a look of incredulity, but six months later J.R. bought a single-action airbrush, was given a small compressor, and launched his journey as an airbrush artist. He explained, “In those days other airbrush artists refused to tell you anything about the craft and the Internet was not available for any ‘how to’ information, so I learned through trial and error.”
Moreno continued, “After several years of practice with airbrushing and screen printing, we opened up a small business in our hometown of DeRidder, La. We stayed in business for a couple of years, but finally closed it due to the lack of income. That was a discouraging time and came close to wrecking our marriage, but God had another plan for us.
“We soon realized God was orchestrating things in our lives to propel us into a full-time ministry. It was a tremendous time of spiritual awakening for both of us; and it was a great time of training for later experiences that God was soon to unfold.”
During those days of uncertainty Moreno saw a young man do a “chalk talk” and concluded he could do that, too. He began to work on the “chalk talks,” but during that time, at age 29, God led him to New Orleans Seminary.
Once he was asked to present one of his “chalk talks” to a large group of children and youth at a New Orleans Baptist Association meeting. While he was teaching the youth, famed Southern Baptist pastor and statesman Herschel Hobbs was speaking to the adults.
Moreno exclaimed, “My picture was on the same promotional flyer with Herschel Hobbs. The fact is that I never really got to meet him, but I got equal billing with him – my fifteen minutes of fame. I still have some of the flyers if anyone cares to see them.”
Over time the “chalk talks” have developed into 6 x 8 ft. airbrush drawings. Moreno insists it is an evolving discipline as new techniques and upgrades are implemented to improve the artistry of the ministry.
Moreno has exhibited his prowess as an artist by doing paintings and drawings in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. However, when he came to Macon to pastor Immanuel Baptist Church 14 years ago he put down his airbrush and chalk in order to devote every waking moment to fulfilling his role as pastor.
After several years at Immanuel a lady saw Moreno in a store and invited him to come to her church to paint with his airbrush. He replied, “I am not doing those drawings any more.”
She responded, “How can you quit doing something God has gifted you to do?”
Steps in motion
The Immanuel pastor ended his conversation with the woman, but her words haunted him for months. After much soul searching Moreno began to put in motion several things that needed to happen in order to revive his “airbrush” ministry.
“The first step was to determine how to get enough cash to buy all the equipment needed to ‘airbrush’ on a level I had never achieved before,” he admitted.
“I also knew that if I was going to airbrush successfully I needed to do it often. It takes a lot of hours to keep your abilities flowing. Two years ago we opened an airbrush business on the side. This began to give us the money we needed to pour back into the ministry.
“It also gave me the opportunity to airbrush constantly to hone my artistic ability. The Apostle Paul made tents. I guess God is allowing me to paint, which is something I love to do anyway.
“Getting the support of my church was also a necessity if I was going to re-establish this ministry. The people of Immanuel were gracious to give their support. Without their backing this venture would have been doomed from the beginning. How many churches would allow their senior pastor to take a part-time job? I try to use vacation time and off days to be away for this ministry, but at some point we all understand that the call to be away will be greater than the call to stay at Immanuel.
“Finally, I knew I would need opportunities to paint in churches. I am expecting Him to open new doors in the future. I love to go to churches and share His wonderful message of hope and redemption.”
Moreno has a repertoire of presentations including: “The Lion, The Lamb and the Lord,” “The Prince of Peace,” “The Well that Never Runs Dry,” “I’m Proud to be an American,” “Noah’s Ark,” “The Cross,” “The Resurrection,” and “What a Strange Way to Save the World.”
Moreno remarked, “My part to the worship service is divided into four parts. The first consists of the actual drawing. While I am drawing music is played through the church’s sound system. This part is about 18 to 25 minutes, depending on the drawing. When the drawing is finished a short sermon is preached for 10 to 20 minutes. When the sermon is complete the black lights, lighting system, and fog machine are turned on and one song is played. This brings the message and drawing all together.
“Amazing things happen to the picture as you watch. Finally, if the setting allows an invitation is given. I have watched as God has saved souls, mended broken hearts, revived churches, and given pastors and families hope for the future.”
Pastors interested in having Moreno come to their churches may contact him at: email@example.com.
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