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God in the graffiti: A Puerto Rico love story

God in the graffiti: A Puerto Rico love story
Photo by Jessica Brodie

By Jessica Brodie

Take a walk down Calle Palmas to the ocean in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, just past Avenida Victor Rojas, and you’ll find a wide, well-tended sidewalk that borders the city and the sea. It’s a popular spot, with joggers squeezing in a workout and couples strolling hand-in-hand, each pausing here and there to look north at the powerful, crashing waves and the jagged ancient volcanic rocks that comprise the coastline. Beyond the sidewalk, it’s a vista of untamed, natural, God-created beauty, wild and tempestuous at once.

It is there that I walk one rainy afternoon during my recent mission trip (see article, here) in the nearby mountains, struck by the glory of our Creator and the way humanity has made its mark alongside.

And as I walk, I see one word written over and over on the concrete planters that intersperse narrow benches along the sidewalk.

Dios.

God.

In electric blue and crimson spray paint, someone has written His name amid all this splendor, proclaiming God for all the world to see.

Arecibo, and all of Puerto Rico, was hit by a double-whammy of hurricanes last fall—first Hurricane Irma Sept. 6-7, then Hurricane Maria Sept. 20—that devastated the island. As I write this, half a year after the storms, a full sixth of Puerto Rico’s population remains without electricity. Many left homes to move to the United States mainland because they simply couldn’t survive on the island any longer. Others whose treatment depends on electricity, such as dialysis or insulin or oxygen, have died.

Was the “Dios” writer crying out to God for help and mercy after the storm?

Was he or she joyfully proclaiming the name of the One, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe—a shout of adoration for all to see?

Was the writer simply acknowledging God’s singular importance, honoring our greatest commandment to love and lift up the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul?

Dios. God. Whatever language you choose to use, whether it comes from your lips or sings in your heart, His name can move mountains and bring comfort. It can stop the devil in his tracks and keep temptation at bay. It can beg and praise and question and surrender all at once, say a million things in a single utterance, even when our intent might be limited to one. (He’s too big for just one, no?)

Psalm 96:2-4 urges, “Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods” ((New International Version).

The prophet Jeremiah declares, “No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” (Jeremiah 10:6).

Sometimes spreading the Gospel is sharing our testimony. Sometimes it’s bringing someone to church. Sometimes it’s loving people in His honor.

And sometimes, it’s spray-painting His name on concrete planters on the northern coast of Puerto Rico to remind passersby that no matter what else the day, the week or this temporary human life can bring, at the end it’s all about God.

What better way to love Him than to acknowledge that?

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