This interview tells the story of David Lopes, a Facilities Manager at Colorado Community Church and an artist. David shares his theological vision for both art as well as his daily work of cleaning and maintaining the facilities.
Jeff: Tell me briefly who you are and where you come from.
David: I'm originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I have two brothers and two step-sisters. Growing up in Cape Cod was really nice. My dad ended up working at the air force base there. I grew up there till I was about 12 or 13 years old until I moved to the suburbs in Rhode Island. I graduated from there and joined the Navy for four years. After I got out of the service, I went to Florida for construction but I met a girl who lived in Denver and so that's how I ended up here. I've been out here for the last good 20-30 years.
Jeff: What have you been doing out here in Denver since you've been here?
David: Mostly I did restaurants and construction as far as work was concerned. Art really started coming back here in Denver. I was always good at art; my dad was an artist and both my brothers.When I came to faith in Jesus Christ, which was probably around the early 90's, that's where my life started to change. I was around 30 years old. I just really had no direction. I came from a drug and alcohol background, and then God met me. That's when he started cleaning up my life. And that's when I started really picking up the paint, going back to art school for a couple years and getting that gift back in my life.
Jeff: You said that after you came to faith you went back to art school. Were those connected somehow?
David: I would say yes in that what I enjoy most about art is that you're creating something out of nothing. You have a blank canvas. You can even take an old canvas and start over. You know, sand it down, take the old and just start over. In that aspect, I see my connection with God and with Jesus through my art in that He’s given me the ability to create something out of nothing. Does that make sense?
Jeff: Yes. What influenced your art? Earlier on, and even today?
David: I would say some of the old masters - I really enjoy Vincent Van Gogh's work, his colors and his boldness. Also, Salvador Dali. Just how they can capture the light and put it on canvas - that's what I really enjoy whenever I look at some of the old masters. I'm looking for how they can play with light and make it come to life off of the canvas.
Jeff: So have you primarily painted jazz musicians?
David: Yes. My family has a little bit of a music background, playing guitars and piano. Myself, I dabbled with the guitar a little bit but I'm really not that good at it. But I always enjoyed music and I like listening to jazz. But what really captured me about jazz is the horns and the saxophones and how the light reflects off of the metals. And just really trying to capture that on canvas. That's my biggest attraction to jazz.
Jeff: Did Colorado Community Church have any influence on that or Robert Gelinas?
David: Yeah, it kinda all fell into place before I started working there actually. I started this jazz piece, and with Robert's love for jazz, you know, this place just seemed like a perfect fit for me and how he interpreted the jazz motif. How one person plays off another and, how he explained it, how they culturally shaped it into the Gospel message. That was really intriguing to me also. So I've felt really at home here as a member since 2000.
Jeff: Tell me also about your work as the facilities manager. Is there a connection between your faith and the work of upkeep of the building…as well as that of an artist? Is there a connection between those?
David: One of the first things I do in the morning is I'll check my emails and see if there's anything that needs to be taken care of, or if anybody is trying to communicate with me. But once I check that I'll go outside and I'll start picking up the trash around all the outside common area and as I do that, I meditate and spend time with God, and for me it shows me the sins of the world and how Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for our sins. But they're continual - they're always there before us even though the debt has been paid. And so as I pick up this trash, I just see God cleansing me, or the world. It's kind of a strange analogy.
Jeff: No, that's cool. Tell me more.
David: Yeah because you know, at first, most of the time you'd look at picking trash as being a negative. It's like, "do I really have to do this? This is the worst part of my job, I hate doing it." But as I spend time with God meditating, worshipping and thanking him, that's what he revealed to me.
So after I do that, I come back upstairs, I get online, and I look at the calendar and see basically what God's doing. All the different groups that are putting on different events, our regular events, new events, the honor and privilege of being at a place where you're a part of something that is so beneficial, or a greater good and just being community. Going through the calendar, making sure people have exactly what they need, getting my staff together, checking the day, the to-do list and everything I need to get fixed. And again just applying it to our worship aspect.
Because we're all broken people and I deal with broken things every day. So I say, "Lord, let me be your hands, let me be your feet this day. Help me to do the things that I need to do." And quite honestly I couldn't do it without Him anyway. It's a lot of building to take care of and with my staff I'm relying on people and I try to make time every day to build relationships too. That's something I've never really taken the time to do in the past in a lot of different jobs I've had - always so focused on hustle and bustle and trying to perform, trying to be something good. And He just shows me it's about relationships too - it's not always about doing this and that. It's about building relationships and getting to know people.
Jeff: Yeah - that is easy to do. So task-oriented that you forget about all the people around you, right?
David: Yes, exactly.
Jeff: You said in some of your artistic works that this idea of light was pretty important. Jesus is the Light of the World. How does that influence your eye for light in your artistic work as well?
David: It's like the constant battle of the gospels. Darkness and light - and struggling for who's going to win. Of course we know who's going to win, but we have to be light in this dark world. And so it just solidifies my faith in that wherever light is, darkness has to flee. But light shines brightest when there's much darkness.
Jeff: You can see that contrast in your art. Between the dark and the light.
David: Yes, exactly. I love the play on the two: I have to have the dark in order to make the light shine as bold as it can. And in a strange way, I think it's God's master plan. You know, man has to come to see that. We have to come to that realization that it’s darkness that really leads us to the light.
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.