A children’s book comes alive when it’s coupled with an inspiring, creative, and imaginative illustrator. The Good Book Company partnered with Catalina Echeverri to illustrate God’s Very Good Idea and it was a very good idea! It was a joy to work alongside her and her brilliant artwork, which brought my words to life. What a joy it is for me to introduce you to her today. Not only is she creative, she also loves Jesus and loves people.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from?
Catalina: I am originally from Bogota, Colombia. But I left home when I was 18 to study abroad and have lived in many different cities and places since. I have loved getting to know each culture and each way of life. I think that is probably the reason why I’ve enjoyed this project so much. Because I feel like there’s a little bit of each country I’ve lived in and the people I’ve met throughout all these years.
Catalina with her church in Italy during the summer outreach events for kids
When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember. My parents say to me that as long as I had a pencil in my hand and a piece of paper, I was a contented little girl! But somehow I ended up venturing into graphic design in my university degree and so abandoned drawing for a bit. Then when I became a Christian while studying university in Italy I got involved with summer camps and Sunday School Activities. They needed someone to do big pictures for the songs that they where going to sing in the park and so I thought, hey why not? This is a great opportunity to get back to drawing, after all, I missed it so much! And that was it. That’s when I realised drawing for children was the thing I wanted to do! So I applied for a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration and the only two courses available at the time were in Barcelona and in Cambridge. I applied for both and got admitted to Cambridge School of Arts. And well…here I am drawing for little ones : )
Very first thumbnails of “God’s Very Good Idea”.
How did you decide what direction to go in God’s Very Good Idea?
When I think of diversity I think of an explosion of colours, and that is pretty much what drove the concept of this book, lots and lots of colours! Also, something that distinguishes this book from the rest of the series is the fact that it is set in the present but draws from the Biblical narrative. So representing this felt almost like a double narrative that needed to be unfolded visually. This is where the speech bubble idea came in.
Do you have a favorite character (besides Jesus) in God’s Very Good Idea? If so, who and why?
Mmm that is a tough one! I think more than a favourite character, I have a favourite page, and that is the one where the little girl is imagining what heaven will be like. Growing up I always thought heaven would be the most boring place possible, with people in white robes floating on fluffy clouds and just playing the harp. But when I became a Christian, I learned that is not the case AT ALL. Heaven will have all the best bits of this world except with no corruption or sadness. It will be a place of utter joy and delight. AND the best bit of all is that we will finally meet Jesus and enjoy His company forever. And that is why this picture means so much to me. I look forward to it so much!
What is your hope for the book?
I hope this picturebook helps children and their parents to realise that the fact that we are all different from each other both inside and out is not a bad thing but a great thing! God did not make one type of person, or one type of bird, or flower. But millions of different kinds and shapes! Unlike birds and flowers, people are the same–all made in the image of God–but we are unique.All of them are equally special and valuable to Him. He did this because He is amazingly creative, and we should celebrate our diversity and rejoice in what He has made!
More about Catalina:
Hello there! My name is Catalina Echeverri and I am originally from Bogota, Colombia. I have a background in graphic design from the Accademia di Comunicazione (Milan, Italy) and an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Arts (Anglia Ruskin University).
I love to draw and all of the time, and take my little sketchbook everywhere I go. Especially when I travel! Find her at http://cataecheverri.com
Today is an exciting day…it’s the official release day of God’s Very Good Idea!
God’s Very Good Idea is ultimately an invitation to celebrate. Catalina, the book’s amazing illustrator, and I want to help children celebrate our wonderful Creator God, the amazing value God has given each person through being made in his image, and the rescuing work of Jesus on the cross.
God’s ‘very good idea’ is to have lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other. The book retells the big sweep of the Bible’s story—from the garden of Eden to God’s heavenly throne room—to show how, despite our sinfulness, everyone can be a part of God’s very good idea through the saving work of Christ. My hope is that the book will excite kids (and parents!) about God’s delightfully different family!
I invite you to watch this short book trailer highlighting my heart for parents, kids, and sharing the message of the book:
and anywhere Christian books can be purchased (independent Christian stores)
Here’s what others have to say about God’s Very Good Idea:
This book is not only a good idea to read as a family, it’s a delightfully great way to be part of God’s good idea! With vibrant illustrations that dance, and rich, wise words that point to the most beautiful Truths and Truth Himself, this is a book that could change our families, the church, this generation. –Ann Voskamp, New York Times bestselling author of One Thousand Gifts and The Broken Way
God’s Very Good Idea is a beautiful book, both in its pictures and in its faithful gospel lessons on what it means for all of us to be made in God’s image. This work will shape young minds and hearts to love others and the Creator whose image we all bear. –Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; author of Onward
I will hang onto this book in the hope that I can some day read it to my grandchildren. –Tim Challies, Author and blogger
Why didn’t someone write this book decades ago? A gentle and delightful introduction to a crucial topic. –Jonathan Leeman, Author and father of four
As a mom of six young bi-racial sons, I’m so very grateful for Trillia’s beautiful and joy-filled account of God’s design and purpose in creating us all uniquely. –Ruth Chou Simons, Artist and author of GraceLaced; founder of gracelaced.com
God-centered, clear, and helpful. I highly recommend this book. –Blair Linne, Spoken-word artist
This book is a treasure and a joy for our family. –Aaron and Jamie Ivey, Musician, and host of The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast
Touching and beautiful, this will engage kids and their parents too! –Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author
Young and old alike should read this story often. –Kristie Anyabwile, pastor’s wife, mom, Bible teacher, writer.
Compelling and captivating.-Champ Thornton, Author of The Radical Book for Kids
What a great resource to share with the next generation. –Gloria Furman, Author of Missional Motherhood and Alive in Him
A delight. Cuddle up with a little one and share the news of God’s very good idea. –Melissa Kruger, Author of Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood
In a few short days, my first children’s book, God’s Very Good Idea, will be released to the world. I can’t fully express my excitement about the potential for this book to serve parents and little hearts and minds. I am praying that the Lord would use it to start conversations in the home and in children’s ministry classrooms that will point us to a good God who creates beautifully and diversely.
So, why bother with the topic of diversity for kids?
Simply put, because this is a topic found in God’s Word. The word “diversity” has been greatly politicized – actually all things about race and ethnicity so often fall into the wrong category of political division. But when I read God’s word, I see a God who created people from every tribe, tongue, and nation for His glory and the benefit of the Church.
This short video will give you a small glimpse into why I decided to write about diversity for kids. My prayer is that you will be inspired and encouraged to share with your kids and those around you about the true story of God’s delightfully different family.
And the book is about so much more than diversity, but you’ll have to check it out to see for yourself. You can grab a copy of God’s Very Good Idea from:
I thank God for folks who speak biblically about race. Whether it’s a black mom teaching her children that they also bear God’s image, or a white sister writing a prophetic blog post—there are many brothers and sisters take up this worthwhile battle.
And it is a battle—with wounds, fatigue, and conflicting sides. Though there are many sides, I’ll mention two: on one side are folks who try to lovingly share biblical truth about race, and on the other side are people who reject it, often with hostility. Trillia received this hostility personally in a comment on her blog post, which said:
I’m convinced that when black people talk about “diversity” that the real message is just anti-white…For too long we’ve had this burden of white guilt hanging around our necks. Every time I see an article about race, every time I have to go to some mandatory ‘diversity awareness’ training at work, every time I read about black criminals terrorizing people – I just get more and more resolved to fight for my race. I’m done apologizing to you.
Regardless of how gracious folks from the first side are, the other side lobs these devastating verbal grenades. Nonetheless, I pray that this post encourages those in the race battle. After all, when someone receives a comment like the one above, there’s a strong temptation to despair and quit the fight altogether.
I sympathize with that temptation, and I want to give grace to those who decide to step back from the race conversation (or certain parts of it). Like any battle, there are times to retreat, recover, or even retire, and let other parts of the troop push forward; no one should haveto subject themselves to attack. Yet for those still in the trenches, I have two encouragements for you.
1) Some people are being convinced of the truth!
Though we can’t always see them, there are people who are listening, learning, lamenting, and loving in a new way because of what’s being written, shared, and spoken. Though we may feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, the Lord does have 7,000 out there devoted to the truth. Francis Grimké, a black pastor from Washington D.C., saw the 7,000 of his day. Grimké wrote about them in a sermon series he delivered in 1898. He preached:
“I have faith in a brighter future for us [blacks] in this country because both in the North and in the South there are some white men and women, who do not approve of the present treatment which is accorded to us, or share in the sentiment which regards us as naturally inferior to the whites…”
Grimké hopefully persevered in the battle because he saw the truth win some people. But what about people the truth doesn’t win? When we encounter them, I’ve been helped to remember that…
2) We cannot convince everyone, but God can convince anyone.
W.E.B. Du Bois, a civil rights activist and writer, wrote haunting words in 1935. He knew that he couldn’t convince everyone of the truth, when he wrote:
It would be only fair to the reader to say frankly in advance that the attitude of any person toward this story will be distinctly influenced by his theories of the Negro race. If he believes that the Negro in America and in general is an average and ordinary human being, who under given environment develops like other human beings, then he will read this story and judge it by the facts adduced. If, however, he regards the Negro as a distinctly inferior creation…then he will need something more than the sort of facts that I have set down.
Du Bois reminds us that truth does not necessarily cure ignorance or racial resentment. It’s tempting to think that there’s a perfect way to talk about race, one that can win the listener without offense. In a fallen world, however, such a way does not exist because sin is not just an abstract, mental falter that can be simply fixed with information; rather, sin is a willful rebellion of a heart that rejects the truth, and it must ultimately be fixed by transformation—that is, getting a new heart from God. There may be more strategic ways to talk about race, but Christians have a greater hope than our own skill in having this conversation. Praise God, we do have “something more” that can make our words effective–even to the hardened hearer.
That “something more” is prayer, as Jesus encourages us to pray for our enemies (Matt 5:44); that “something more” is the Spirit of God, who can give a terrorist a heart of flesh (Acts 22:7). With us, it is impossible to change the hearts and minds of the racially resentful, but with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
Du Bois stated that he was not writing to people who needed “something more” to be convinced, and maybe we shouldn’t either. There are times when we shouldn’t answer fools in their folly (Proverbs 26:4).
Yet the same verse from Proverbs also says there are also times where we should answer fools in their folly. When we do answer them, let’s keep our eyes on God, especially since whom we fight ultimately isn’t just hostile flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, we fight against the cosmic powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12).
Yet despite what any fool might tempt us to believe, truth will overcome falsehood, light will overcome the darkness, and the battle will be over soon.
Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted via social media by a group of white supremacists. They are extremist, hateful, and attack with no understanding of who they are attacking. Their threats are alarming, but not all that surprising. And to be honest, it’s almost easier to understand extremists—they’ve potentially been given over to their sin (Romans 1). But what’s confusing for many of us are the numerous people who seem to ignore racism, who sweep it under the rug, or who have categorized racism as a lesser evil than other evils.
Welcome to the 2016 election year.
Unfortunately, when I reflect on what I’ve experienced and what I’m seeing, I think I fear a pendulum swing. It was reported that 81 percent of evangelical voters cast their lot for what many of us deemed as an unacceptable candidate because of his racist and misogynistic views, words, and/or actions. Although the 81 percent report has been rejected by some, even a slight majority vote by evangelicals in the president-elect’s direction has been disappointing for others. As I’ve mentioned before, I was for neither candidate. And what’s done is done. Now we are left with questions.
The pendulum swing-perspective, however, would be to assume that all white evangelicals 1) voted for the now president-elect and 2) are racist. I enjoy a unique proximity to different ethnicities. Proximity isn’t just good for white people. In other words, it’s often encouraged that white people get to know people of other ethnicities because proximity helps with understanding different perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints. This is so very true. But, you see, my proximity is to that of a white male. My husband is white, which gives me a unique view into the culture at large.
Broad Sweeping and Generalizations
If my husband didn’t have skin and you heard him speaking about culture, race, ethnicities, and the general election, you wouldn’t be able to figure out his ethnicity. Perhaps you’d even assume he was African American. He would speak with sadness that our president-elect has appointed a racist as his second in command of the White House. He would lament that there is so much divide in the church. He would hope that there would be reconciliation in our country and he would not be ignorant that this work of reconciliation takes more than simply saying hello as someone passes you in the street. He would share about times he stood up against racism in college. He would tell you about defending his wife after someone said something inappropriate. He would tell you about how he protects his family. Actually, he wouldn’t tell you any of those things because he is modest, humble, and simply not active on social media. Instead, he is living and serving us as an average, everyday citizen of the United States. He is a Christian. He is white. He loves people.
But, if he looked at social media, he might feel a rebuke. Wait, your friends and those who you follow…liberal, conservative and everyone in between, they know I’m with them, right?, he might think. Of course, his biggest concern is me. But my point is, there are many, right now, who strongly oppose racism, although you may not see it. They are the men and women found in the shadows on their knees before the Father. They are the men and women serving alongside people from every tribe, tongue and nation, and weeping with those who weep. They are there. They are the few white men and women evangelical leaders who have taken hits from every side for speaking out strongly the past two years and who now feel a weight of defeat. So in these tense times, we all need to beware of broad sweeping generalities that pit us against each other. What I’d like to say to those on the front lines but operating behind the scenes, as well as to those who are on the front lines and in the public, though we are disheartened we are better together.
There are still many of us who desire reconciliation—real reconciliation. Let’s not throw the baby out of the evangelical bath water. Let’s keep pursuing one another. Let’s keep speaking up. And I’m confident, although it’s a confidence that is shored up by begging and pleading with the Lord and filled with many tears, that in this tough season we may even be able to grow in understanding, even with those whom we thoroughly disagree. Everything is in the light. This is a good thing. My prayer is we wouldn’t waste this season arguing with those who are with us and we wouldn’t waste this season shaming those who are not. Instead, let’s keep speaking truth in love and pray for God’s work in the hearts of his people.
Before I became a Christian and while in college, I would host multi-ethnic group discussions at my university on the topic of race and diversity. My hope was that we’d be able to discuss misconceptions and together challenge racism. Now that I’ve been talking about this topic for many years, I’m anxious for us to take the topic beyond talking and into action. What I also realize, however, is that for many, the past few years have been the very first time you’ve ever considered the importance of racial reconciliation and how you might be involved in it. So, I’ve often been hesitant to give friends a large list to do. With that said, here’s a list for you to consider. Some of the thoughts below are practical and not related directly to our faith, while others are steps I believe you can take to directly put your faith into action.
What can I do?
Foster an environment in your churches and in your homes where the gospel is proclaimed and there is a robust understanding of imago dei (the Image of God). God created each one of us in His image and the gospel is for all nations, tribes, and tongues.
Each of us has a responsibility to love one’s neighbor. In order to do that, we must first have transformed hearts. Then, we must take action to get to know others–even those not like us. As much as possible and when possible, fill your lunches and dinner tables, your conference rooms, your business meetings, and your college study groups with people who you can love and serve who are not like you.
Promote confession. If we confess our sin, we know that God is faithful to purify us (1 John 1:9). Ask the Lord to reveal any place of pride or prejudice in your own heart. Recognize that racism within our hearts does exist, even though it may be hidden. Promote confession among your friends and in your churches—this, I believe, is foundational, fostering a gracious environment. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). Be ready to forgive when others confess.
Resist apathy. It’s easy to think that because we are 50 years past the Civil Rights Movement, we are now in a place to move on. Because we are now united under law, let’s work even harder to be united under Christ. We have not arrived yet and, therefore, ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the work yet to be done.
Get practical: If you read The New Jim Crow, go and visit a prison—pray with the men and women. Begin to see them as human. If you live in a homogenous neighborhood, shop in a neighborhood that is more diverse every now and then, find a way to engage in the community that is not your own (community events, community centers, Boys and Girls clubs, etc). Get yourself in a position to meet new and different people.
I’m afraid to speak. How can I speak about this topic well?
If you have a desire to speak about this topic well, that’s a good sign that you’ll be thoughtful and careful. I do think it’s important for us to pray about our words before we speak them. There isn’t a moment that I share something that there isn’t a slight fear before I share it. Part of this is a sinful fear of man—being afraid of what others will think of me. Another fear, I believe, is a healthy fear of the Lord. I want to honor God with my speech. We also want to love others well. Part of loving others is praying about our speech and speaking with thoughtfulness and care.
But—speak! We don’t want to use prudence as an excuse to be apathetic or uninvolved. This does not mean that you must write blog posts or scream on Facebook or other social media platforms, but it does mean that if you see something that is clearly wrong—speak up. I’ve heard it said that if you are in the vicinity of slander, racist chatter, racist jokes or the like and you do not speak up to those who are around, then they will, 1) assume you are okay with it, and 2) feel comfortable to do it again with you in their presence. Make it so that people know they cannot say anything racist in your presence because they will be shutdown and corrected. Don’t be afraid to stand for truth and justice—and I think this is especially important in private conversations—where they matter most.
Is there hope?
Yes! There’s hope for today and hope for the next life. We are living in perilous times, but I wonder if there’s ever actually been a time that hasn’t been perilous since Genesis 3. There are many reasons to mourn, but no reason to be without hope. Jesus has accomplished the unity that we desire (Eph.2). We need the power of the Spirit to be able to live out this reality in our lives.
We also realize that one day all the sin, pain, and fear will be wiped away. I’m thankful for that reality.
Other questions I’ve received:
Quotas: Won’t it feel artificial?
Yes, it will feel artificial—if it is artificial. It’s about the heart and ultimately about love. Seek to love your neighbor as yourself. Ask God to change your heart if it feels artificial.
Don’t you think it would be weird? Kinda like: “Hi. Will you be my black friend?”
Chances are you won’t do that and if you begin to gain a better understanding of imago dei it won’t be weird at all. Building relationships with those who are different than you and me should be a natural part of our lives. We know, however, this is not the case, so as my friend, Thabiti, once said, maybe it’s time to get a little weird.
What if I’m rejected?
You will likely be rejected. Aren’t we all rejected at some point? God’s word says, what can man do to the soul? Nothing. They can kill the body, but the soul lives on. Don’t fear rejection. Know that not everyone will be open to getting to know you and that’s okay.
What’s wrong with having preferences?
I understand that it is most comfortable for some to be with those just like themselves. I get it. My question is why do we hold to those preference? Could it be that you actually struggle with the sin of partiality? James talks about the rich not wanting to associate with the poor. Could that be your trouble? In this instance, instead of rich and poor partiality it is cultural and racial?
As my little series comes to a close, please know that this is only the beginning but it is indeed a step. I pray that you and I will take some action whether it’s starting a conversation with a neighbor, reading a book written by an African American author, or being a part of a peaceful protest. Whatever it is, let’s make today the day we take our faith and put it in action.