Wednesday, May 9, 2012


In the little town of Jefferson, nestled among the rolling hills of Greene County, Pennsylvania, lives an extraordinary man named John Dorean. This past Sunday, we celebrated his 30th anniversary as the pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church, and I presented him with a painting that I made as a tribute to his years of service to his congregation and community, as well as to countless people whose lives he has touched across the country and around the world.

  (Click to enlarge)
11" x 14", watercolor, pen & ink, collage

When I began to plan the painting, I intended to somehow document all of John's accomplishments over the past three decades, no easy feat considering how much he has been involved in. As I began listing his church activities, mission trips, and board memberships, as well as the books he's written, awards won, and honors received, I realized that there was no way to include it all in an 11" x 14" painting. I definitely needed to rethink things.

But one thing I was sure of was that I wanted the painting to feature a picture of the church and the parsonage, as well as a portrait of John. So, one Sunday a few weeks ago, I very sneakily took pictures of Pastor John as he preached, and then, after the service, snapped a few more from across the street, as he greeted people on their way out of church.

reference photo for the church sketch

I now had my reference photos, and could proceed with my sketches. I included lots of people in the church sketch, and if you look closely, you can even see the Dorean's daughter, Bethany, whizzing down the ramp in her wheelchair. I also added some spring flowers to brighten things up a bit.

Detail of church

I indicated the bricks on the church and parsonage with strokes of burnt sienna and burnt umber, but didn't get too caught up in painting every minute detail.

I like how the sketch of the Dorean's home turned out. It looks so cozy and inviting.

Parsonage detail

I had one teeny problem, though, when it came time to paint Pastor Dorean. My reference photos weren't very helpful at all. The low light in the church had made the pictures kind of fuzzy, and John was sporting a beard in the photos, but had shaved it off soon after I took them, giving him an entirely different look. With my deadline looming, it was too late to take more pictures, so I did my best with what I had.

Portrait detail

The painting of John's face is only about 3/4" high, so it was especially challenging to get a reasonable likeness. I painted him on a separate piece of watercolor paper, then tore out the painting to get an interesting rough edge and glued the finished portrait onto the background.

From the first moments of thinking about this painting, I knew that Matthew 25:21 was the verse I wanted to use. It sums up everything we feel about this man who has dedicated himself to God's work for all of his adult life.

Matthew 25:21

After taking some time to mull over my dilemma about how to include in the painting all that John has accomplished, it slowly dawned on me that I needed to stop looking at things superficially. We weren't honoring John Dorean for leading a Bible study or founding our local Habitat chapter or any of his other good works. We love him because of who he is, not what he's done.

Border detail

With that realization, I knew I'd found the answer I'd been looking for. I designed a flowing ribbon border for the painting, and on it I wrote about who John is...

Beloved pastor
Humble teacher
Earnest servant
Seeker of truth
Follower of Jesus
Devoted husband
Proud father
Loving grandfather
True friend
Inspiring preacher
Tireless caregiver
Insightful author
Generous volunteer
Man of honor
Passionate missionary
Strong leader
Wise counselor
Border detail

On Sunday, amidst all the laughter and tears of his 30th anniversary celebration, I finally got to present him with his painting. I know he was surprised, and I think he was touched by the sentiment. I hope whenever he looks at it, he'll remember how many people appreciate, admire, and love him. He's a very special man, and we're blessed to have him as our pastor and friend.

Merry and John Dorean, and me (photo courtesy of Linda Wigington)


  1. WOW! This is outstanding!! What a wonderful tribute to someone so loved by so many. You are so talented and so thoughtful. Just beautiful.

  2. Leslie, I am such a "girl" because here I am, reading this blog post, with tears in my eyes AGAIN about this tribute to our pastor and friend. What a beautiful thing to do for him, and our church is truly blessed by having you as part of our fellowship. Thanks so much for sharing your gifts with all of us.

  3. Cheri, I really felt that this painting was from all of us, to John. I just happened to be the one who put it all together. It made me feel so good to do something that would help to convey to him how much we all respect him. And I really appreciate your enthusiasm for the project. :)

  4. What a lovely tribute. You are fortunate to have someone like that in your community and your life.


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