Images of hope

John Vander reest

This month, John Vander Reest will celebrate 50 years since his ordination as a minister in the church. As well as sharing the occasion with family and friends at a special service in Campbellfield, John has used his half-century anniversary to display his latest artwork in an exhibition titled Je suis refugee.

John has been painting in water colour and oils for many years, but this is the first time he is working to a theme. Most of his paintings are about ‘creation’ and depict a very wide variety of subjects. He is a member of the Victorian Artists Society as well as the Woodend art Group. He exhibits regularly in Woodend.

John said the exhibition was inspired by the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

“This title of the exhibition reminds us that we cannot overlook the needs of the thousands, or even millions of refugees,” John said.

“I for one can remember how people rejoiced once the oppression of the war was lifted, freedom was celebrated and food became available again. Freedom to live, like freedom of speech, is a most precious right. It is part of our stand for social justice that people are entitled to work towards and demand that freedom.”


John explained that the exhibition unashamedly takes its name from Je suis Charlie, the Parisian magazine terrorised because it stood for free speech.

“I believe that refugees need a voice and that in a world of free speech refugees need to be heard. Je suis reminds us that freedom is a precious possession and if one does not have it, the urge to obtain it can become so strong that one is prepared to risk one’s life for it.

“This painting (‘The Walkers’ – above) reminds me of the Emmaus walkers (Lk 24:16) busy discussing their plight. We are not told what they are talking about, but it is not surprising to see them on their way to a new and better future. Where ever we turn in the world, that is the image: people on their way to a more hopeful and better future.”

Proceeds of the exhibition will support Lentara Uniting Care and the synod’s Justice & International Mission unit. For more information on the exhibition or go to:

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