A Nazarene doctor in Portugal has built nearly 100 highly detailed miniature scenes from the Bible and hopes to eventually create a museum around them.
Alexandra Sousa Gil began building miniature Bible scenes during the pandemic, both as a way relax from her work stress and to grow her faith in Christ.
Finding a church home during the pandemic
A long-time clinical pathologist, Gil dedicated her professional life to serving the sick through medicine.
Although Gil gave her life to Christ many years ago, at the invitation of a friend during the pandemic, she began attending the Church of the Nazarene in Cascais.
“When I entered, I found incredible the way of praying and the fellowship was different,” she said. “And little by little, I started to go more often. Every time my friend would go, I would go, until I started going by myself. It was with the pandemic that I then found the Church of the Nazarene.”
During the peak of the pandemic, the Portuguese government relaxed some rules to allow people to attend their church services in person. While some smaller churches with limited space asked members to sign up in advance to attend worship, the Church of the Nazarene in Cascais is blessed with a large sanctuary, so it was able to accommodate many more people. Further, it allowed attendees to sign up until very late in the week. So, people like Alexandra could easily attend even when their work schedule could be erratic and unpredictable.
“This was very important for me,” Gil said. “During my adolescent years, I lived in a country where churches were banned, and people were not able to worship together. Since then … it is very important to me to be together to worship and be at a church.”
Doctor by day, artist by night
Gil has always liked making handicrafts. Her faith is what inspires her artistry. So, when she volunteered to teach Sunday school, her intensified Bible study led her to begin building miniature, three-dimension Bible scenes from the Old to the New Testament.
Building the dioramas was also a way to occupy sleepless nights, which she began struggling with in 2015.
“Initially, the first thought that came to my mind was that it was crazy that a woman with grown children would be doing something like this. But it was my way to relax and disconnect.”
Her excitement around recreating these Bible scenes grew, so much so that even when she could have gone to sleep easily, she was staying awake to design them.
Alexandra buys the miniature pieces of furniture, the characters and the plants. She creates the backgrounds by cutting up magazines or printing images and paintings.
Some items she must make from scratch. For example, for David’s harp, she used dental floss.
To bring more light into the scenes, Alexandra also learned how to wire LED lights in the boxes.
“It’s hard to quantify in hours how long each miniature can take. But I’ve had situations, like Abraham sacrificing Isaac, where it was very quick to get done. Then there were others that would take weeks or months because I couldn’t find the right piece that was missing.”
“God helped every step of the way,” she said. “Even in finding small props that now are part of a scene and made difference. The characters can either be wearing sneakers or a hat, and this was because I wanted to bring the Bible to the modern days as it is still alive.”
When Gil would take a break from her creations, she would sense God reminding her to continue. But she had never shown her art to the pastors at church.
In July 2022, Gil held an exposition of her miniatures at the Nazarene church. Many visited and were able to see how these miniatures are made and learn more about the Bible.
So far, Gil has created 40 miniatures of the Old Testament and 50 miniatures of the New Testament.
She has also painted three cities that were part of Jesus’ life: Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Capernaum.
In addition, Gil has built scenes that illustrate Jewish celebrations, all for a total of 105 dioramas.
In the future, she is considering recreating what is told in Revelations, and establishing a small Bible Museum to have all the miniatures on permanent public display, which would not only bring the Bible to life for visitors, but inspire people to put their own, God-given talents into practice.
written by Nicole Almeida, Portugal