There was a time when the teardrop eyed Precious Moments figurines were one of the hottest items around. The adorable little cherub collectibles, which are now probably taking up shelf space at your mom and grandmother's houses, were the creation of the artist Samuel J. Butcher.
Sam Butcher had always been attached to childhood memories of his grandmother's Bible stories. He had also always grown up with a love of drawing, despite growing up in a poor home. He did what he needed to in order to find his art supplies and after years of practice, ended up winning a scholarship after high school to study art at the College of Arts & Crafts in Berkeley.
In 1975, Butcher decided to use his artistic talents for the Lord and started drawing small Biblical scenes. Initially, Precious Moments were introduced to the public as greeting cards and posters. A few years later, the series was expanded to actual figurines. Butcher was inspired to share God's love with everyone. He went from a former janitor trying to make ends meet to a millionaire. The public loved the little cherubic statues and they quickly became popular around the country.
But Butcher was inspired to create something even bigger to honor God -- he built the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri. Finding inspiration from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Butcher created his own chapel -- stained glass windows and all. The chapel features scenes from Precious Moments. Funded by his Precious Moments successes, Mr. Butcher spent four years finalizing the chapel and surrounding area, which initially included an entire Precious Moments Park, the world's largest Precious Moments Gift Shoppe, a Christmas shop open year-round, and even an incredible water fountain with Precious Moments Figures in the center. The chapel itself became known as "America's Sistine Chapel."
Though many of the park attractions closed down in 2007, the Precious Moments Chapel remains a free attraction for visitors. Free Chapel tours will take you through the grounds, where a guide will explain that it took the Precious Moments artist 500 hours to paint the 75 angels in the chapel's centerpiece ceiling. There are 5,000 square feet of art throughout the chapel as well as a "Hallelujah Square" mural, which (according to the website) is "heaven through the eyes of a child." The chapel has welcomed thousands of visitors since it opened its doors in 1989.
"It is my prayer," Sam Butcher says, "that through my work in the Chapel, I might share my faith with others and that the Spirit of God might touch the visitors' hearts and bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord."