It all began more than thirty-five years ago, when Precious Moments® creator Samual J Butcher began drawing the endearing teardrop-eye children he called "Precious Moments" as gifts for family and friends. Today, his Precious Moments artwork is among the most recognized art in the world, sharing messages of loving, caring and sharing with collectors from around the globe.
A man of deep personal faith and conviction, Sam, demonstrated artistic talent at an early age and, encouraged by his Mother, he pursued formal art training following his high school graduation. His dedication earned him a scholarship to the College of Arts & Crafts in Berkeley.
In the early 1970s, Sam and a friend, Bill Biel, started a small company to produce his Precious Moments art on a line of cards and posters, calling their company Jonathan & David. They took their goods to the annual Christian Booksellers Association Convention in Anaheim and their tiny booth was filled with enthusiastic retailers wanting to order the new line. The crowd became so large that neighboring vendors came over to help the two young men write orders.
Shortly thereafter, Sam was approached by Enesco Corporation to develop a three-dimensional figurine based on his artwork titled “Love One Another.” Sam was so overwhelmed when he saw the first porcelain sample that he fell to his knees and wept. It was the beginning of a phenomenon for both Sam and the gift industry.
By the end of 1978, the first twenty-one original Precious Moments figurines were introduced to the market. The response to the collection was incredible. People began to write to Sam, telling him about how the Precious Moments figurines had touched their lives in a moving and heartfelt way. In less than a year after their introduction, demand was overwhelming. The success of the Precious Moments figurines was amazing, yet Sam never lost touch with his original purpose to create art which combined his heartfelt emotions with his abiding faith.
In 1984, Sam made a decision to settle somewhere where he could devote himself to what was truly important to him – his family and his art. In February of that year, he began searching for just the right place as he drove home from a gift show in California.
For many years Sam had dreamed of building a chapel where he could share his faith and spread the word of God with anyone who wished to visit. He was originally inspired by the sight of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome. He remembers looking at the masterpiece and thinking, “Could it be that someday God might grant me the privilege of sharing what light He has given me by painting what I feel He has to say about His grace?”
While spending the night at a hotel near Joplin, Missouri, Sam awoke with an unmistakable feeling that he was somewhere special. Later that same day, a real estate agent showed him a house overlooking Center Creek near Carthage, Missouri. Sam had no doubt that he had found his future home.
Sam’s dream became a reality when he moved to Carthage. There, he was finally able to tackle the challenge of building the chapel he had envisioned for so long. The Chapel is a stunning sight! Around every turn are murals, angels, stained glass, and other bits of Sam’s artwork. The Chapel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and statues that are one of a kind.
"It is my prayer," Sam 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."
Since its opening in 1989, Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri has welcomed millions of visitors.