In the middle of rural Missouri, about three hours from my grandparents house, is a mecca of sorts, a mecca of oversized wobbly heads, of large weepy tear shaped eyes, and emotions that drip like corn syrup from them. Yup, you guessed it! The Precious Moments Chapel! Samuel J. Butcher, the genius behind those "beautiful and innocent Precious Moment messenger", was from Carthage, MO, so when he'd established his total world domination (particularly of Japan) through sappy figurines, he decided to give back to the town that gave so much to him (true story folks!). So he built a chapel "inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome" (he even spent two whole weeks toiling away on scaffolding, lying on his back, painting the ceiling, eat your heart out Michelangelo!), "as his way of sharing the joy of his faith with the world, and it has become his crowning work" (I'm quoting straight from the website, fount of truth). "The Chapel is so much more than just a building, touching the lives of those who enter its doors with a sense of peace (sedate horror), hope (for the apocolypse), and promise (that it can always be worse) since it opened in 1989."
Now, you may be asking yourself, how the crap does Zina know so much about it? Well friends, I've been there. Twice. Yup. Twice. How did I get so lucky? Well, like I mentioned, my grandparents live out that way, so whenever its family road trip over the river and through the woods, well, we make our pilgramage. The first time I was about 12 I think, young and full of hope for a bright future. After almost two days non-stop in our suburban packed with 9 people we pulled up to this bright shining ediface and staggered out- veritable children of Isreal who'd been wandering over many strange lands to find the promised land. We entered the large and spacious building, and were meet with a mix of Japanese tourists, life sized precious moments dolls, and elderly guides who looked like they should have tags that read "Elder" or "Sister" so and so.
We wandered past the multiple gift stores, stared in abject horrer at the documentary of ol' Sam, and then slowly, as though drawn by some unseen power, we shuffled dazed towards the chapel. We passed marble sculptures of precious moments (PM) cherubs lining the manicured gardens and fountains, following the tidy paths that lead to the large looming building with soft light gleaming from its stained glass windows. Upon entering we were all dumbstruck, dumbstruck that such a place existed, dumbstruck that people actually came to it (ourselves included), and totally floored that people paid thousands of dollars to get married there. The chapel is filled with murals (5,000 sq ft) all showing sloppily (oops did that slip out!) painted scenes from the Bible a la wobbly head, teary eyes! There's paintings on the ceiling, on the walls, stained glass, pews, triptychs, the whole nine yards. There's a side chapel for Sam's son who died, and just like all the cathedrals in Rome (and elsewere) there are relics. Oh yes, relics. Unfortunatly no fingerbones encased in a jewel encrusted case, but there are dolls, Sam's paint spattered shoes, memorabilia from fans, and a host of equally weird and creepy stuff.
After stuffing ourselves into a nausiated stupor, we scampered back through the village of gift stores, almost in a panic to find our car and leave. As I rushed out the door, a grandma lady dripping in doillies grabbed my arm and looking deep into my eyes said "have a precious evening dear". I'm not sure if it was a blessing or a cursing, but that old woman's words drew me back some 13 years later for another precious dose.
This second pilgramage met us with new features, the recently opened 'Angle fountain' and the new 'Wedding Island', both of which we skipped, feeling our 20 bucks a head could be better used at the World's Largest Jackalope farm on 1-70 in Kansas. We simply revisited the chapel, worshiped the relics, stifled our laughter and feigned respect for the sacred sacrin. I even went so far as to get my pic snapped with a life size PM clown. So kids, if you ever need a lift on your cross country road trip, I recommend a visit to the PM mecca. You'll never be dissapointed, I promise.