GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (CNS) — When Christie Kelley parked her car in front of an old unused building on West Second Street in downtown Grand Island to visit a friend who worked next door, she never imagined what she would find herself doing within a few years.
Kelley’s story is one built in faith and by fate combined with a heavy dose of spirituality that brought her to the building, now the home of Majestic Treasures, a retail Christian gift store she runs.
Formerly the Majestic Theater, the 1920s-era building now houses Christian gift items nestled among antique furnishings and wall hangings on original brick walls. There also is an area for people who are grieving — the Chapel room, named for the Chapel Gift and Book Store in town that went out of business in 2012.
The store also carries something money can’t buy: inspiration.
“To me it’s the Holy Spirit,” said Julie Pfeifer, who works in the store and is a member of St. Leo Parish in Grand Island. “There’s an inspiration when you walk in there. It’s just a peaceful thing and a lot of it has to do with the things in there.”
One source of inspiration hangs just inside the front door: a large canvas picture of a night sky with a glowing full moon illuminating a wavy cross.
“It’s behind the counter for a reason because I want people to be able to see it when they are standing there,” Kelley told the West Nebraska Register, Grand Island’s diocesan newspaper. “They weren’t seeing the big picture.”
Kelley captured the image with her cellphone on her way home Jan. 5. It happened to be the first full moon after the winter solstice — the Wolf Moon, Old Moon or Snow Moon, according to Farmers’ Almanac.
What prompted Kelley to stop her car in the middle of the road with the wind chill at 20 below and take the photo was the combination of a thought, a song and a prayer she spoke out loud.
“‘God, I want to be a reflection of you,’ and I was very passionate about it at that moment,” she recalled.
What happened next Kelley could only describe as a “get down on your hands and knees moment — literally — and praise God.”
As she looked again at the moon, she saw that a nearly perfect cross had formed in front of it.
Rather than risk getting hit by a car while kneeling in the middle of a country road in the freezing cold, Kelley grabbed her cellphone and took six pictures in less than a minute.
By the time she took the last photo, the cross was gone.
But the cross is only part of the story.
“I didn’t see any of the details until I zoomed in later on my phone,” she said. “Then I started seeing stuff.”
First she a well-defined eye, she said, then a chalice in the middle of the cross, angels, a long table with people seated at it similar to the Last Supper, a lion’s head and a crown of thorns. And in the middle of the cross, she said, was an image similar to the Shroud of Turin.
Kelley said some people are skeptical and cannot see past the image of the cross, but she assures anyone who asks that the photos are untouched, only enlarged to show the details.
“I saw the cross in the sky and I just smiled because God is all around us everywhere,” said Deb Wetzel, religious education coordinator at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Grand Island. “This is a perfect example of how God is with us. He is with us every step, all the way.”
Whether people see images beyond the cross, Kelley said, the photo begins a conversation.
Kelley, a member of Resurrection Parish in Grand Island, runs a nondenominational store, and she welcomes people of all faiths — or no faith at all.
“The whole thing is a setup from the get-go — the Christian store — God is using the whole thing as a platform,” she said. “If someone else had seen it (the cross) maybe they wouldn’t have the platform to share it. It’s all just too perfect.”
Indeed, it certainly seems that way after hearing Kelley’s story, beginning that day she parked on West Second Street in front of the building owned by her brother, Tom Ziller.
She had quit her job and, crying, she began to question God, asking what she was supposed to do with her life. But she pulled herself together, giving little thought again to that day.
Eventually, she took her brother’s suggestion they open a business in Tom’s building that she would run, so they started a second-hand consignment shop, with family members contributing items.
A year later, the enterprise turned out to be less than inspiring. Kelley again asked God for guidance.
By that time, the Chapel store was closing and selling everything, including the displays. Kelley offered her store’s space to sell any remaining display items on consignment. Somewhere along the line — Kelley had an answer to her prayers.
“I told Julie, ‘I think we’re supposed to restart the Christian store,'” she recalled. Julie agreed, adding “We always called ourselves ‘majestic missionaries.'”
Today, Majestic Treasures overflows with inventory and Kelley figures it probably will never sell enough to turn a profit. She said she feels lucky to be able to pay the bills each month. But Kelley is convinced that is not why she is there.
“My purpose is serving God,” she said. “God, I want to be a reflection of you.”
Gallion is associate editor of the West Nebraska Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Grand Island.