You may have seen The Massey Place art in gift shops and boutiques across the South. They are the simple but popular art pieces made from painted and sanded wooden blocks with Scripture verses, phrases or hymns printed on front.
But behind the trendy, decorative Scripture blocks is a story that reaches beyond the Mid-South all the way to Kenya and China.
Dale Shows, a proprietor of The Massey Place, pauses and tears up as he tells the story. In 2013, Shows was in Kenya helping with the opening of a new school to train Christian pastors.
The African students had come from across the region to learn about Christian ministry and the Word of God from the men who had traveled from abroad to teach them. Yet, in an unexpected request, the pastor who had started the school asked the teachers to wash their students’ feet.
“I just didn’t see it coming,” Shows said.
The trip’s purpose, of course, had been to minister to and serve the new school and students. But the re-creation of the Biblical story of Jesus washing the feet of his own disciples left a powerful impact on Shows.
“They’re the heroes,” he said, speaking of the students who had eagerly come to learn more about the Word of God. “That’s why we do this (The Massey Place). This is an extension, a vision of something bigger than ourselves.”
The Showses had always been involved in some sort of Christian ministry. Dale had graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, as a counselor. He and his wife, Tori, held couples’ retreats. And throughout the years they had ministered to many individuals by giving counseling, offering jobs and even their home to those in need.
When the Scripture blocks grew from just a hobby to something that was sold in stores, their business naturally became an extension of their family’s ministry. After Shows’ trip to Kenya, though, he and Tori felt called to set their business up so as to financially support the “heroes” Dale had met in Africa.
“We use it to wash the feet of those who are doing hard things to spread the Word of God,” Shows said.
So in August of 2014, The Massey Place began in earnest. While they did not actively seek out new accounts, they have grown from just about 15 stores to 45 or 50. This year alone, they will fulfill orders for 10,000 to 15,000 pieces, a number they’ve never come close to doing before, Tori Shows said.
And the business is set up so half of their profit is given directly to the missionary who started the pastor’s school in Kenya and a couple who left everything they had to move to and minister in China.
While Kenya gave the inspiration for the business’ vision, the missionary couple in China inspired the business’ name and quite literally, gave it a home.
When the Showses were still hosting couples’ retreats, they grew to know Jesse and Sue Massey, the couple who eventually moved to China and left behind their farmhouse and 12 acres. The Masseys and Showses had remained close friends and had been supportive of each other’s ministries. In 2013, the Masseys, now settled in China, gave their home and property to the Showses.
The business was renamed “The Massey Place” to symbolize all the help the Showses have received from God’s people throughout the years. Now the family of eight lives in the farmhouse. Tori homeschools the children and designs the text for their Scripture blocks, styling phrases like “Grateful” and “Pray” or Bible verses like Colossians 3:2 which says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Dale puts it all together in a barn in the backyard. Every now and then, the children step in to help fill orders.
In future years, they might have to step in more and more. Business is going well, as they just opened a website for e-commerce at www.mkt.com/massey-place. They also plan to expand their line from their current three sizes to perhaps include candle holders, frames and crosses. The business side of things has always taken a back seat to their broader mission, though.
“We don’t have a five-or ten-year plan,” Dale said with a laugh. “We’re about as ‘mom and pop’ as you can get.”
But as long as they are able to bless people with Scripture in their homes and support missions abroad, they know they are fulfilling their vision.
Local stores that carry Massey Place art:
About the South, Tupelo
The Green Door, Corinth
The Perfect Monogram, Boonville
Susan’s Flowers and Gifts, Baldwyn
Ultimate Gifts, Southaven
The Square Cupboard, Hernando
Turkoyz, Oxford, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Memphis
Mississippi Gift Co, Greenwood
The Mustard Seed, Oxford.
Photos by Lauren Wood // Story by Natalie Richardson