A store was already established in Dalton, Ga., but they needed a larger place to do more ministry and found the perfect spot in downtown Dalton. Space was needed for Bible study, speakers, gifts, music, art and so forth.
But there was a contract on the one place chosen. “Call us if anything happens,” the Browns told their real estate agent. The Realtor called and said the contract was broken.
Brown didn’t have the money needed, but “we’ll work out something,” she declared. Her husband, Ken, who played football at Clemson University, is her special supporter and with her son Striker and daughter Jaimie, the family knew God would come through for them.
Her confirmation came in an odd way. Striker plays baseball and is a quarterback in football. When a fellow baseball player broke his ankle and was taken to emergency room, they had chance to talk and pray with him.
A stranger — man who was radically saved while in prison on drugs — walked up to her and said he knew “you’re going to get the building.” It wasn’t long before they moved into their new shop.
Other things begin to happen that affirmed God was with them as they launched their ministry. Striker met a lady who has a house in Haiti and who was working to stop human trafficking. She gave Susan her card and later, when she ran across the card, called her in Ohio. The lady said, “I’m looking for your phone number as we speak.” Striker has made arrangements to go to Haiti to teach the women crafts to sell to fund the ministry. Her gift shop also sells candles to feed children in Nicaragua. And the tithe from the store goes to supply other mission needs, such as blankets and food for people in impoverished areas.
Susan felt led of God to come to Cleveland and open a second Grace Christian Gift and Art Gallery — “waiting eight years for ‘Grace,’” she was told. She didn’t know much about Cleveland or Lee University, but found there was a “God” connection. The former Phillips 66 Oil Station on the corner of 20th and North Ocoee streets had been sold by Neal Liner to Ray Conn, brother of Paul Conn, president of Lee — and it would be her new location.
The shop opened two weeks ago and is filled to overflowing with Christian items — folk art, cards, candles, paintings and unique gift ideas, as well as music and study areas where students can come and hang out. Her daughter Jaimie will be tending to the Cleveland shop. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Brown said Cleveland’s arms were open to them. “I’m excited for what God has planned,” she exclaimed.
How things worked out for her, she said, was no coincidence. They tried to open before Christmas, but the delay, she feels, was in God’s plan.
She and her daughter were at the Merchandise Market in Atlanta and Jaimie mentioned she wanted to go to the 5 p.m. church service. The Passion Conference in Atlanta, attended by thousands, is a big event for the crowd, usually in the 18-25 age range. There were three services, but the 5 p.m. service was the one she was impressed to attend. They realized why later. The speaker said, “somebody is going to Cleveland.” It was only said in that one service and to Brown, it was a confirmation.
Her merchandise comes from every imaginable place — market, travels, side of the road, dumpsters. Some she makes and some, she recycles or re-purposes. One of the special pieces is a miniature pillow made by her mother showing the Pure Filling Station as it looked originally when Clevelanders could pull in their cars, get gas and have their oil changed. The bays now hold beautiful and meaningful items just waiting for that special person. Inspiring art and writings beckon the visitor to just “come and look.”
Grace is a place for women to come by, drink a cup of coffee in the morning and share their stories. It is an atmosphere created for sharing. Students come in to study and to share a word about what God is doing in their lives.
Art students bring in their work and Brown plans to have a weekend to sell. In addition, they helped paint doors and walls in the shop. Some come to share their talent in music and singing, and in the spring the bay doors will be opened for an impromptu concert outside.
It’s a place where the simple and ordinary becomes the extraordinary — “it’s truly out-of-the-box,” Brown said. She related a “God story” concerning anointing oil. She had the oil on her kitchen counter for about five years, and one day, when she was leaving the house, she felt impressed to “pick up the oil — you’ll need it today.” A lady came in with learning disabilities and wanted prayer. Brown knew then why she had to “pick up the oil” on this special day. “I thank Him,” she confided. “I always want to be hearing and obedient.
When two women from Chattanooga — one a cancer patient — came to her, she designated a prayer chair for people to be anointed and prayed over. People have needs, Brown said, “and I want to be here for them.”
Grace is not about a business enterprise, Brown said. “I want this to be a place of ministry,” she explained, “and I can’t do it without God.”