Out in the foothills of the Rockies, roads can get a bit treacherous during the winter months. What can be a beautiful drive one minute can turn into a frightening journey the next.
We recently traveled the scenic route from Laramie, Wyoming to Ft. Collins, Colorado and back along scenic Highway 287. If you've ever been blessed to travel along this corridor, you know how beautiful - even breathtaking - the surroundings can be. On the east, boulders, rocky outcroppings and bluffs form the boundary for the route. To the west of the highway, the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains offer beautiful vistas and occasional sightings of mule deer, elk, and other local wildlife.
As I said, there are times when the snows, winds, and frigid weather make this lovely place a nasty mess. If you happen to be traveling 287 during one of these times, it is quite possible you may become stranded along the way, or at least wish there was a warm place to shelter until the weather clears a bit.
I recently came to realize there is such a place.
About four miles south of the Wyoming - Colorado border, on the west side of the highway, stands a little white church. I believe this particular building is a rebuilt or renovated version of the old one-room schoolhouse / church that stood in its place since 1874 as part of a small mountain community named Virginia Dale.
Virginia Dale, Colorado was once an important stop along the route of the Overland Stage. Part of the community is still standing and is considered a true "ghost town" by many.
The little white church building is reminiscent of those places you see on Christmas cards and the front covers of inspirational magazines. On top stands an old fashioned steeple, and the inside of the building is warm and inviting. The sanctuary boasts about ten short pews, a pulpit, and windows that form beautiful views of the mountain terrain all around.
But the most astonishing thing about this little gem of a church is that it stays open most of the time as a safe haven for weary travelers.
To cut the chill of a mountain winter, a huge black and stainless steel pot-bellied stove stands near the center of the room. Near the stove is a small pail containing pieces of newspaper and several sizes of kindling. In the entryway, beside a plentiful stack of firewood, a small pantry holds a coffee pot and all the makings for hot drinks to warm the hands and spirits.
Life's journey can become hard to travel at times. And just like that little mountain church just south of Laramie, we have a place of refuge. Scriptures tell us that God's house is a refuge for the weary; that Jesus is a place of rest and refuge for the weary believer; and that we - all believers - are the "building of God."
Yet I wonder if we turn to the Father, or to His son, when we need a place of shelter, comfort and rest. Even more, I wonder if we are providing a place of rest - of sanctuary - for those around us who need a safe haven.