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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017

A Safe Haven

Posted Thursday, January 3, 2013, at 8:59 AM

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.

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Nice story Shep, thanks for sharing. It took me back to memories of the little rural church that I attended as a child, and a bit later joined. It was surrounded by woods, a gooseberry patch, and of course the attendant wild flowers, and woodland birds. Dinner on the grounds was a feast to our eyes, and ears, as well as the palate.

I'm thinking that your little rural church, like the one in your story, the one described in the attached song, and that of my childhood, are all consistent pleasant memory factories.

"Come to the church by the wildwood

Oh, come to the church in the vale

No spot is so dear to my childhood

As the little brown church in the vale

How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning

To listen to the clear ringing bells

It's tones so sweetly are calling

Oh, come to the church in the vale" -William S. Pitts

At this link is the story of the "Church in the Wildwood" it is also still standing.


At this link is the song, as sung by the Carter Family, if you have a spare moment.


-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Jan 3, 2013, at 11:15 AM

An historical tidbit: My grandmother was married in the Little Brown Church.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Thu, Jan 3, 2013, at 11:51 AM

Cool Eric.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Jan 3, 2013, at 3:11 PM

Thanks -

The church reminded me of a lot of places I've been - and been involved with - over the years. It looked somewhat like a smaller version of the church I pastor now.

There's another song - from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's second Circle album - that says:

"There's a little mountain church in my thoughts of yesterday, where friends and family gathered for the Lord ... There an old fashioned preacher taught the straight and narrow way for what few coins the congregation could afford ... Looking back now that little mountain church house has become my life's cornerstone ... It was there in that little mountain church house, I first heard the Word I based my life upon."

Needless to say - the words from that song were intermingling with the verses from "The Church in the Widlwood" while I was visiting the church at Virginia Dale.

It was a pleasant experience, to say the least.

-- Posted by shep on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 9:06 AM

Eric -

Do you mean the little brown church written about in the song referenced by OKR?

How cool is that!!!!


-- Posted by shep on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 9:10 AM

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Bob Stewart is pastor of Union Baptist Church. His long-running column ranges in topic from matters of faith to observations about life in Saline County, politics and the sights to see in travels throughout America.
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