It’s a beautiful summer evening in the Colorado Rockies, and a brilliantly moonlit sky hovers over a small clearing in a pine forest. There, about a dozen people are gathered around a brightly crackling campfire.
A man in a cowboy hat strums an acoustic guitar as the people sing favorite hymns and choruses.
Some close their eyes.
One or two raise their hands to the heavens, imitating the pine trees that circle them.
A few watch as sparks from the roaring fire rise on a column of smoke and hot air. And one or two look straight up, where more than a thousand points of light dot the dark firmament.
This is no youth group on retreat. It is a gathering of pastors and their wives in their thirties, forties, and fifties who have been meeting, talking, and praying together for a week.
But that does not preclude the childish screams of joy as marshmallows and skewers are brought out. In moments, big, gooey gobs of white are being scrunched between graham crackers and slabs of chocolate, making a snack that for decades has served as a kind of an outdoorsy feast.
Certainly, this is a glimpse of heaven. But when Bob Sewell—a warm and gentle Texas native who complements his cowboy hat with boots, Levi’s, and a bushy red beard—asks members of the group to share what they have learned during the past week, it becomes obvious that some of these dear, sweet, God-loving people have had their own taste of hell.
“I’ve learned to say no,” says one pastor, who has been so busy caring for his flock that it has been more than a decade since he spent a week just relating and praying with his wife.
“I’ve seen that God still has things for me to do,” says another pastor, who at age 50 has been wondering if his remaining years will yield anything of value.1
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