"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound ..."
It was Tuesday, June 18. 8 p.m. Shift change.
"Twas grace that taught my heart to fear ..."
The command center was a flurry of activity. Weary firefighters were returning from the front lines -- looking for a hot meal. Their replacements were suiting up -- fire engines rumbled, sirens wailed. But amid the clamor was that most unusual sound.
"Through many dangers, toils and snares ..."
Many of the firefighters had been away from their families for days to wage war on the Black Forest Fire, a blaze that had killed at least two people, destroyed more than 500 homes and consumed more than 14,000 acres of land.
But for a brief moment on Tuesday, a group of young people from more than 1,400 miles away brought a bit of joy to the command post when they serenaded the firefighters.
The 100-voice student choir from First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., was in Colorado on their summer tour -- performing at rescue missions, nursing homes and even at a Colorado Rockies baseball game.
On Tuesday, they had been invited to sing at Focus on the Family's headquarters in Colorado Springs. After their performance, a staff member asked if they might consider singing for the firefighters.
"We said absolutely," music minister Chip Colee told Fox News.
The Alabama youngsters were taken aback by what they saw. Local residents stood along the road leading to the command center cheering the firefighters, holding signs that read "We love our firefighters" and "Thank you."
The group started off singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and then launched into a 20-minute concert.
"It was very moving -- for all of us," Colee said.
Caroline Elliott, 18, told Fox News it was an honor to be able to sing for the firefighters.
"I feel like it was something we had to do," she said. "It almost felt like we had a duty to pay back to them for all they do for us."
Chris Colee, the music minister's son, said the choir felt compelled to extend their hours in Colorado Springs.
"These guys are putting it all on the line," he said, referring to the firefighters. "It was the least we could do -- to go out there and sing to the Lord for them."
After their concert, they were asked to sing for firefighters eating meals in food tents.
"So we took all 100 of our kids and moved from tent to tent to sing for the guys who were eating," the music minister said. "We were so touched. Here were these guys and ladies -- hot, sweaty, exhausted. We just wanted to put a smile on their faces."
The young choir members said they hope their songs were an encouragement to the community.
"All we're trying to do is shine the light of the Lord," the music minister said.
The choir went now back on the road, heading toward Wichita where they were to sing on Wednesday -- but Colee believes what happened in Colorado Springs will be a lifetime memory.
"Our kids will never forget that," he said. "They will never forget the looks on the faces of the guys fighting those fires."
Before they left, one firefighter told the young people she had been away from her family and her church for days.
"She told us that when we started to sing Amazing Grace, she felt like she was back home," Colee said.
"When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we first begun."
Todd Starnes, with the Fox News Channel, is the author of "Dispatches From Bitter America." This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission.
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net
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