If someone were to ask you about the spiritual and emotional condition of your pastor and his family, what would your answer be?  "Oh, they're fine."  "They're doing okay, I guess." ... Do you really know?

It's a frantic world, where even Christians inadvertently get caught up in the daily grind of living. And it's easy to forget that pastors and their families have the same pressures we do, plus a lot more that are theirs alone.

Pastors by the thousands have lost the joy of their calling because of the unabating stress that accompanies their vocation. Ministers' wives and children long for Dad to "throw in the towel" because of the expectations and demands they face each day. Worse, there are couples who, because they're expected to be "perfect," feel they have no one to whom they can reveal their wounds, disappointments, and failures. No one to be their friend.

A Compassionate Heart
But God is the God of all comfort. And in His infinite mercy, He placed in the heart of a Mississippi pastor's son the longing to provide a place of quiet rest and infinite peace for pastors and others in vocational Christian ministry -- a place where they would be loved and ministered to in ways both unique and unequaled.

Today, Gilead Retreat and Conference Center near Oxford, Mississippi, is that place. And the man who is living out his dream to "minister to ministers" is Lanny Autry.

"As a preacher's kid, I watched my father, Ewart, minister to the needs of others while always struggling and denying himself and his own family," explains Autry. "Out of that life experience came the desire to build Gilead."

Today, with the help of his wife, Deborah, and son-in-law, Ken Williams, Autry welcomes pastors, missionaries, evangelists and other Kingdom workers who come from places near and far to be spiritually and physically renewed at Gilead.

A Rare Find
Pastor Tony Blevins and his wife, Freda, of Carl Junction, Missouri, were looking for a place where they could spend some quality time alone with God and each other. The minister plugged words like "quiet" and "retreat" into the search engine on his computer, and happened upon the Gilead website. After a phone conversation with the Autrys, the pair were soon on their way to the hills of Northeast Mississippi.

"We stayed a week," Blevins commented. "It was a wonderful time of spiritual renewal. The hiking trails offered a great opportunity to be alone with God.  It was also a special time for my wife and I to focus on each other -- away from phones and television and all the distractions of the world."

Blevins says that if one is looking for fast-paced entertainment, Gilead is not the place to go.  "But if you're looking for a place to unwind and allow God to renew your spirit, there is no better place."

The United Methodist pastor adds that the delicious breakfasts and the time he and Freda spent getting to know the Autrys were highlights of their stay.  "We're looking forward to the day we can go back again."

Far from Home
Pete Gibson has been a missionary to Romania for the past 12 years. He recently journeyed to the headquarters of Global Outreach, an international missions organization based in Tupelo, Mississippi, for a missions/board meeting.

Gibson and his wife, Barbara, have ministered under the umbrella of Global Outreach since April of 1988, when they were first commissioned as missionaries to East Africa. But on this particular Tupelo trip, Gibson traveled alone, and he was given the opportunity to spend a night at Gilead.