How did you learn about Laity Lodge?
Teaching landed Bobbie and me in Kerrville, where we worked with the high school youth group at our church. I kept hearing about the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp. My principal at the time put something in my box about the Texas Outdoor Education Association and asked me if I was interested. That’s how I landed in Echo Valley for the first time in 1982.
Later I was invited to the premier of the LLYC promotion film, where I met Mr. and Mrs. Butt and Frog Sullivan. When we got back in the car, I said, “I want to work for people who dream dreams and then make them happen.” It was really exciting and inspirational. There has always been a strong sense of God’s leading in all of this. I started working at camp the next summer, 1983. I was Camp Director at Singing Hills. We lived out there during the summers of ’83 and ’84, before I joined the full-time staff in ’85.
In what capacity did you join the staff?
I was Associate Director of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, while continuing as Director of Singing Hills in the summers. Frog and I would go recruit campers across the state. People were drawn to him, and he attracted a lot of “rough around the edges” kids. And many of our campers were city kids, like him.
What do you remember most about Frog?
He was very non-judgmental, especially during a period when Christianity was somewhat stuffy. Frog was able to get beyond the shame issues that are often associated with church and tell kids, “Hey, God really loves you! God’s not sitting up there with a tablet marking how you’ve been bad next to your name. God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.”
What are you most proud of during your time with the Foundation?
I think I helped contribute to the staff understanding the development of kids. As a teacher and coach, child development was a big deal to me, and I brought a lot of my educational training to the table, including Erikson’s stages of life and Piaget’s psychological understanding of children/childhood development. Later, I moved more towards servant leadership training with the staff.
Also, there was no inventory before I came to camp. Creating an inventory and bringing in accountability for equipment also came from my coaching background. I felt it was important. Later we built the first ropes course (a contribution from David and Deborah Rogers and Pat Ginther), which was later used every morning for cabin activity team building. Now ropes course elements have expanded throughout Echo Valley, and I’d say those are the things I’m most proud of bringing to this place.
What’s the philosophy behind two weeks?
There’s a rhythm to time at camp. Even though we have a Jam Session, one week is too short, while five weeks is too long. The theory is that in order to reach the largest number of kids during the summer, two weeks seemed to be optimum for the shortest period. Our method was bringing kids in, bombarding them with activity so they are having fun throughout the day and dancing at night, all alongside heavy programming so it’s always fun. As that takes place, the counselors are building relationships with their campers. Eventually campers develop trust in their counselors and hopefully a deeper level of sharing can happen later that week and into the next week during cabin times and down time. It also takes about a week to deprogram from the world they just came from.
Tell us about what you’re up today.
Currently, I’m acting as Cultural Steward, keeping the stories of our work alive—from Mr. and Mrs. Butt Sr.’s purchase of the property and early programs, including the Free Camps, to Howard and Barbara Dan’s work in the Laymen’s Leadership Institutes, the founding of Laity Lodge, LLYC, and the Laity Lodge Leadership Forums; then on through to David and Deborah Rogers’ work with Family Camp and the Laity Lodge Leadership Initiative.
There are a lot of stories to tell and keep, not to mention artifacts. This is our history, and we need to work hard to preserve it. Much has been lost already, but there have been many artifacts discovered that tell our story and remind us of our role in God’s bigger story. It continues to be exciting and keeps me going, because there are so many people who want to know our story.