Six years ago, John Hill was called to be the Director of Laity Lodge Family Camp and to resurrect this ministry, which had been dormant since 1997. It started up again in 2007 with four small camps. Fast-forward six years and the Headwaters LLFC facility is built and the family camps are full with waiting lists. Families of all economic levels are reconnecting with our Lord and with one another in the Canyon we love.
This summer, I sat down with John to get the scoop on this six year ride.
How did Family Camp get started?
“It goes back to Howard Butt, Jr.’s vision of the renewal of society, the church and family. It’s always been a part of this organization. In the 1990’s, they started the Family Camp model by bringing families out to the youth camp for work weekends and then they started doing actual camps for the families. It was roughly $100/family, so lots of families came. But as it grew, it required more programming, facilities and people to run it. Ultimately, it took over the free camps, which were originally created for folks who couldn’t afford to come to camp. So it was taking over the free camp and pulling from the youth camp staff. All of the facilities were being used and the staff was worn out. Ultimately, it was so successful that they had to stop doing it in 1997.
But some of those people were really transformed during their Family Camp experiences, so many folks kept calling David Rogers requesting this camp. He said if someone ever gave a million dollars, they would consider doing it again. And that’s what happened! Someone gave a million dollars to do a study to see if this was possible.
In 2007, they hired me on a 2-year basis to see if this could be successful. And if it was, we could go ahead and raise money for a permanent facility.”
What did those two years look like?
“We begged people to come! I knew all of my 80’s Alumni friends and they had kids, so they were the first group that started coming. And once people did it, they loved it. It was the same thing that happened in the 90’s.”
What was your vision for Family Camp?
“I didn’t want people to have to come and worry bringing all of their stuff, like towels and sheets that they would have to go home and wash. We worked off of outrageous hospitality, so parents could just come and be with their kids. And in the early days, I was begging Kevin, Chandler and Dan to come help me make beds. We had counselors and interns from the youth camp who helped out a lot, too.”
After the two-year trial run, they successfully went forward with fundraising and built the gorgeous camp known as Headwaters.
Now, Headwaters has just completed its first full summer as an active camp. John shares a few words, reflecting on one particular memory that rounds out his journey with LLFC:
“There were so many great memories, but one in particular seems to bring them all together. I could not stop smiling. It was after dinner at Headwaters, and the families were talking, playing and laughing together. I stood on the back porch of the Welcome House watching parents talk in the Adirondack chairs, young children splashing in the fountain, teenagers laughing in the rockers, a dad and a son throwing a football in the courtyard, a mother and child playing in the sand, and counselors listening and sharing their stories with families. God showed up at the rifle range, the waterfront, the devotionals and in every activity, creating opportunities of grace in our hearts. God had come throughout the day to renew these families. I couldn’t help but smile and give thanks.”