How many summers did you spend in the Canyon?
I was in the canyon for 6 summers, all as staff positions, starting with Program Crew in ’97, Singing Hills Counselor from ’98-’01 and then Activities Director at the Hills in ’02. I was never a camper, and man do I wish I had been! It would have saved my parents some headaches and kept me out of trouble in the summer.
What are you up to these days?
I try to stay out of my incredibly talented wife’s way (she runs a company called May Designs www.maydesigns.com), keep up with my three kids and run my counseling practice here in Houston. I specialize in marital therapy, pre-married counseling, family therapy, and substance abuse/addiction. I love what I do because counseling innately requires that a trusting, professional relationship be built between therapist and client. There are so many overlaps between what I do every day and the ethos of LLYC. Just like at camp, every conversation or question serves as an excuse to deepen relationship and allow the Lord to speak into a person’s life in a new way.
Do you have a favorite camp memory?
There are so many. My first summer at camp was on Program Crew and I had no idea what I was walking into. The first night of staff week we were told to throw David Rogers in the river for his birthday and I’m thinking “How is this a good idea, isn’t he everyone’s boss?” No one else seemed worried, so I put my reservations aside and we cornered him at the Ranch House and just went for it. To say he put up a fight is a severe understatement, don’t let his gray hair fool you, that dude can put up a fight. It took the better part of 30 minutes to get him in the water and I came back from the river’s edge with my shirt torn from collar to stomach, nursing a bleeding lip. I knew right then I was going to like LLYC. I also remember felch fights at the dump (kitchen grease baseball anyone?), cleaning up the gravy train at Echo after it festered in the sun for two days (think spoiled dog food, dish soap and grease wrapped in a tarp and left in the sun…yep it was that bad), and of course Frog presenting the gospel at Round Up in a way I had never heard before. Crew year was seminal to my walk with Jesus. I knew the Lord, but had no idea what walking with him meant. LLYC was the first place I ever met people who were willing to SHOW me through their lives the joy of knowing Christ rather than just parrot the same words I had heard all my life. The depth of fun I had that summer was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
There are millions of others memories; getting the privilege of doing Cross Talk at the Hills my summer on Central Staff, watching kid after kid get a taste of Jesus and wanting to know what this amazing experience was all about, Connaly Newman and I wrestling every boy camper (and a couple of girl campers too) in Singing Hills and throwing them into donuts over and over as they laughed hysterically, camping at Backside, cooking chili, building forts and watching our campers turn from mild mannered kids to Lord of the Flies in an hours’ time, Shawn Dunn’s incredible wit and slap stick humor…I don’t even know where to stop.
What do you miss most about your summers at camp?
I miss the simplicity. No cell service, no computer, nothing to hide the stars at night. I’ve never felt smaller and more reverent than on the Singing Hills ranch house roof watching falling stars. Laity seems like a “thin place” where the divide between heaven and earth is much easier to attune yourself to. Most of all though, camp feels like home…a place of deep rest. No matter how physically tired I got during the summers, there was always an underlying sense of rest for me in the canyon and I miss that more than anything else.
How does LLYC still impact your life today?
Like I said earlier, my Program Crew year was seminal in my faith, and God used LLYC to turn me from some pretty disastrous paths. I wound up at camp in 1997 because I had partied my way through the summer of 1996, culminating with me getting busted for shop-lifting from Walmart while intoxicated (I think I’m still barred from setting foot on their property…don’t tell please.) It was Crew year that I first experienced what C.S. Lewis talks about in The Weight of Glory. Far from my appetite for life being too rich for God, it was actually too small. I was like a child in a slum, content to play with mud pies because I had no idea what was meant by a holiday at sea. I was far too easily pleased. Crew summer was my first taste of that ocean breeze, the fragrance of life itself! Through the people at camp I was free to see and know Jesus for the first time. It fundamentally changed me on the deepest possible level and I was addicted at the first gasp. I got back home and did a 180 in how I lived my life, not because I was supposed to, but because there was nothing else that could satisfy me the same way. Mud pies just didn’t cut it anymore.
Those experiences shape me to this day. They are the foundation that allowed me to find and marry my wife, that inspired me to go to Dallas Seminary and pursue biblical counseling, that sustained me through the unexpected diagnosis of Down Syndrome in my eldest child Jackson (now 5 years old and awesome) and are a source of rich, unsullied, joyous memories to this day. God gave me something pure and beautiful during my 6 summers at LLYC and I doubt their impact can ever be erased.