The Cody Legacy

 

In the 1960s, Bill Cody and Howard Butt, Jr., were developing the programs of Laity Lodge together, when they imagined a summer camp for children that would be aligned with Laity Lodge. In 1966, LLYC was born. His granddaughter, Sarah Cody, is an LLYC parent today.

She took some time to share her story with us.

The Canyon

I’ve lived overseas for nine years now. I’ve seen many beautiful places around the world, but there is something so extraordinary about the Canyon.

It’s not necessarily the beauty. It’s breathtaking and warms my heart, yes, but there are other breathtaking places in the world. It’s not the presence of God that rests there so comfortably. I know the presence of God is palpable in the Canyon, but there is something that I find even more deeply gratifying—it’s the worship.

That canyon carved through the Texas Hill Country overflows with worship. Children singing at Roundup is worship. Mountain biking through His creation is worship. Painting t-shirts, going on sneak-outs and getting caught by Bush Patrol, spelunking and rappelling—these things are all worship and glorifying to God because of their intentionality.

Everyone there joins together and cultivates a space where God is present and active. They take every opportunity possible to point people to the beauty of Jesus and the limitless wellspring of joy that is found through Him in every aspect of our lives, every part of our day, every conversation, and every task. For me, the intention to worship God with our whole selves and present Jesus to campers young and old is a picture of the Kingdom in countless ways.

Sarah Cody as a Singing Hills camper

The Camp

“My grandfather started this camp.” That’s how I always thought of LLYC.

When my mom was 13 or so, she would run off just before Roundup’s closing prayer to set up a table of candy bars that would eventually become the Sugar Shack. I grew up hearing story after story of my grandparents, mom, and uncle living at the River House, and how the “YES, YOU DRIVE IN THE RIVER” sign came to be. Grandy (Bill Cody) got tired of people coming to their house all the time to ask if you actually “drive in the river?!” I have memories in nearly every part of the Canyon, and I’ve heard stories that go back two generations.

My uncle David recently told me about how he used to ride his horse around the Canyon. On one of his rides, he discovered what is now called Coleman’s Cave (named after his son, my cousin). He’d pack up a lunch and ride out on his horse, then cool off from the heat with his sandwich in that cave.

As we drove through the river, my mom (Kathy Cody Gallaway) once recounted how she and her brother would be out exploring and playing near the river, when they’d see Grandy speeding through the river to take care of some business—white walls of water spraying from the sides of his tires. Don’t tell anyone he drove more than 10 miles an hour.

The Kids

My husband and I just dropped off our two oldest boys at LLYC yesterday for the first time, and I can’t explain how incredible the feeling was. Those stories that I heard will continue for another generation. The stories and experiences that I grew up with have been such a rare gift, and I have such amazing memories in the same places that generations of my family do.

Walking around Laity Lodge after dropping off our sons at LLYC was especially nostalgic. On pick-up and drop-off days, we used to spend time at the Lodge, and sometimes we even got to stay the night, extending that glorious camp high. I could picture myself sitting on the Laity Lodge dock with Neenie (Betty Anne Cody), catching perch, taking the paddle boat with my cousin up the river to the little islands, swimming to the dam and picking off leeches, feeding catfish off of the porch where my uncle used to jump off into the river (don’t tell anyone about that either), and watching the mud swallows build their nests on our balcony at Black Bluff. I told my kids about the time that Neenie took me down to the little dam near the bottom of Laity Lodge road. We got in the water and cleared out the algae that had been building up.

My grandparents lived in San Antonio, technically, but I always felt like I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house—my mom’s childhood home—when we were in the Canyon. My whole life, I’ve felt more at home in that Canyon than any other place I’ve been.

The Kingdom

I’m so thankful for the fact that I still got to hear stories about Grandy after he died from everyone who knew him at LLYC. It seemed like everyone who knew him had some seriously good stories about him. He pranked his own kids. He told incredibly well-timed jokes. But more importantly, he was so highly respected.

The incredible Kingdom work that God did through my grandparents is so evident in the Canyon. I pray that God continues to bring glory to Himself there, in the legacy of those who helped to lay the foundation of the best place on earth.

My mom told me about how she babysat Jim Packer’s kids when he spoke at the Lodge, and how my grandmother would play ping pong for hours with Madeleine L’Engle there too. The names of these incredible people of faith are no joke now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 36. I’m still blown away—not only by the impact this place has had on so many, but also the impact that so many had on this place.

The Cross

I’d heard about Jesus plenty while growing up, but my real Christian community was at LLYC.

I grew up in Chicago (so everyone called me a Yankee) and came down to Texas for LLYC every summer since I was five years old. Camp was absolutely the best two weeks of my life every summer—sometimes three weeks if there was an opening for Jam Session and I got to stay.

I met some amazing friends whom I got to see every summer. I always lost my voice chanting and singing, and like so many others, I always thought my counselors were the greatest people on the planet.

Through LLYC, I met Jesus. I saw Christians living out joyful lives. I heard about the love of God. I read the Bible in cabin times. But the greatest moment of them all was when I was 13 years old, and I heard the Cross Talk.

I don’t remember the specific way that the importance and meaning of the cross was presented that night, but I vividly remember the quiet time afterward. I sat and looked up at the clear Hill Country sky, all the countless stars, the clouds of the Milky Way. I heard, felt, and knew, so clearly in my heart, that God was saying to me: “This is true.”

All that I’d heard about Jesus was true. I was separated from God because of my sin. God loved me so much that He made a way through Jesus. Jesus died on the cross and bore my sins in order to bring me back into a right relationship with the Father. This was the greatest display of love there ever could be. God opened my eyes that night. He rescued me from myself. Of course I love Laity for all of the family history and memories I have there, and for the incredible fun and amazing people, too, but the greatest part about that place for me is the God who opened my eyes to Jesus as I sat on a rock beneath a star-filled sky.

The Crew Bosses

Camp was the first place I realized that it matters what I do with my life.

I remember my Work Crew Bosses, Eve and Molly, telling us that we were on staff now, and that the campers would look at us differently. We were an example to them of what it looked like to follow Jesus. I’d heard that other places, sure, but I also wasn’t in any Christian community outside of camp until I went to college at TCU.

God used my Work Crew summer to teach me about sanctification: the process that He puts into His children’s hearts, minds, and lives to make them more and more like Jesus. It matters how we live our lives in every moment.

We are saved by grace, through faith, for the good works that God has prepared for us in advance. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that truth before then. That seed of truth grew and completely impacted my senior year of high school and the decisions I made. When I went to college and was finally immersed in Christian community, fellowship, and study of the Word, the seeds that had been planted all those summers at LLYC sprang up and grew like crazy. God had used LLYC, the staff, the programs, and the campers to build the entire foundation of my spiritual life.

The Community

So we dropped off our boys, 10 and 8 years old, at camp last weekend for their first best two weeks. Apart from being super jealous that I couldn’t stay, and being sad to leave my babies, I’m over-the-top excited for them because I know what an amazing place they’ll be in.

They’ll be in the places that our family has so many stories about. They’re going to share their own new stories about those same places. They’ll have an opportunity to encounter Jesus in the unique ways that camp offers.

There’s nothing I want more for my children than to know and follow Jesus, so we pray for their time and we ask God to open their eyes to see Him and to love Him.

They are raised in a Christian home and have a wonderful Christian community, but I’m still excited for them to experience the love and joy of Christ in the Canyon—through fun, worship, and hearing the staff they look up to telling them the same beautiful message that I heard at camp: the glory of God and the good news of Jesus.

Kathy, Sarah, and Samira with the Betty Anne plaque

Facebook Facebook