Last fall, a woman called ahead of a weekend retreat with Laity Lodge Family Camp to say that although her family was still coming, they would be minus one. She would arrive with her kids and brother, but no longer her husband. Their marriage was on the rocks, she said. They were separating.
Cary Hendricks, Senior Director of Family Camp, accepted her news with compassion. Then he set to praying with fellow staff for the family.
Hendricks is in his first full year as senior director, but it’s his sixteenth year in association with Laity Lodge camps. He’s been a camper, counselor, and director for LLYC; he also spent years working in ministry for a church in Illinois and on staff with Young Life. So his response to the woman—simple graciousness and prayer—was a reflex born of deep experience.
“We are here to create space,” says Cary. “We’re not experts on how to be the best family. We’re not marriage counselors or child psychiatrists. But we want [families] to engage with each other and connect with God in significant ways.”
With a new director, adjustments to work crew and kitchen operations, fresh music offerings, and even changes to how meals are served and enjoyed, Family Camp is presenting a range of subtle and strategic alterations this year. Hendricks has also developed a light “curriculum” called Story that speakers can use as a reference point in their teaching. But the constants of Family Camp—space and time for relaxation and renewal—remain as they ever were.
Family Camp weekend retreats in recent months have been full of families enjoying that space and time. The ministry has served over 250 families since last fall, from cities including Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and as far away as Pittsburgh. Family Camp has also benefitted from the work of over 200 college-aged staff who travel to the canyon to work weekend retreats. In addition, the ministry has partnered with agencies in San Antonio to create retreats for families who are in significantly challenging social and economic situations.
Back to last fall: The night of that family’s arrival was a stormy one. Harsh winds and rain berated the canyon. But near 11 p.m., the Family Camp Director of Operations, William Collins, spotted a new arrival and introduced himself. The woman’s husband had shown up after all.
His wife and kids were already tucked in, so Collins invited the man to the kitchen. He fixed a plate and welcomed the man over a warm midnight meal.
The next morning, Cary was speaking to the parents during the morning devotional time. During a break in the discussion, he noticed in the distance a surprise pair. The woman and her estranged husband were walking side by side, talking. They didn’t return to camp for some time. Their kids spent the time safely and happily in the hands of counselors, enjoying all manner of fun.
“They didn’t need to come back,” Cary says. “I watched them walk down the road together, just the two of them talking, and knew that the space was exactly what they needed.”