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Tearing Down the Walls

August 21st, 2014

Diversity and race are sensitive topics in the news these days, and our children are likely to have many questions as they hear bits and pieces of news and opinions. We’ve been talking about diversity and race, and this week our friend Deidra Riggs shares some thoughts with us on how to address it in our families and our community.

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Tearing Down the Walls

by Deidra Riggs

Over the years, I’ve had some of the best conversations with people about diversity and race, particularly as it plays out in the North American church. At some point in the conversation, people often say something like, “I’ve wanted to talk about this so many times, but I never knew how to get started. I’m always afraid I’ll offend someone.”

It’s true. For many people, conversations about diversity and race often fall into the same “off-limits” category as conversations about politics, sex, and religion. But I am foolish enough to believe Ephesians 2:15. In fact, I’ve adopted that verse as a mantra for my life: “He (Jesus) tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance.” (MSG)

Race is one of those walls we build up in the Body of Christ, and we use it to keep one another at a distance. Sadly, the church in North America seems to be lagging behind when it comes to tearing down that wall for good. While we have made some strides, more than fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first made the rest of us aware of this sobering fact, Sunday morning at eleven o’clock remains the most segregated hour in America.

I think we can do better. In fact, I believe we are compelled by scripture to roll up our sleeves and get busy tearing down that wall. The Bible tells us the rest of the world will know we are Christians when they see the love we have for each other, and I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate that love than by stepping outside our comfort zones.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that simply acknowledging God desires something better for us doesn’t mean the road to “better” will always be smooth and easy. The first few times around, conversations about diversity and race do feel awkward and touchy – maybe even a bit messy. We make mistakes, and sometimes people get offended. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort.

If the topics of diversity and race are important to you, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way. I pray these thoughts help ease your anxiety about opening up a conversation about race around your dinner table, in your church, and with people in your community.

Celebrate Diversity
Teach your children and encourage those in your sphere of influence to recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate diversity. Mellody Hobson in her Ted Talk invites us to be color brave, not color blind. When we choose color blindness, we diminish the richness of God’s creation, and we render invisible the unique cultural, racial, and ethnic stories of those in our world who don’t look like us. We are all the same in many ways, but we are also different, and it’s our differences that reflect God’s masterful creativity in the world.

Invite People Over
Every now and then, take a look at the places you and your family spends your time. In the places you frequent—after school activities, book clubs, congregations—do the majority of the people look like you? When you invite people to your dinner table, do the demographics in your home change at all? If you find your world to be fairly homogenous with regard to race and ethnicity, humbly ask God to expand your territory. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly he answers that prayer!

Love Hopes the Best
Sometimes, even in thoughtful conversations with others about diversity and race, we end up getting our feelings hurt. Someone says something that offends us, or they say something with which we disagree. Often, the first response in situations like these is to run for cover and never return. But in these moments it’s important to remember the ultimate goal: tearing down a wall that was never meant to be there in the first place. So while the statement may have been offensive, chances are good there was no ill intent. Rather than disengaging from the conversation because you’ve been offended, or shrinking away because of embarrassment, take a breath and ask for clarification or, if necessary, offer an apology and try again.

There may be no easy way to get beyond the awkward feelings that come with talking about race and diversity the first few times you try it. There is no guarantee you won’t be offended, or that you won’t offend. But trust me when I tell you the conversation gets easier the more you give yourself over to it.

Little by little, when you approach the conversation with a heart surrendered to the Holy Spirit, you’ll begin to see incremental changes in the world around you—first in your very own heart, and then at your dinner table, in your church, and in your community. I pray God’s richest blessings on you as you welcome him into this part of your life, your heart, your family, and your church. May he be glorified as you invite him, again, to tear down the walls.

Deidra Riggs lives with her husband in Nebraska. She has two adult children, one farm dog, and proudly professes an undying devotion to disco music, Motown, and long bike rides beneath the wide open sky. She is the managing editor of our sister site, The High Calling. You can read her most recent thoughts on diversity on her blog.

Letting His Love Increase

July 29th, 2014

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Letting His Love Increase

by Dr. Helen Fagan

“Mom, did you know things that don’t make sense aren’t always bad for you?” proclaimed my then 12-year-old son. Jonathan’s keen sense of justice and his passion for those different than him have always been something that caused great tension between us. I worried, as all moms do, about the influence of the things I didn’t understand that were attracting the attention of my sons.

Teaching my children to love people from all walks of life was always a priority for me. But I didn’t realize how difficult it would be until my sons began interacting with those different than them. For most adults, engaging children in appreciating differences can be a mind-juggling and tongue-twisting activity. Especially for those of us who have unexplored issues of bias and prejudice. The best way to explore those issues is to begin by engaging in some honest self-reflection around this question: who wouldn’t I want my children to bring home as their future spouse? The answer to this question can reveal a lot about what we are unconsciously teaching our children. While our words have power in shaping the views and beliefs of our children–especially about themselves–our children also learn by watching us.

At times, we parents get so busy raising our children that we forget God, our Father, is raising us, his children. When I began asking myself the question, who wouldn’t I want my sons to bring home as their future spouse, I realized I had some wounds I needed to hand over to God. My wounds were not my sons’ wounds. While I never spoke of these wounds to my sons, my actions (specifically my irrational fear of those different than me) were teaching them otherwise. The healing took time and intentional effort on my part. I faced my wounds in a safe environment with the help of a therapist and later through guided reflective journaling. This journey has helped me grow up in profound ways I could never have imagined, and in the process of growing emotionally healthy and mature, I have been able to open the door to conversations and activities that encouraged an appreciation for differences with our sons.

When Jonathan was 21, he accompanied my husband on a mission trip to Equatorial Guinea, Africa, to build a school. “I’m going to the motherland,” he shared enthusiastically with his friends. I was quite surprised. Being his mother from Iran, I was certain he had misunderstood something, yet it delighted me that he was excited about the unknown. Our youngest son Alan was in a relationship with a young girl from a different race, and that thrilled me. We also had opened our home to a student from South Korea who lived with us for almost five years and now considers us his American family. All of these things were signs that God had “created in me a new heart,” and it showed in the actions and words of our sons.

Was it difficult? Definitely!
Was it worth it? Most assuredly!

I’ve learned that in order for me to effectively live out John 3:30 (“he must increase, but I must decrease”), I need to give the Lord access to my wounds to decrease my assumptions, biases, and prejudices. That is the only way to change, allowing the love of God to increase in me and through me.

Helen is a wife and mother, ambassador, teacher, student, writer, consultant and cultural navigator whose passion is to reach the full potential of what God intends for her life and to touch the lives of others so they may gain the confidence to live up to their highest and best selves. Visit her website at http://helenfagan.com/.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Cloud Photography

The Definition of Outrageous Hospitality

July 17th, 2014

What is Outrageous Hospitality?
Laity Lodge Family Camp defines it as: Sharing the love of Christ without using words by sacrificially putting others’ needs in front of your own.

How does this look?
When training our staff, I frequently refer to Philippians 2:1-5  as a reminder to “not only look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” With this in mind, Family Camp staff is looking for every opportunity to serve families. This means anticipating needs all the way from having a high chair ready for a young family to offering your chair to a grandparent.

Why is Outrageous Hospitality so important to Family Camp Staff?
Jesus has shown his outrageous love for us by sacrificing himself to meet our need of salvation. Putting families first is the way our staff models Christ’s example. For a two-year-old, this might look like a staff member lovingly holding her hand, playing a game, or making a craft with her. For parents, Outrageous Hospitality means someone cooking, serving, and doing the dishes for them so that they can enjoy focused time in conversation around the dinner table.

Every detail during a family’s stay at camp is designed to help them enjoy spending time together. In the words of Phillip Phillips, we want to “make this place your home.”

Life in Digital: Robot Wars!

July 16th, 2014

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What Can Robots Teach Your Family About God?

by Marcus Goodyear

imageThis summer out at camp, we offered “Robot Wars” again! During this fun, light-hearted afternoon activity, families built, programmed, and controlled ninja robots together using cutting-edge Lego EV3 kits.

Why robots?
Most people have an uneasy relationship with technology these days. Sure, TED provides its share of tech-devotees who see nothing but blue skies and singularity, but the rest of us are a little uneasy.

Some of us are downright scared.

We believe the Tin Man has no heart.
Too many families let fear define their relationship with technology, rather than God. When God defines our relationships, we always begin with love. This is how Dorothy first approaches the Tin Man. She sets him free. She soothes his pain. And she invites him to be her friend.

Our EV3 robots at Family Camp aren’t quite as autonomous as the Tin Man, but they help us not be afraid.

Technology can be scary these days. It demands our attention through email and social media notifications, through entertainment opportunities, through virtual worlds that feel cleaner and easier. It mediates our relationships. It pretends to offer the solutions to our dreams.

At Laity Lodge Family Camp, many families are seeking to escape the noise of our high-tech world. They seek the shared solitude that they find in the Frio Canyon.

“For solitude sometimes is best society,” as Milton said in Paradise Lost, “and short retirement urges sweet return.” Refreshed together, our families can return with new joy to their homes, their jobs, their schools, and their daily lives.

So we distance ourselves from the Tin Man for a time. We take a short retirement from the noise of the world to swim together in the river, to worship together in Roundup, to hike together the quiet summit of Circle Bluff.

And to battle one another with robots.

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Love the Lord with Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Tech
Robots may not seem like the typical camp activity, but this is the 21st century, people! As Director of Digital Media for the H. E. Butt Foundation, I sometimes identify with the Wizard of Oz. It is tempting to respond to technology the way the wizard first does.

“You DARE come to me for a heart, do you?” thunders the Wizard to the Tin Man. “You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!”

In our minds, we imagine the natural world is good and light, while the digital world is caliginous and dark. (Yeah, I had to look up caliginous. It means “murky and misty.”)

God’s world isn’t that simple. He didn’t come to redeem gardens only. He came to redeem the cities of industry, too. We may want simple rules and villains to help us survive the digital revolution, but the line of good and evil runs down the middle of every device we use.

Our devices give us strength and power in the world, and God wants us to use this strength and power to his glory.

What better tool to help us reflect on technology than Lego robots? At Family Camp, people come together to build an EV3 robot in less than an hour. Kids and parents learn to love their neighbors as they work through a complex task.

In our first session, teams divided the build. Some worked on the chassis. Others worked on the hammer. Others built the tank treads and the flair.

imageLove Your Neighbor’s Robot as Yourself
Mistakes were made. These things are hard to build, especially for younger campers, so we helped each other as much as possible. Teams compared their robots throughout the process. Older campers stopped work on their own robot to help younger campers.

We loved each other by loving each other’s work. This meant that we were patient when someone grew frustrated. We were encouraging when someone wanted to quit. And we celebrated each other’s successes.

When a build went wrong, we took it apart and worked together to build it again. We thought through problems together, using technology to build rather than consume.

In this way, we redefine our relationship with technology. It is a skill to be mastered, so that it doesn’t master us. It is a garden of possibilities to be cultivated and groomed and weeded, so that it doesn’t run wild.

Lego Robots and Theology? Seriously?
I don’t talk about theology when I teach robots at Family Camp, but I reflected on the theology of technology that would be communicated by our activity. We try to be intentional about everything we do in our Canyon programs, including the decision to offer a non-nature activity like robots.

  1. We create robots together because we bear the image of a creator God.
  2. We communicate with each other and with our robots (through logical programs) because God is the Word.
  3. We use technology to focus our efforts and be fully present with each other.
  4. We play games together (like Ninja Robot Flag Relays) because they help us love technology rather than fear it.

The Tin Man Has the Heart We Give Him

Too often, we give technology more power than it deserves. We worship it and expect it to save us. We thoughtlessly consume it, letting it divide us and isolate us. We even run from it. If allowed, our technology can take us to murky, caliginous places.

Playing with technology puts it in its place. When we love technology enough to play with it, we may find that it had a heart all along.

Think about the Tin Man. Dorothy and her friends love the Tin Man, and their love says more about his heart than any good deeds he has done. This is what the grouchy wizard observes when he tells the Tin Man, “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

It’s a slippery idea, like the Wizard of Oz himself, but it points us in the right direction.

If our technology has no heart, then we are partially to blame. If we use technology in ways that are shallow, isolating, distracted, and thoughtless, then technology will remain empty.

Instead, let us use technology as a form of strength to love God and others. Let us bring the fullness of God’s love to technology. Let us work together to build rather than consume. Let us play games together, digitally and physically.

And if the game has a fun name like Ninja Robot Flag Relays, all the better.

Marcus Goodyear is the Director of Digital Media at the H.E. Butt Family Foundation and the Editor of The High Calling.

Kisses and Candy

July 15th, 2014

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Kisses and Candy

by Melissa Payne

“Sawyer, what makes you happy?” I asked my six-year-old son one day after church.

“Oh, that’s an easy question!  My mommy’s kisses…and candy!  So, can we have candy now?”

I have to admit, when I think of happiness, like Sawyer, I often think of things that are easy, sweet and fun.  A sunny day.  The perfect song.  Bedtime goodnights that end in sleepy smiles.  Coffee.  Little kid giggles.

But recently I discovered a drastically different kind of happiness.  One that felt deeper, more serious, but that touched my heart and my soul more profoundly than any sunny day ever will.

It was a Thursday.  And my mom had just been admitted to the ICU.  Earlier, when the paramedics had rushed her into the ER, the doctor looked at me and said, “Your mom is a very sick lady.  We don’t know what’s wrong yet.  But if she doesn’t start to breathe more on her own we may have to intubate her.”

The ICU doctor was not much more encouraging.  “Your mom is critically ill,” the doctor told me.  We did not know much, but what we did know was that my mom needed to turn a corner and do it soon.  I felt numb.  Was I going to lose her?  Today, tonight?  My mom who has been my rock my whole life.  My mom whose own deep faith is what originally anchored our family in God’s love.

I needed to pray.  At first I was at a loss.  I felt small.  So small.  I wanted to beg for God to save her, to heal her.  Because she’s mine, my mom whose voice I seek almost daily.  Whose advice is always strong and clear.  My friend.  Yet at the same time, I knew that whatever was going to happen was part of God’s plan – even if that plan included something I could not fathom.

And then I remembered.  Something my mom had taught me and her mom had taught her.  That when we anchor our hearts in Him…we will always be strong enough to handle whatever comes our way.

So I prayed.  I prayed for strength.  For strength to face whatever was going to happen that night.  I prayed for God’s presence with me, my mom, my dad and my siblings.  I prayed for courage.   And while I prayed, I felt an amazing sense of peace and a calmness wash over me.  Because I knew.  I just knew from the inside out that God was with me.  He was with all of us.  And while I still did not know the outcome, the one thing I did know, the one thing I was absolutely sure of was that I was strong enough.  That with God beside me, I would get through this night and any nights to come.

And that everything would be okay.

And it was.  My mom got better.  We all took sighs of relief, we laughed together as we agreed that He must still need her here – she has a purpose to fulfill.

Afterwards, I felt full.  My mom got better because she was supposed to.  But God gave me something more.  He gave me a peek at what I can be.

What I am when I completely rely on Him.  The happiness I still feel today comes from knowing that even if that Thursday night had had a different ending, God would have given me the strength, courage and endurance to face it.

So, while I agree with Sawyer that candy is pretty great, I am content to be full of a happiness that is more than kisses and candy.

This article first appeared in Happy.

Risk and Reward: Interview with Cary Hendricks

July 9th, 2014

Risk and Reward in the Young Professional Years

An Interview with LLYC Echo Valley Director Cary Hendricks

This week our friends at The High Calling are discussing the risks and rewards during our young professional years. Here over at Family Camp, we had a chance to chat with some of the staff in the Canyon about the topic, and we are excited to share with you their insights.

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Next we have LLYC Echo Valley Director Cary Hendricks to share some of his experience with us.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do for the Family Camp and what attracted you to your current position.
I work as the Director at Echo Valley which is the LLYC camp designed for youth who have completed 6th grade through 10th grade. I started with the Foundation in September, and this is my first summer in this position. I was attracted to the position partly because of my love for this place and the impact it had on my faith journey throughout my childhood. I came here as a camper, and throughout my college years I served on the summer staff. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, I am drawn to and whole-heartedly believe in our mission of creating a safe place where youth and young adults can experience Christ and learn to live out their faith in all aspects of their lives. I was excited to serve in this mission and be able to do so along with my family who are essential partners with me in ministry.

Will you please trace your career path from school to now?
I attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where I majored in Religious Studies and Theater. I knew I wanted to be involved in youth ministry, so because of my involvement in Young Life during my college years I joined the Young Life staff directly after college. I served on YL staff for five years in the north Dallas area (Frisco) as an Area Director and then relocated to Illinois where I served at a church for four years before rejoining the YL staff in Illinois for three more years. My family and I moved back to Texas for me to work at Austin College in the Development Office for the year prior to me having the opportunity to come back to LLYC.

When you graduated college, what were your hopes about your career path?
When I graduated from college I did not have a clear plan as to how I wanted my career to progress. I knew I wanted to be involved in ministry, and I knew I wanted to give my time in work that was of real significance to people’s lives.

What was your first job and why did you take it?
My first job was working with a freight delivering company while I was in college. I took the job solely to save money for a backpacking trip I was planning for after college. That job taught me a lot about the importance of hard work and making sacrifices in order to honor my work commitments.

My first job after college was serving as an intern on Young Life staff. I took that job because it was what I felt best aligned with how I felt God had gifted me, and it allowed me to use those gifts to their fullest potential.

What would you say were the major milestones in getting you from school to where you are now?
The major milestones that got me from school to where I am now would be a willingness of both me and my family to be open to follow where we felt the Lord was leading, despite great uncertainty. In addition, I found great joy in and opportunity from continuing relationships with people and organizations that had played significant roles in my life. It has been important to me to seek opportunities not just in jobs that I am interested in, but with organizations and missions that I believe in.

Was there any time you questioned what you were doing? Why? How did you handle?
There have certainly been many times when I have questioned what I am doing. My times of questioning have usually centered around stability and financial provision. I have often questioned if what I am doing is the best way for me to spend the best hours of my day in provision for my family. In the end I have always concluded that while there might be more lucrative career paths or careers that demand less time and/or commitment, there is not another career that could offer me the same feeling of significance. I do not say this at all to imply that other careers are not equally as important, but for me, there have not been others that would allow me to use my specifics gifts are to their fullest potential and in equally significant ways.

Have you ever felt like you were going to be found out that you had no idea what you were doing or were in over your head? What did you do?
I have often felt that that some day someone would find out that I have no idea what I am doing. However, as I have gotten older and worked in this field for more years, these feelings have been fewer and farther between. This is not because I now feel as if I have all things figured out pertaining to my job. Instead, there just comes more of a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities as they become tested by time and experience. I have dealt with these feelings of uncertainty with a lot of prayer and seeking council and friendship from those that have stood the test of time before me in this field.

Do you ever look back and think, “What were they thinking giving me that much responsibility”? Were you successful in how you handled it?
I often look back and laugh in disbelief about responsibilities that I have been given. I handled situations like these by doing my best to remain confident in what little skill or knowledge I had, and by surrounding myself with colleagues that could fill in the gaps in areas where I was lacking.

Tell me about some of the risks that you have taken in your career?
I have taken risks in choosing jobs that have not necessarily been the most stable according to cultural standards, whether that be financially or whatever else. I have decided on pursuing these opportunities simply because they have been ones that our family have felt most drawn to as the most likely to give us a sense of fulfillment. Throughout my career it has been important to me that our family works as a team and feels called as a family unit. As a result, we have enjoyed serving together and approaching our work as a way of life rather than simply a means to a pay check.

Can you think it any mistakes you made along the way, especially early on, that turned out to be great learning?
I can think of a lot of mistakes that I have made along the way throughout my career. Most of the mistakes I have made have resulted because I moved too quickly with a situation, project or idea without considering the ramifications of my decisions or actions on others. As a result I have learned, and am still learning, to view my work as a long-term investment in other people’s lives rather than a short-term investment in my own.

Check out The High Calling this week to read more on this theme. And come back to us this week for more interviews from our Canyon staff about their young professional years.

Risk and Reward: Interview with Ryan Hernandez

July 8th, 2014

Risk and Reward in the Young Professional Years

An Interview with LLYC Kitchen Manager Ryan Hernandez

This week our friends at The High Calling are discussing the risks and rewards during our young professional years. Here over at Family Camp, we had a chance to chat with some of the staff in the Canyon about the topic, and we are excited to share with you their insights.

imageToday we are excited to feature Ryan Hernandez, Kitchen Manager from our sister program, Laity Lodge Youth Camp.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do for LLYC and what attracted you to your current position.
My name is Ryan Hernandez. I am currently in my second summer as Camping Services Kitchen Manager, responsible for Food Service operations of LLYC. This job combines my love of cooking and serving people with college ministry aspects of mentoring and equipping our college and high school staff.

Will you please trace your career path from school to now?
After graduating from UTEP with a B.B.A. in Marketing, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Earning a 4.0 GPA while working full-time at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion for chef Percy Oani was a tremendous experience that prepared me for my externship. I was extremely fortunate to have earned a placement at The Fat Duck, a prestigious restaurant outside London, England, that has earned three Michelin stars and was ranked #2 in the world at the time. After returning to the U.S., I chased my Aggie wife to College Station, Texas, where I worked for C.E.C. Peter Madden at his namesake restaurant. I worked every station and position in the restaurant, gaining understanding and experience in both the back of the house and front. Then my wife and I made the decision to be a part of a church-planting team to San Marcos, serving Texas State University students. I worked for a small café that allowed me to meet with and encourage the church in San Marcos.

God has provided me the opportunity to learn from and work alongside some amazing cooks and chefs for the majority of my career. As our commitment to the church plant neared completion, we sought the Lord on what direction to take next. I never thought that direction would lead us to Kerrville and Leakey to be a part of the H. E. Butt Foundation family! We joined the team just before Headwaters opened up and have loved it!

When you graduated college, what were your hopes about your career path?
I’d still like to have a couple restaurants of my own someday. I don’t know where or what they would look like, but I have always fancied myself to have an entrepreneurial spirit. I’d love to open up something in my hometown of El Paso. I have a deep love and admiration for that amazing city in the desert. I hope to show appreciation for it and honor its place in my life.

What was your first job and why did you take it?
I was a pizza delivery boy for Little Caesars. My mom said if I got a job then I could get a car. I wanted a car but lacked financial wisdom and discipline to buy one.

What would you say were the major milestones in getting you from school to where you are now?
The Lord has pulled my heart and head in directions I wouldn’t have led myself. Moving to College Station because I was in love with a godly woman and being part of a church plant in San Marcos were not a part of my youthful ambitions.

Was there any time you questioned what you were doing? Why? How did you handle it?
I think the nature of my work, which has results more immediate and tangible than other departments, brings with it feedback, whether it’s asked for or not. Whereas not everyone has raised money for a building project, welded parts onto a grill, or serviced an air conditioner, everyone has eaten! Everyone knows what they like to eat and how they like to eat it. This can lead to a lot of conflicting viewpoints from people that are really just trying to be helpful. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Taking a second to get above treeline and see where I am (with the help of key folks like Trey Tull and Will Stripling) helps me breathe easier and continue on the right track.

As for questioning the decision to cook for a living, I have not. I love getting my hands dirty and teaching someone a new technique. I also really love eating good food.

Have you ever felt like you were going to be found out that you had no idea what you were doing or were in over your head? What did you do?
Oh yeah! I jumped on board the LLYC/LLFC train last year as it was leaving the station, and it was all I could do to hold on. The great history, culture, and traditions within the Foundation presented a monumental task to learn as I was tapped to lead the youth camp kitchens in the production of 90,000 meals. The best way I knew then (and now) to handle it was pray for guidance from God and ask for guidance from the Foundation leadership. I usually found myself moving in the right direction.

Do you ever look back and think, “What were they thinking giving me that much responsibility”? Were you successful in how you handled it?
I think it’s very akin to being told you are going to be a parent–which is also happening for me as we are expecting our first child in July! I have an amazing support network both personally and professionally. I’m not perfect, but have been showed confidence and grace time and again by Trey, Chandler, and other leaders. That motivates me to serve better and be more humble about what can be done better or differently than what I could come up with on my own.

Tell me about some of the risks that you have taken in your career?
As Christians, we know in our heads that giving over our lives and life choices to God is how we should live, but the reality of making the decision to forego seeking personal glory and riches is pretty difficult. Moving from Las Vegas to College Station and from College Station to San Marcos were big gambles in my heart. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Can you think of any mistakes you made along the way, especially early on, that turned out to be great learning?
LLYC Staff Week this year. There was a lot of experimenting with menus, processes in making the meals, and learning the timing of serving. There were several meals that were late and not quite right, but we took notes and discussed what was necessary to fix those issues. So far I’ve had a bunch of campers and staff come up to me and say how much they are enjoying the food in youth camp.

Check out The High Calling this week to read more on this theme. And come back to us this week for more interviews from our Canyon staff about their young professional years.

Photo Courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp

Risk and Reward: Interview with Emily Ballbach

July 7th, 2014

Risk and Reward in the Young Professional Years

An Interview with LLFC Associate Director Emily Ballbach

This week our friends at The High Calling are discussing the risks and rewards during our young professional years. Here over at Family Camp, we had a chance to chat with some of the staff in the Canyon about the topic, and we are excited to share with you their insights.

First up, our very own Family Camp Associate Director Emily Ballbach.

EhikingTell me a little bit about yourself, what you do for the Family Camp and what attracted you to your current position.
My name is Emily. :) That’s a good start. I work as the Associate Director for Laity Lodge Family Camp. I have been at the Foundation for almost 3 years, some of which was as the Program Director for family camp. My role was almost the same then, but now I have a few more administrative responsibilities.

I was attracted to this work because it gives me the opportunity to come alongside people and offer them an experience outside of the norm that draws them closer to Jesus. My goal is to care for people and allow them to experience God and this job allows me to do that. I was also very compelled by the mission of the organization, which is to be a part of the renewal of people’s souls to go back and fulfill the high calling of their daily lives in more holistic ways.

Will you please trace your career path from school to now?
I felt called to ministry at a very young age and consequently sought education to help me to pursue ministry professionally. I went to Biola University for my undergraduate and studied Christian Education/Ministry Leadership. I then chose to deepen my Biblical knowledge and theological perspectives and went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I earned a Masters of Arts in Theology and a Master of Arts in Religion, emphasizing in spiritual formation and Biblical worship. After school I spent two years doing college ministry at a church in Florida before ending up in Texas at Family Camp.

When you graduated college, what were your hopes about your career path?
The Lord has continually fine-tuned the ways that I practice ministry and the hope or goals I develop along the way. At first I knew I wanted to do college ministry and have been participating in that since I graduated. Although I work at a Family Camp, I spend a great deal of time nurturing and pastoring our college-aged staff. Beyond that, my main motivation is to care for people and pastor them both in spiritual formation and in theological practice as it relates to our daily lives. I really have had no specific end goals but continue to seek the Lord as He grows passions and specific goals.

What was your first job and why did you take it?
Well, a couple things. I had been living in Boston for about three years, so the idea of living in sunny Florida was pretty appealing, no lie. I was compelled by the end goal of developing a new ministry to college students at a church not far from a large university. I was excited about starting something new and getting to be creative in ministry. I was grateful it was geared toward the college-aged students that I felt passionate about and excited about the many potentials it promised.

What would you say were the major milestones in getting you from school to where you are now?
The first job out of seminary was no walk in the park. It turned out that the church was not as ready to launch a new program as they were hoping, and the resources to do it faded as fast as the economy was fading in 2009. As I dove into some pretty serious personal reflection during that time and sought the Lord for continued direction, I found myself leaving the church after a two-year stint. God was clear in communicating that this was the right decision to make, but it was particularly scary to leave not having a new job and during an economic downturn in our country. The economy in Florida was such that I ended up having to move in order to find another ministry role that suited my gifting and my passions. I mean, the economy was so bad I couldn’t get a job at Starbucks despite having applied at eight of them. Yes, eight.

Was there any time you questioned what you were doing? Why? How did you handle?
When I left the church in FL, I spent about eight months without work. Even after those eight months, I spent another nine months only working part-time with Family Camp. Those 17 months were incredibly difficult. I experienced what felt like failure, depression, and anxiety, both financial and otherwise, and was able to use it as a time of deep growth and healing. I did spend some time questioning my calling, God’s hopes and goals for my life, and what I really needed to do to move forward. I sought wise counsel in some career counseling and even in some personal counseling. I felt very broken; sensing purpose seemed like a far off reality. While this all sounds really sad, and parts of it were, I know for certain God used it to bring deeper clarity in my work and calling, and for me to develop deeper healing from life’s major wounds. Also, I prayed a lot and my friends did too. :)

Have you ever felt like you were going to be found out that you had no idea what you were doing or were in over your head? What did you do?
Ha ha…totally. I went to counseling. No, really. I think everyone has a season in their work or life when they have to “fake it ’til you make it”. While this is less than ideal, it can also be seen as an opportunity to grow in skills, talents, depth in work and character. For the most part, I prayed, kept working toward a better vocational season, and did my best to learn the lessons I need to. I also tried to laugh a lot and find friends who could join me in my learning and in supporting me with encouragement. God used my family and friend to really bolster my spirits and help meet my needs during that time.

Do you ever look back and think, “What were they thinking giving me that much responsibility”? Were you successful in how you handled it?
Totally! The church was very brave to hire someone straight out of seminary to do the kind of thing they were asking. The job really had a large job description and scope of responsibility, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I don’t know if I was successful to the degree that they were hoping but felt somewhat successful in the kind of progress we made in such a short period of time. Again, it was such an opportunity to learn and grow and in that vein, I felt very successful.

Tell me about some of the risks that you have taken in your career?
I have risked a few rather substantial moves in order to pursue different opportunities. The first being for education and the others for actual positions. Obviously my time in Florida was a big change from Boston, California, and Washington. When I couldn’t find work in FL, I did end up moving across the country for what was at first a part-time job. Thankfully, that ended up working out to be a blessing from God, as both a great fit vocationally and an answer to prayer living near family again. Moving can be pretty difficult sometimes, but for me its often landed in some kind of blessing.

Can you think it any mistakes you made along the way, especially early on, that turned out to be great learning?
I’m having a hard time thinking of a particular story, likely because I’ve made many a mistake, but all of these have been learning opportunities. The biggest may be thinking that I could do it all or handle a great burden without asking for help. Although this is my pride and the human condition, it has offered a platform for God’s continued redemption and constant shaping presence in my life. Asking for help can be halted out of fear, but I have found it to be more liberating in the end and provide others an opportunity to join the cause or particular mission of our work – thus feeling less alone in it.

Check out The High Calling this week to read more on this theme. And come back to us this week for more interviews from our Canyon staff about their young professional years.

Photographing Fireworks

July 2nd, 2014

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Tips for Photographing Fireworks

Fourth of July is upon us, and many of us want capture to the gorgeous fireworks displays we will gather to watch. Here are a couple tips for photographing those moments.

1) Turn off your flash. If you’re just shooting the fireworks, your flash won’t help you. It only illuminates a few feet in front of you, and will confuse the computer inside your camera about the light in your image.

2) The nighttime mode setting will probably not help you. That mode on your camera allows more light to come into your camera (thru the aperture and/or the shutter speed) because it assumes what you’re photographing is very dark. While the night sky is indeed dark, the fireworks you want to photograph are not. If you’re not shooting in manual, try using the automatic or the landscape modes.

For more tips on shooting fireworks, visit this Digital Photography School post.

The Family Photo

July 1st, 2014

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Did you know that Family Camp is on Pinterest?

We’ve got some great ideas pinned for your next family photo, and what better place to do them than in the Canyon? This summer we’ve been taking our family photos to the next level by finding different locations and working through more than one pose. You’ll want to send this pictures out on your Christmas Card this year.

We’re talking photography this week. The amazing Tamara Lackey shared with us yesterday, and tomorrow we will learn more about taking fireworks photos. Grab that camera and get to snappin’!