Cabin Time Is At The Heart of Camp


Cabin Time is at the Heart of Camp

Written by Beth Avila

The stars are out, the summer heat has died down (barely), and Cabin F is circled together on their porch with every camper holding hands—well, almost every camper.

Mary Clare Huffman has eaten one too many Taki chips and, instead of offering red-dusted fingers to the campers on either side of her, she provides chicken-wing elbows as she prays the group into Cabin Time.

The small giggles at Huffman’s unconventional pose are noticeable throughout the prayer, but this moment also signifies a shift from the sillies to a more serious time. LLYC Cabin Time is that half-hour window between Roundup and Late Night activities when campers discuss their thoughts and takeaways from the Roundup talk.

“One counselor from each group will get a set of questions or prompts, usually put together by the speaker, to help get the discussion going,” said Leah Dawson, Cabin F’s counselor this year. “We usually begin by doing a fun ice breaker question. Then we pray.” The first question is usually, “What did you think about the talk?”

Many of the counselors, like Leah, remember Cabin Time from a camper’s perspective during their first years at LLYC.

Josh Moore (left) enjoys rodeo with fellow counselor, Griffin Gregory.

“As a counselor, I’ve had to look at it from a different lens,” said Josh Moore, a third-year counselor who has been coming to the Canyon since 2015. “Because I’ve had different age groups of campers.”

“With younger campers, it’s trying to engage them by asking for definitions and seeing if they can connect the broader ideas, but with the older campers it’s really letting them share stories about their life and applying concepts from the talk to their own faith,” said Josh.

He has learned that vulnerability as a counselor really encourages the campers to share. During first session, Josh had many young campers in his cabin who were hesitant to speak up. “Our topic was about reaching out and asking for help, and I was like, ‘If you guys don’t want to share then I’m going to tell you a story about my own life when I asked for help.’ … After that I had two to three campers come up and ask to speak later.”

“It’s great to cry and express emotions, but you never want…to make everyone share the deepest, darkest things that have ever happened in their life.”

This isn’t uncommon. Campers will often seek out counselors they trust to talk about something they do not want to share with the whole group. Sometimes these talks can bring up heavy topics, and LLYC counselors are there to listen.

Before the first session of camp this summer, counselors participated in a training specifically aimed to help them facilitate Cabin Time and navigate the complex and sensitive issues that campers sometimes bring into the discussion.

Leah Dawson (left) and her cabin meet for Cabin Time.

“We try to avoid a Cabin Time where everyone is trauma dumping,” Leah said. “It’s great to cry and express emotions, but you never want to facilitate a Cabin Time in which you’re just trying to make everyone share the deepest, darkest things that have ever happened in their life.”

Josh recalled the conversation on hard topics during their training saying, “We tried to list almost every hard topic that may come up—whether it’s about faith, or family life, or anything that could be going on in their lives. Then we drafted good responses and bad responses.”

Counselors are taught to listen and encourage instead of vocalizing their personal thoughts or experiences with the specific issue at hand. “We don’t want to go in heavy handed with personal faith convictions,” said Executive Director of Laity Lodge Camping Programs, Cary Hendricks. “We do want to create a space where the campers can talk about these things, and we can speak broader truths about who God is and how valued they are by him and by us.”

“We can speak broader truths about who God is and how valued [campers] are by him and by us.”

Every year, one or more of these hard topics has come up in a Cabin Time that Josh was facilitating. A camper might mention their parents are getting a divorce, or that they are struggling with substance abuse, or they may be having doubts about God.

“I’ve learned that Cabin Time isn’t always the place to really dive deep into that one camper’s questions or struggles,” said Josh. “So sometimes I just thank them for sharing. Then that night or the next day, we will pull them aside and see if they’d like to talk more about it.”

According to Cary, talking one on one with a camper is as simple as a counselor offering to talk with a camper in between activities or while walking to a mealtime. “It’s a casual offer,” Cary said. “Where the counselor can say, ‘Hey, I’d love to chat with you about what you mentioned if that would be helpful for you.’”

Tyler Gullahorn, a Cabin 4 camper during summer 2023, said, “[Our cabin] would sometimes go down to the beach, on the Frio, and if you want to talk about any hard things, then we say this is the place to do it—to share that extra one percent.”

Gullahorn believes Cabin Time and his LLYC community have been two of the biggest factors in his spiritual growth.

Tyler Gullahorn (right) spends some time with Cabin 4 on the Frio.

“You kind of have that camp high where you feel super close to God, especially being able to share my story and how I feel about my faith,” said Gullahorn. “Then to hear input from others about their own faith. The counselors do a good job of looking at it from Jesus’ perspective and that really helps me.”

Gullahorn shared that a difficult part of leaving camp is trying to keep that “camp high” going. “It’s hard without always being surrounded by your cabinmates and the Canyon,” said Tyler, but reaching out to the other guys in his cabin throughout the year has been an effective way to continue in spiritual community. “They all live in Texas, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee. So, I’ll send them a text when I’m having a hard time, and just learning that they support me is really powerful.”

Camper Huffman agreed that hearing others talk about their own faith and viewpoints is a valued part of Cabin Time. “Everybody’s stories and experiences always put me in a different mindset. It gives me a different kind of perspective,” said Huffman.

This year, Huffman decided to bravely start praying for the group as they shifted into Cabin Time. With or without Taki-covered fingers, praying out loud in front of your peers can be daunting. “This year a lot of people didn’t want to pray [over Cabin Time], so I tried to do it … It’s always helpful when somebody else does it first, because then others will join,” said Huffman. Counselors will often pray for the group, but LLYC wants to offer the opportunity to campers who may want to stretch the boundaries of their spiritual comfort zone.

“…if you want to talk about any hard things, then we say this is the place to do it—to share that extra one percent.”

The Foundation’s heart is for all who enter the Canyon to grow in deeper relationship with God and with others—to cultivate wholeness in their current season of life. LLYC believes the intentional, no-pressure atmosphere of Cabin Time allows campers, like Huffman and Gullahorn, to connect and grow.

“I enjoy that in Cabin Time, not every single person has to answer every single question,” said Huffman. “You don’t have to share, but I like that someone will mention something about the Roundup talk that I forgot about … It’s a free conversation for anyone who wants to join in and go deeper.”

Making room for this open discussion time is a high priority for LLYC. “In today’s world, there aren’t many spaces for kids to talk deeply about things that matter and then be listened to,” said Cary. “And these kids, they go deep.”

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Cabin Time Is At The Heart of Camp

Campers and counselors describe how LLYC does Cabin Time, a small group discussion at the heart of camp's spiritual experience.