The first time we went to Family Camp, my wife Heather and I got into a fight. It happened on Date Night, the evening that LLFC carves out for couples to be together. There was lots of stuff that needed to be aired, and that night, we had time to do it.
It was a key moment in our 26-and-counting years of marriage. We came back to Family Camp the next year—and the year after that, and the year after that. Over the next seven years, in addition to serving as a beautiful setting to relax and play, camp helped rejuvenate our relationships, not only between Heather and me, but among our four children.
Camp was a place where some of those pressures that had been boiling under the surface started to change and cool. Stress and conflict gradually transformed into something healthier, something more like peace. We still mark our lives today by camp.
When David Rogers asked me to be the lead architect for Sunset, a new Foundation project in San Antonio, I jumped at the chance to be part of this organization’s work.
The new office complex, just north of downtown near the airport in San Antonio, will open later this year, and during the process of designing and building it, we’ve been anticipating the people who will be there—employees, partners, and all kinds of neighbors throughout the city and our region.
We’ve been imagining how the carefully designed structure of Canyon programs could be adapted to a new space. What does that space need to look like? How can it easily allow guests to take breaks, to talk to each other, to go for a peaceful stroll somewhere?
The Canyon has always been more than just careful programming. Over the years, the Butts have treated the Foundation property with deep intentionality. Its buildings are in natural conversation with the environment—the river, the cedar forests, the canyon walls—and the Foundation built everything with guests in mind.
I remember at Family Camp one year realizing that someone had thought of me—or parents like me—years before we ever visited Headwaters. Like the railings! They are set at the perfect height to sit there and look down and see your kids.
One year at Family Camp, I hiked alone to the top of Circle Bluff. There, in the presence of the Holy Spirit looking out over the Canyon from the Bluff, I became very aware that the Lord had prepared that place and that time for me. And he had worked through the hands of the Butt family.
Out of gratitude for what had been done for them, the Butts took the resources they had, and they created a place. Somebody had thought of me, of us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
After Family Camp had such a transformational impact on our family—and on me—I was grateful for this chance to work with the Foundation. As we build Sunset, we want the space to anticipate people, just like the spaces in the Canyon anticipated guests. We are imagining guests before we ever see their faces. We are anticipating ways to serve neighbors we don’t yet know.
And, this may sound audacious, but we are trying to bring the Canyon itself into the city. We are thinking about Sunset as a place in conversation with Camp, so we are filling it with as many little architectural cues as we can—pointing back to the long architectural legacy that I’m now blessed to be part of. I want people who know the Foundation Camps and Laity Lodge and Cedar Brake and Headwaters to feel the connection when they are on the San Antonio campus.
A building is ultimately a system to engage people. Good buildings are systems that provide freedom.
They respect people’s time. They inspire ideas and creativity. They are places of focus where people can listen to each other.
Sunset is in a different setting than Headwaters, but the mission of the space we’re creating mirrors everything that happens in the Canyon. God willing, the facility will be for people in San Antonio what Family Camp has been for me—a place to encounter God and participate in his healing of us and our communities.
As we build, we continue to think about our San Antonio neighbors. In this way, the construction process is a form of prayer. I want to know what my neighbors want me to hear, and with the H. E. Butt Foundation, I’m proud to be designing another space to create connection and allow souls to speak openly with each other.
A series of events change San Antonio’s story—together.
Six nonprofits join the fifth capacity-building cohort.
The purpose and future of the life-changing Foundation Camp
As I watch the news, I see discord and disharmony everywhere... the problem isn’t just out there—it’s also in my own heart, in our families, and in our organizations.