Where the River Turns to Roads

You walk in the river. You jump in the river. You swim in the river. You fish in the river. You run and bike in the river. You paddle board and canoe in the river. You ride trailers; have dance parties; go spotlighting, lounging, rock-sliding, hiking, and soda-diving in the river. And yes, like 31,273 people did in 2018, you drive in the river.

Since 1954, the Frio River Canyon is where our mission takes shape.

But it isn’t where our mission stops.

Frio River water flows from the chill of Blue Hole at Headwaters to the warmth of the Echo Valley waterfront and beyond. Our work also changes as it flows from Real County to San Antonio and beyond. But it’s always driven by our mission: to cultivate wholeness in people and institutions for the transformation of communities.

Look at preceding pages, with their overview of our mission and how it works. When we talk about it, we also talk about our convictions and responses, our focus areas, our Christian faith, our core values, and our unique approach to programs and organizational relationships. As you read this story of last year’s work, you’ll see each of those themes echoing in all we do.

Real County

In nearby Leakey, Texas, our Real County Community Initiative took root last year, opening a space in the middle of town for local nonprofits to use free of charge. That space has become an anchor: a meeting place for local leaders, a hub of the many assets and existing resources available—in healthcare, education, mental health, and more—to families in Real County.

“Sometimes, we’re prone to think of rural communities just in terms of their needs,” says Dana Williams, the director of RCCI. “But the truth is that these places are rich with kind people, clever solutions to local challenges, and shared traditions and culture.” RCCI aims to bring those resources together and elevate them in a variety of ways.

For example, last year we co-launched Team Real County, a collaborative healthcare initiative with Community Health Development, Inc., Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ Wesley Nurse program, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. This partnership aims to improve healthcare around the county by better assessing local needs, merging information, and helping the community access healthcare more easily.


San Antonio

In San Antonio, our Capacity-Building Initiative finished its inaugural year of, well, building capacity in the local nonprofits we’re serving. Here’s what that means: each year, we form a Peer Learning Cohort, which is a small group of nonprofits that agrees to work for 36 months—with us and with each other—at becoming more effective at leading, learning, managing, planning, overseeing, and generating resources.

“Our goal is to help these vital organizations operate at peak performance,” says Perri Rosheger, who directs this effort. “We knew we couldn’t address all the needs of vulnerable families and children in San Antonio ourselves, so we decided to focus on bolstering the good work that’s already happening.”

The Capacity-Building Initiative’s first cohort had five nonprofits, and the second has six. These organizations represent a breadth of services being offered to the community, from after-school activities to distressed housing restoration to mental healthcare and more. “We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing so far,” says Perri. “Not only are these nonprofits maturing, but we’re also seeing them cooperate with each other for greater impact in the community.”

Recently, two members of the first cohort, Good Samaritan Center and Christian Hope Resource Center, signed a memorandum of agreement in a grant application for a workforce development effort in San Antonio’s West Side neighborhood. We’re excited to see these kinds of partnerships emerge to create more opportunities for underserved families and children in our backyard.

Also in San Antonio, we continued to press forward with a Mental Health Initiative that has been quietly taking shape in recent years with research, collaboration, and early pilots. Our goals here include ensuring that youth get the help they need when mental health challenges arise and that people concerned about their mental health find strong support in local faith communities.

“This work is not about any particular mental health ‘issue,’” says Angela Briaud, who directs the project. “Our approach is to connect institutions like churches, schools, and out-of-school-time programs to the training and resources they need to serve their communities’ mental health needs with empathy and urgency.”

Several activities are now underway, including a pilot project at LEE High School designed to increase practices that cultivate mental and emotional wellness in institutions that work with youth. Early indicators of this project’s success have been “really promising,” says Briaud. “Pre and midway surveys show educators have increased confidence in working with students experiencing mental health challenges.”

In addition, we’ve launched two significant, one-of-kind studies—first, an inventory of existing faith-based mental health initiatives and projects in San Antonio, conducted in partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; and second, a close study of pastors and congregations inside select Protestant and Catholic churches, conducted in partnership with the University of Texas-San Antonio.

The results of both studies have begun to come in, and we are excited to share the findings and see them put to use in the years ahead.

Laity Lodge Family Camp 2018

LLFC hosted 2,350 campers from 575 households last year.

Foundation Camp 2018

23,920 people from a variety of backgrounds came through Foundation Camp in 2018.

Laity Lodge 2018

Laity Lodge hosted 1,774 guests this year through 41 retreats, along with 110 people at the Quiet House.

Laity Lodge Youth Camp 2018

LLYC welcomed 1,511 campers from roughly 1,200 different households for its five summer sessions.

Outdoor School 2018

Outdoor School hosted 16 schools, serving a total of 1,608 students this year.

Whether serving kids in the Canyon, residents of Real County, or families in San Antonio, we work to transform cycles of brokenness. We make space for people, serve them in ways that are relevant to their culture and circumstance, and give them an opportunity to experience healthy rhythms of life.

It might be in the adventure of Alpine Tower or the solitude of the Quiet House, in the sunrise view at Antenna or seeing the moon peek over Circle Bluff, in the hill country of Real County or the San Antonian skyline. It can look like new research on mental health, and it can also feel like the cold rush of water at Blue Hole. It can sound like campers cheering on their Rodeo teams, and it can taste like the first dinner a family ever shares in the Canyon.

All these activities are expressions of our mission. And it all begins in the place where the river is also a road, and where the waters flow through the Canyon and out into the wider world.