The Words of the Devlin Family
When the workshop staff of District 9 arrived at the Morgan Ranch near Blanco, Texas, they were greeted by the clang of hammers and the whine of electric power saws. The camp site was still a work in progress, with electrical power just being connected as the staff members got out of their vehicles.
But not to worry. The participants barely noticed the hubbub as they were no doubt overwhelmed by the astounding beauty of the Morgan Ranch.
The ranch is set in the beautiful rolling terrain of the Texas Hill Country, situated roughly between San Antonio, Austin, and San Marcos -- an area still unaffected by suburban sprawl. Its 200 acres -- an area large enough by any stretch of a city dweller's imagination -- seem even larger due to the fact that it's made up of a variety of hills, fields and the Blanco River valley. The vegetation consists of oak, cedar and a few prickly pear cactus, all survivors of the hot, dry climate. The abundant wildlife includes deer, wild turkeys armadillos, buzzards, hummingbirds and cardinals. The ranch's closest neighbors are the Texas longhorn cattle who visit a nearby field every evening.
The workshop area is called Camp Tejas Trails and is the personal project of Ken Morgan, the state leader of the San Antonio/Austin church and his wife Anne-Marie. The project had been in the back of Ken's mind for some years, but the idea really took root several months ago when he invited 25 members of the Greater Saint John the Baptist Church to 1½ days of camping and fellowship.
"Incredible," said Ken. "Besides having a world of fun, I felt that we grew to a level of relationship that years of church outreach efforts -- including prayer breakfasts, service projects and Mom and Dad events -- could not have matched. That spiritual and personal relationship building was the key, brought about by God, ancestors and the beauty of the land. We only had to do a tiny bit."
After that experience, the Morgans got to work, hiring carpenters, electricians and plumbers to build a huge 2,000 square foot meeting hall complete with kitchen and a pharmacy, six air-conditioned cabins and a bathhouse. Ken contracted an earth mover to dam the Blanco River on his property to create a swimming hole for the kids, an experience he had enjoyed as a kid himself.
And where did Ken get the money to do all these things? Why, he sold his half of Luckenbach, Texas, of course. Let's go back 40 years to 1968, when Ken's dad (who was also Ken) and mom Kathryn bought the ranch. At that time Ken Morgan Sr. was working as a pilot for Continental Airlines and for the next twelve years would commute to San Antonio and fly to Dallas to work his regular route. In the meantime, Kathryn worked at nearby Luckenbach, a tiny town that consisted of a post office, a dance hall and not much else. (The Morgans have a commercial poster on a wall of the ranch house showing Ken's mom and dad and eight other people on the porch of the Luckenbach post office. The caption reads, "The entire town of Luckenbach, Texas, wears Justin Boots.") The town and dance hall were owned by "Guich" Cooke and "Hondo" Crouch, both noted singing cowboys who entertained the local German farmers and cowboys. Guich won the national singing cowboy contest in 1975 and shortly afterwards sold his half to Kathryn, who continued on as partner and manager of the dance hall.
What a good investment! The venue continued not only to draw local talent, but some really big names as well, including such heavyweights as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. And when Willie wrote his song about Luckenbach, Texas, I'd guess you couldn't keep the drugstore cowboys out of the place even if you wanted to.
The Morgans sold their half in 2002, the proceeds of which are paying for the Camp Tejas Trails project today. Kathryn died on Nov 15, 2002, and Ken Sr. recently passed away on May 22 of this year.
The immense outlay of funds and rigorous time schedules have surely been a strain on the Morgans, but you could not tell it from Ken's relaxed equanimity or Anne-Marie's bright cheerfulness. The camp is now up and running despite the fact that many finishing touches still need to be added.
The teen workshop began June 22 and includes a "venture challenge," an obstacle course teaching survival skills and a camp out under the stars. A workshop for everyone follows.
Ken's vision for Camp Tejas Trails extends beyond Unification Church workshops. Besides making the place available to other churches and youth groups, Ken wants to install a recording studio, an art studio, a pottery barn and a woodworking shop and make them available to Blessed Children.