by Katelyn Sullins Posted May 25, 2021
Homecoming in Texas is no joke. We bring out the Texas-sized mums, roll out the bands, decorate the halls, and all gather around with excitement for those Friday night lights. You know the feeling (or can remember it with some nostalgia). The people you know and love all in one place, the eager anticipation, the hope for a home-team win. Popcorn tastes better, you splurge for the hotdog, there is magic in the air… and it feels like you belong.
For Tyler “Poster Eyes” DuBose, being at camp is the ultimate homecoming. Until Tyler arrived at Pine Cove for orientation, he was unaware anyone was on his team, much less rooting for him upon arrival.
Growing up wasn’t always easy for Tyler. In middle school he was surprised by his parents’ marital struggles, uprooted from the only home he ever knew, and forced to change schools, all which led to a long struggle with loneliness as he coped with an ever-changing picture of what “home” should look like.
Fast forward to college. God had not forgotten about Tyler, but Tyler felt forgotten, and more isolated and lost than ever. On one particularly dark and lonely night, Tyler cried his first real prayer: “Lord, help me. I’m so lonely.”
The next morning at his 8am atmospheric science class, he was greeted with an advertisement for a Christian men’s fraternity. Tyler knew immediately this must be God’s answer to his prayer—what he didn’t know was how this group of men and the relationships that would form from that answered prayer would change his life forever.
Soon after joining, he met a guy named Josh “ESPN2” Fortney and the two became fast friends. Tyler finally began believing that God cared for him enough to give him friends, was baptized soon after, and immediately applied for a summer job at Pine Cove. He got a job as a counselor at the Woods Family Camp and the rest is history.
When Tyler arrived at the Woods for the first time, he remembers seeing crazy people jumping beside his car, an overwhelming amount of smiling faces, and what he could only assume were overly sugar-induced individuals feigning excitement that he had arrived. When he opened his car door, Craig “Dutch” Langemeier promptly greeted him with wide open arms, giving him a bear hug and saying, “I’m so glad you are here, dude!” Tyler remembers not knowing how to process such a warm welcome from near strangers, but remarks, “I’ve never felt more at home than when I first pulled into Pine Cove. As crazy and exciting and unknown as it all was, I knew I belonged.”
Reflecting on that first summer so long ago, Tyler remarked, “During that time I got to see what a Godly family unit looks like and a chance to be around people that loved me for the real me—and encouraged that! I was only supposed to work the first half but as Week 5 was coming, I asked Craig if I could stay. I quit the job waiting for me in Lubbock and stuck around for the rest of the summer. I’m pretty sure I was the first person to sign back up for the next summer too.”
Tyler worked the next five summers at the Woods before marrying the beautiful girl he met during his second summer.
“Pine Cove has been so instrumental in the work God has done in my life and is continuing to do,” Tyler says. “I am extremely grateful for how God has used Pine Cove to forge me into the man I am today, mostly through the relationships I have because of the common thread of Pine Cove. Before giving my life to Jesus, I was going down a dangerous and sinful road. God put the people at Pine Cove in my life to show me a better way.”
Tyler found a home in the people of Pine Cove, and each summer he returned, he was reminded just how much God cared for him. After five years of working on staff, Pine Cove had become for Tyler the hub of his family of people. Every year when he “came back home,” he was met with that same enthusiasm, sincere love, and open arms.
And when his time on staff was over, the people continued to surround him as family, literally and figuratively.
Tyler chuckles as he recalls, “Sarah would not have married me if it weren’t for Pine Cove.” Snaking her head around the corner, she quickly affirms with, “That’s absolutely true!” Tyler elaborates, “I was in no way ready for marriage, but was as prepared as possible because of the people at Pine Cove that spoke into me and modeled what a marriage could look like.”
Tyler, Sarah, and their two kids Taylor (4) and Miller (2) attend the the same week at the Woods family camp every summer, and consider this week a “homecoming” for their entire family—to the place it all began, and the place that continues to bring them rest and remembrance of all the God has done in their lives.
Even now when Tyler and Sarah return to camp, Craig and Carrie are there for “family dinners.” Tyler and Sarah sing the J-O-Y song with their kids during their bedtime routine, all because a speaker changed their perspective on parenting one summer through this silly jingle. The two communicate with kindness and honest intent because Carrie Langemeir drilled it into their minds that intimacy was better than harmony.
“Pine Cove gave me not only incredible resources to lead my family well, but the community of believers with whom I do it. How much easier can it get than someone handing you a pamphlet of devotionals and just saying, ‘Read this with your kids, watch what God does?’ The first time anything like that had ever been modeled for me was my staffer summer, but the doing of it as a dad has changed me.”
Tyler now works with a non-profit that equips men to live out their faith in their various work settings. His story is one where God plucked him out of desperate places. It is not surprising that his life models for others that there is no shame in being desperate for rescue, for it was in those dark, desperate, lonely places that God made himself known to Tyler.
“The people at Pine Cove showed me there was no shame in my struggle, that I was not alone in feeling lost and forgotten, because we all need help along the way, ” Tyler explains. “I simply get to help others see that we are not alone. That we are, in fact, home when surrounded by others who share the same desperate need for connection and love as each of us do individually.”
Because the Lord drew Tyler to Himself by creating spaces where he felt known, loved, and cared for, Tyler counts it a gift to now do this same thing for others.
“Most of what Pine Cove taught me was that I couldn’t do the Christian life on my own—I needed others walking closely beside me to remind me of truth, to model the way, and remind me it wasn’t really about me and my performance. Camp stoked the servant in me, and ultimately provided the friends and family with whom I could live out that calling.”
The DuBose family counts the other Woods campers from their week as part of their own, remain closely connected to a core group of their friends from this week throughout the year, and spend the rest of their time anticipating their favorite homecoming.