Starting in the summer of 1971, Teresa “Chigger” Roberson spent many summers and weekends at Pine Cove. As a close friend of the McKenzie family and a Tyler native, Teresa and her group of friends went to church together and worked at camp together.
Before developing into twelve camps in three regions, Pine Cove consisted of the main camp (Woods) and the Towers, while the rest of the property was yet to be acquired. Teresa remembers, “We used to have our firesides up at the mountain [present day Bluffs Family Camp] and we’d pray that the Cove would get that land before the lake was dug. We’d even pile into my car and drive around the bottom of the Palestine lake when they were digging it.”
During the summer of 1973, Teresa worked as a counselor at Pine Cove’s Main Camp, ministering to several cabins of middle school and high school girls. One week in particular, a thirteen-year-old camper named Kathy walked into her cabin.
Kathy grew up in Richardson, Texas with a strong group of church friends who went to camp together every summer. When Kathy met Teresa in 1973, she remembers thinking Teresa was so cool.
“I wanted to be like her,” says Kathy. “She was such a good role model.”
Kathy also recalls the impact of seeing other counselors following Christ and of wanting to follow that example. “There was never any question that I wanted to live my life for the Lord. But seeing people older than me, at an age that I really respected, following the Lord—they made it look cool.”
Those summers as a camper laid a foundation of spiritual growth that has stayed with Kathy. She remembers, “At nights we would go out into the woods and sit around a campfire and sing ‘Pass It On.’ I remember those talks at the end of camp, where different kids would stand up and share how they had accepted the Lord. That was impactful. I remember the Bible studies that Chigger would lead. I remember just being able to open up and talk.”
After their summers at Pine Cove, Teresa and Kathy lost touch, but they experienced their fair share of grief and loss over the decades.
When she was twenty years old, Teresa moved from Tyler to Austin. She and her husband adopted Brian and Rusty, twin boys, at birth, but lost Rusty when he was just twenty-one years old. After living in Austin for forty years, Teresa and her husband moved back to Tyler, but six months later, Teresa’s husband passed away.
“It’s been a lot of loss,” Teresa says. “But [my husband’s] friends told me that he wanted me in Tyler because I have people here. I didn’t know I had people here, but I do.”
In 2012, Kathy moved back to Tyler and lived with her mom until she passed away from cancer. After losing her mom, Kathy specifically prayed that God would bring close female friends into her life.
“That is one thing that I always prayed for growing up and I still pray today, that God would bless me with Christian friendships. And He has always blessed me with that. Always.”
In the fall of 2019, Teresa began attending Bible Study Fellowship at Lanes Chapel United Methodist Church. During the small group discussion, a woman in Teresa’s group mentioned that she had grown up as a camper at Pine Cove. After the group discussion, while everyone walked to the main lecture, Teresa approached the woman who had spoken and said she had grown up at Pine Cove too.
As they walked and talked, both began to share their Pine Cove memories.
“She told me that she went to Pine Cove every year from third grade through high school,” Teresa said. “But she could only remember one of her counselor’s names. I asked her, ‘Well, who was it? Maybe I’ll know them!’
‘Her name was Chigger,’ she said.
‘Chigger!’ I said. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m Chigger!’”
And just like that, forty-six years later, counselor and camper were reunited.
In a season when they both needed a friend, God brought them together to support one another in grief and encourage one another in joy. Now, as real life friends, Teresa and Kathy see each other on a regular basis. Teresa, a real estate agent, has helped Kathy buy a house; and Kathy, an employee at Swann’s Furniture, has helped Teresa buy furniture. They also regularly get together on Sunday nights with their dogs for weekly “Salad Sundays.” These nights are a joy for both, as they enjoy the fruit of a friendship they both prayed for.
“[Kathy] is a lot of fun,” Teresa says. “She’s easy to be with, and we enjoy each other’s company. We know it was a God thing and that He put us together.”
Though they have both endured much loss, they are learning, together, to be content in whatever season God gives them.
“I always thought that I needed somebody,” Kathy says. “I think I tend to depend on people to meet my needs emotionally and physically. But after moving to Tyler and living with my mom, I am in a season where I can say I am truly content. I am single but I never feel lonely. I always feel God’s presence.”
Teresa agrees. “His presence is what I need. And He’ll give me that in many different forms. In my quiet times, whatever He leads me to, it’s just what my heart needs to hear. He’s sent me friends that will listen and are comfortable with what I’m going through. He’s also using what I’ve been through to help other people…. That’s why we go through this stuff—to bless others. It doesn’t make it any easier, but at least you can see it being used.”
Both Teresa and Kathy have seen how the presence of God and rich friendship can bring healing after loss, and they hope to pass this gift on to others.
Considering the lasting influence Teresa had on her as a camper, Kathy says, “When you have a role model of leadership, it teaches you to become a leader when you get to be that age…. I’m at an age now where [God] is using me to speak into other people’s lives. Chigger and other people were building into my life when I was younger. I’m more of a matriarch now, and it’s time for me to step up and build into others.”
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Posted Mar 16, 2021