by Elizabeth Moore Posted Nov 13, 2018
Staff often walk away from their summer at Pine Cove and wonder, “How do I get community like that in real life?” Because one of the most valuable, lasting treasures from a summer at Pine Cove is the community. Relationships are built with people who uphold you when you’re weak, challenge you when you’re coasting, and pour themselves out for the Gospel alongside you.
The safety of being known, the trust that comes from shared experiences, and the roots that grow through vulnerability are all a gift. It’s like nothing else. It can be discouraging to reach the end of the summer and realize that life may never look the same. That’s okay. But even if it’s not in a cabin or a dining hall or jumping in the Gauntlet, there are elements of Pine Cove’s community that can be fostered in real life. Community can still be rich and real and even better outside of camp.
There’s a crew of people in Waco, Texas who live this kind of life together. They came from all different places, at different times, for different things, but once they got to Waco, they intentionally sought out one another and have built a thriving community.
Jordy Barksdale is one of those people. From 2010-2012, he served at the Shores high school camp in Tyler and then became a full-time site director for Camp in the City Team Edge in 2013-2015. In June of 2016, he moved to Waco, knowing that it was the right next step for him. He didn’t have a job yet, but he had people–specifically, two close friends who were both Pine Cove alumni. He didn’t necessarily move there for the people–he truly believed this was God’s next step for his life– but relationships were a strong pull. He moved there without a job, and the jobs he expected to find fell through.
A friend of a friend encouraged him to apply for a job at Magnolia. He interviewed and was hired immediately. For the past two years, Jordy has worked as the Front Lines Training Manager at Magnolia, ensuring that that the company’s culture aligns with their vision. He trains employees on leadership and development, observes problems that need to be solved, finds creative solutions, and overall, creates a fun experience for Magnolia’s customers. Jordy loves working for a respected brand that is both innovative and caring. Plus, many of the skills he uses for his job, he gained at Pine Cove! “I love it,” he says. “Waking up in the morning is thrilling.”
But beyond his job, Jordy lives in community with a strong crew of Pine Cove Staff Alumni. Obviously, not everyone in their circle is a PC alum, but there’s no denying that a broad community of Pine Cove Alumni have settled in Waco and they’re doing life together. As he listed off names, Jordy described a mosaic of women and men from different summers, camps, and walks of life, all living their lives alongside each other. Forming community can be a challenge, especially as a young professional living in a new city, but Jordy found that the shared experience of a summer at Pine Cove made finding community a tad easier and solidified it much faster. “The common bond of Pine Cove connected us,” he says. “We were able to skip the basics and the get-to-know-you filters and trust each other.”
Whether it’s seeing each other for Tuesday night soccer, sharing meals in each other’s homes, organizing holiday hang-outs for the Fourth of July, or just texting a group of people after work to see what everyone is up to, this is a crew of includers and sharers. They spend time with each other, make room for each other, and initiate events and environments to be together.
“The power of community is Biblical and beautiful and effective when utilized well,” says Jordy. “Transparency comes through trust, trust comes through shared experiences, and shared experience is something that every Pine Cove alumnus has.”
Plus, the common bond of Christ is the most powerful connector of all. It bonds souls together in a way that nothing else can. It empowers believers to forgive and pursue love in a way that is beyond their own strength.
“We aren’t guaranteed community, so when we do have it, it’s a gift,” Jordy says.
So did this community just form itself? Did it happen with no effort? Nope. This group saw an opportunity to invest in each other, one person at a time, and did it. They sought each other out, and the seeds that have been sown over time continue to reap a rich harvest.
One of the goals of Pine Cove’s alumni network is to create city groups like Waco: a group of alumni within a city, intentionally seeking to deepen the community that began at Pine Cove. It won’t be the same as a summer at camp, but it will be better, richer, deeper. This kind of community is long-term, built over time, and sharpened through the joyful, mundane, and difficult parts of real life.
When asked what advice he would give to alumni in other cities who desire close community, Jordy’s answer was simple and action-oriented. “Seek people out. Get past the fear of inviting people places and know that everyone wants to be pursued. Because the truth is, everyone– single, married, divorced, with kids, or without kids–needs people. We are only lonely until we seek out other people.”
So find humans who share a common interest and create the space for community to happen. Welcome a couple over to your house for a meal or invite a group of friends to a restaurant for happy hour. Jump in your alumni group on Facebook, find who is in your city, and start something. Maybe that looks like sharing breakfast on the first Monday of the month, or getting together for Sunday afternoon football or forming a city league kickball team. Seek to be an includer. Because everyone wants to be invited. Everyone wants to be pursued.
So, why not go first? Create the space. Plan the time. Send the text. And see what happens. Community may not just happen, and it’s okay to intentionally seek it out. There is power when believers come together and are unified. What can you do in your city to take one step toward fostering deeper, more intentional community?