Scenic view of trees at camp

Many Miles for Simple Smiles: Caleb Kirk’s Story

by Mattie Stewart


As Caleb Kirk navigated the twists and turns of his freshman year at Auburn University, he slowly began to realize that he was craving something. He did not know what this yearning was for, but he knew there was something missing, a void to be filled. The following summer, he watched in awe as the Lord graciously answered his prayer.

Caleb was encouraged to apply for Pine Cove and took the plunge. When he received the phone call telling him that they had a position for him, he was excited, but he also was offered an opportunity to study abroad. However, months after he made the decision to study overseas, the pandemic hit and Caleb was told that his trip was cancelled. What would his summer look like now? Caleb’s mind kept drifting back to camp, so he decided to reach out to the Timbers youth camp to see if they still needed counselors. After talking to the men’s director, Caleb agreed to a counselor spot for the first half of the summer.

When Caleb “Sizzle” Kirk stepped onto Timbers property for the first time, feelings of inadequacy rushed through him. He had just come off a hard school year, and was yearning for community and accountability.

As he began to get to know other staffers, Caleb quickly realized that he had a lack of community and foundation back in Auburn and that’s what he had been missing. He experienced an immediate shift in perspective and began building relationships. When Caleb first came to camp, he only knew two other Auburn staffers—and not very well. But as he dove into conversations, he began to notice the large Auburn presence at the Timbers—they were everywhere! It was as if the Lord was giving him a gradual, continuous gift of connection each time he met another Auburn staffer.


“I come off as shy and reserved at first, so building relationships can be a slow process, but the Lord was looking out for me. It was incredible seeing His provision in answering a prayer that I didn’t even know how to pray for.”

As orientation week went on, Caleb got more comfortable talking to the people around him. “It was crazy because I was just drawn to the Auburn crew. I built great relationships with people from other schools too, but I found it really cool that some of the strongest relationships I built were with people I would be close to in the fall.” The best part of it all? The relationships he was building were firmly grounded because they were grounded in Christ. 


One of Caleb’s friends, Hunter “Pump the Lampshade” Harwell, had a similar experience. “I kind of had the same situation as Caleb concerning community.” Hunter and Caleb have the same major at Auburn and will take classes together in the fall. Hunter made a point to hang out with Caleb’s campers and gave Caleb encouragement in times of need. 


This spurred Caleb on in his journey. “Running a race alongside people who desire the same things as you is encouraging. When you fall or mess up, they are there to help pick you up.” There were weeks that Caleb struggled with tough situations and was learning to endure. “It was a joy… because I know the Lord was looking out for me and He gave me a support system to push and encourage me.”


There was someone else who used the same wisdom: Paul. In Romans 5, Paul writes that we should rejoice in our sufferings because our sufferings produce perseverance. With the encouragement of his friends, Caleb leaned into the Lord’s strength and persevered through the challenges of camp.

Leaving camp, Caleb had an understanding of the weight and importance of community. Working at camp gave him a solid group of friends to rely on, people who will challenge him and hold him accountable.


“I’m in awe of the Lord and His goodness. He sent me all the way to East Texas, 611 miles away from Auburn, to give me the gift of community.”


Do you know a Christ-centered, others-focused, and seriously fun college student who should work at Pine Cove this summer? Encourage them to apply.

Posted Sep 22, 2020

Mattie Stewart

Storytelling Media Intern

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