A friend to all and a bit of a “jack-of-all-hobbies,” Dex ‘Pikapoo!’ Carter has been a part of the Pine Cove family since 2015. Get to know the Outback director as he shares how the Lord transformed his heart, and laugh along to his hilarious and… electric stories!
If you were to give someone an elevator pitch on who you are, what would you say?
If I were trying to describe myself—first and foremost I’d say I love Jesus. I also love music, I enjoy movies, and I’m a guy that’s about the people. I want to spend time with people, so whatever hobbies people prefer I’m fine with as long as I get to do it with them. I’m also a really big family guy. My parents always told me growing up that friends come and go, but family is always there. So I like to focus on caring for who God provided as my mom, dad, sister, and brother. My family lives in Houston, Texas, and this summer was the first time my family got to come visit camp! It was really special, especially for my mom. My mom has bad knees because she is a prayer warrior. I remember her praying continuously that the Lord would save and transform me. So for her to be able to come on camp property and see the impact of her prayers was sweet and fun.
How did you get to Pine Cove?
This is a crazy story. I got saved my freshman year of college when my friend stopped me on my way to a party and read me Proverbs 5. This was the first time I experienced conviction, forgiveness, and Truth. I had so many times in my life where I did the works of God, but did not have intimacy with God. What I mean by that is I went on mission trips, I did all the DNOWs, but if someone asked me if I was going to heaven I would say, “Yes, look at all the things I’ve done,” instead of relying on what Jesus did. My performance and works led me to a place where I was enrolled in a Christian school, but I wasn’t enrolled in the kingdom of God. Recognizing that was groundbreaking, and it radically changed my life. I told my RA about giving my life to Jesus and a few weeks after that he told me, “I work at Pine Cove and we’re serving at a retreat. Would you want to come be work crew?” I had no idea what Pine Cove or work crew was, but I said yes and got to go to Pine Cove and experience the fun of camp while freely enjoying my new life in Christ in a safe place. I kept thinking, “Man, I want to be a part of this.” The camp I was at happened to be Outback where now, years later, I’m the camp director!
What are some of your favorite things right now?
My initial thought is weightlifting! Which might sound weird, but recently it has become a helpful time for me to process and think through things. I recently was on vacation with my friends and ended up in the fitness center with two of my friends Ben Gasaway and Conor Barry—so even when I’m retreating, it’s restful and enjoyable for me to move around. There have also been so many great movies that came out this summer, so I’ve loved that. There are so many different ways for me to enjoy a movie… either I’m watching a movie to just relax and not think about anything, or there are other movies that can help bring perspective and the aspect of storytelling which I think is important. I also have been enjoying reading books, namely, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” “Everything Sad is Untrue”—super impactful, and “Forgive” by Timothy Keller, which is the last book he published before passing away.
What different roles have you held at Pine Cove?
I was a counselor for Pine Cove City for two summers (which at the time was called Base Camp), then a senior counselor, and then I was a program director for two summers, all on Team Delta! My second summer as a program director is arguably my favorite summer at camp—it was awesome. Then I did the Forge program, which I highly recommend. It helped me understand and appreciate how God created me, it taught me how to use the gifts God gave me, and how to be navigated by the Word of God. Once I got done with the Forge, I worked as a Pine Cove City site director for three years on Team Iceberg, before becoming the men’s director of the Forge, which is what I did for five years. Now I’m the camp director for Outback!
If someone had never been to the Outback before, how would he describe it to them?
I would describe it as a place where you can be the most yourself you’ve ever been, and a place where you can hear the Gospel, but also experience the Gospel. This summer I got to hear staffers say time and time again how cared for they felt and how they felt like they could really just be themselves. It’s cool to see the combination of people bringing their quirks and different interests as they’re all challenged to trust and believe the Gospel, not just by hearing it but by experiencing it and displaying it.
Give us the inside scoop on the song “Camp is Here!”
When I was the Forge Men’s Director, Hamilton ‘Dreamland’ Bromhead came into my office and told me, “Hey bro, I’m trying to come up with a fun song for camp that we could make a camp dance.” So I sat down with him, but he is a creative genius, so he came up with most of it—I just added some tweaks. We created the lyrics and came up with who we wanted to have on the track, and soon enough we were in Dallas working with a producer and getting to record it in a legit sound booth. I kept thinking, “How are we here doing this right now?” My favorite lyric is probably my second verse—it incorporates all the camps and it’s so fun to rap.
Sing along with Dex to “Camp is Here” on Spotify!
What’s your go-to party trick?
Either freestyle rapping or karaoke! If there’s a beat, I’m going in and freestyling, no doubt. If there’s music, I’ve got to sing. My go-to karaoke song is “No Air” by Chris Brown with Jordan Sparks.
What’s your favorite hike you’ve ever done?
Some close friends of mine and I went to hike Mount Yale. It’s probably both my favorite and the hardest. It’s so real and brutal—it’s straight uphill and an all-day event. We woke up at like 6 am and we hiked until about 8 pm. I think hiking is amazing because you get to be with people you love and go through something hard together, conquer something together.
How did you get your camp name?
My camp name is “Pikapoo!” I was named that for a few reasons. First, during my name game they asked if I had any hobbies. I said that I enjoyed playing Pokémon growing up (my favorite Pokémon games are Yellow and Crystal Version). Second, I was struck by lightning when I was younger. No joke. Went to the hospital and everything. And last, I almost soiled myself one day during high school football practice.
Over the years at Pine Cove, what meaningful memory stands out?
That is such a hard question because I’ve got like a decade of meaningful moments the Lord’s given me. Throughout the Forge, I got to let go of my inclinations to perform and just be real with guys as we shared our burdens and sin. I got to more deeply understand David’s psalm to the Lord as I learned that the Lord doesn’t want my performance, he just wants a broken and contrite heart. When I was a site director, police shootings started to happen and I remember being able to talk to my staffers about it. I was able to teach and lead, and a lot of them opened up to me about never before having a spiritual leader that was black. That was really special for me.
As a camp director, there were so many moments this summer that were impactful. Having campers tell me that they were impacted by what I wrote in the Bible Study, or having campers accept Jesus into their heart after one of my Club talks. Those are such gifts from the Lord.
What keeps me working at camp is—of course it’s fun, and I also think God’s given me gifts that are useful here. But on a very real and deeper level, there’s a reality where for me, as I think back to first applying for Pine Cove, the thing that I got hit with is that Pine Cove was a place where I got to be myself. Even in the midst of all of my insecurities—not being a Christian until I was in college, being in a predominantly white space, not having the spiritual knowledge that some others had, all of these different things—I felt welcome to be who God created me to be. And I was challenged to believe and depend on the Gospel. That’s what keeps me going. The Gospel is preached here, and people are challenged to add feet to their faith, not to just talk about the good things of God, but to live them out. Not to just talk about loving your neighbor, but to actually be active in doing it.
What Pine Cove staffers have made the biggest impact on you, and what have they taught you?
[Forge Director] Jared Schuler for me is obvious. He taught me about faithfulness, not just by actually teaching me about it but by living it out with his kids, his wife, and his ministry. He taught me what it looks like to decrease so that God can increase. And he shows me what it means to sacrifice even as he sacrificed to care for me. He’s number one in my mind.
Rebecca Smith is the first boss I had when I went to the full-time team. She taught me about hospitality and just opened up her life. She gave me so much support and care for so many years.
Chris Boddy was the first to hire me. He showed me what it looks like to be not just a hearer of the Word but a doer of the Word. He was passionate about speaking about Jesus, but he was even more passionate about living for Him.
Kristen Ray taught me what it looks like to have an authentic faith. Ben Gasaway and Conor Barry are two dudes who have journeyed with me through my Pine Cove time and have just really encouraged me and supported me for so long now. I’m thankful for TJ [Connor], my boss now, who just really believes in me and teaches me about generosity. I’m thankful for that whole crew of people and of course so many more.
What’s something that the Lord has been teaching you recently?
I’ve been learning more about security. I’ve been reminded of the importance of finding my security in Him instead of finding my security in how [staff] recruitment this year goes, or finding my security in my own control, or finding security in feedback about how the summer went. Looking through the book of John and Revelation, I’m reminded of the Lord’s holiness and how our obedience to Him leads to true abundance.
Posted Aug 23, 2023