by Anna Birch Posted Mar 2, 2021
Kristen “Good Sherpa” Ray may not have worked at camp during her college days, but she has made quite the impact while she has been on Pine Cove’s full-time staff the past few years! From working with retreats, leading a Pine Cove City team, and now pouring into the women in the Forge, Pine Cove’s leadership program, Kristen has done a little bit of everything. You’ll love getting to know Kristen, hearing her fun stories, and being encouraged by her deep love for the Lord!
What is your current position and what are the roles you’ve held in the past?
My current position is the Forge Women’s Director. All of my other positions have been in the East Texas region. My first position was a Retreat Specialist, and then I was a Pine Cove City Site Director for team Frontier. I was the Retreats Manager after that, and now I am here.
Did you work here on summer staff? How did you hear about Pine Cove?
So I did not work here on summer staff. I didn’t work at any camp in college, but I heard about Pine Cove because I had friends from college that worked here. I’m really good friends with Justin and Delaine Halferty, and a few years ago, Justin was in the Retreats department as well. And Delaine is one of those people who just tries to get all of her friends wherever she is. She kept mentioning Pine Cove and saying “you should apply.” Through her persistence and the Lord’s work, I ended up applying for one of the retreat specialist positions back in the summer of 2016. So I came out here to interview and then got offered the job and moved to Tyler two weeks after that. I have been here ever since!
What is your camp name and how did you get it?
My camp name is the Good Sherpa. I was named by Jerad “Pile Driver” Birch. Justin Halferty had a name that he wanted me to have—Taj Mafall. I fell while hiking in the Himalayan mountains, so he was trying to get me to tell stories about how I lived in India for a year after college (that’s where Delaine and I lived together). From that, Jerad asked if we had a sherpa to guide us when we were hiking, and I jokingly said that I was the sherpa—which wasn’t the case, because I’m not a Tibetan or a man. Then I was asked if I love Jesus. Of course the answer is “yes!” So instead of the “Good Shepherd,” I’m the “Good Sherpa.” Which is really fun because my time in India was really impactful in my life and now I get to talk about it when people ask about my name.
What were you doing in India?
I was working with a missions organization ministering to the Tibetan people. I was living in North India and it was very much ground-level work. There weren’t any women who were believers in the city where we were. Our main job was to work with the missionaries that were already there and build relationships with women, share the Gospel, and disciple women. We spent a lot of time hanging out, drinking tea, and serving in a daycare. I did that for a year, right after college.
That’s so awesome! Any other cool places that you’ve traveled to, besides India?
So with the India trip, I went to Nepal and Thailand for a week and did training in Taiwan for about two weeks. It was awesome. I love Asia. And I love the food. It’s my favorite.
I’m right there with you!
What are you enjoying most about your current job?
Definitely the relationships with the girls that are in the Forge. And it’s really unique because one of my favorite things about City, aside from the church partnership aspect, was having a team of 35 people and getting to be really intentional with them. The Forge is unique because it’s the same size group. It’s 33 students—18 girls—and we get to see the growth before our eyes. We get the opportunity to speak into young adults.
I wish I would have heard these things as a 22-year-old. I wish I would’ve learned how to biblically confront people. Having Chris Sherrod teach apologetics and Dr. Bob Livesay teach systematic theology—I would have loved to have that when I was 22 years old! It’s really cool that I get to be part of it. Of course in any ministry there’s the exhaustion aspect, but the reward is really great! I also love working with Jared Schuler and Dexter Carter! It’s a really fun team to get to be a part of.
What does an ideal day off look like for you?
I am very extroverted, so I love being with people. My husband, Joshua, and I really enjoy sports. So we like watching games, playing games, going out to a camp, playing basketball in a gym, or just hanging out with friends.
I also love going to restaurants in town over the weekend or on an off day, but mainly out with people. I’m “semi” into reading, but I don’t do that as often. I’m growing in that as I read books for the Forge.
Awesome. So you mentioned Joshua, tell me about how you guys met and how long you’ve been married!
My husband Joshua “Spaz” Ray, Pine Cove’s High Risk Manager, was also on the retreats team when I started, so we were Retreat Specialists together. Our desks were right beside each other! So we went on a date a couple years ago, but we didn’t go on another one until a year later because he didn’t want to go on another date! But a year later we started dating. We got married last September. So we’ve been married for a year! We’re a toddler, in baby terms.
What is your favorite verse or passage in Scripture currently?
Because we study it in the Forge, I would say 1 Peter. I’m doing the Bible reading plan along with them, and we’ve read that book through like four times. And for a straight week, we do precepts and every student presents on it. I’m trying to memorize it with them, but they are significantly farther ahead than I am.
One of my all-time favorite verses is in Psalm 27: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” If I could have one desire, would that actually be my desire? I don’t know, but I’d like it to be my desire.
Who is someone on staff that you admire and why?
One would for sure be Rebecca “Deemer” Smith. She is just a boss and very well-respected in this ministry. Personally, even though she wasn’t my Regional Director, she was still super open to just give me her wisdom as to what it looks like to be a female Site Director and being a single woman working in ministry. Rebecca is responsible for so many things at Pine Cove and to see her handle all that has been really cool. She’s a great friend and very encouraging.
Jared Schuler is another person I admire. He’s humble, so wise, and such a good teacher. He really models for Forge students what it looks like to be a man of God and to lead a family. And for girls to see Jared love his wife well and love his children well. He’s also very funny and jokes around a ton— at my expense sometimes!
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned at camp?
What it looks like to be a leader, which is: you have to know how to follow. I really have gotten to see Philippians 2 modeled well, even by people that I’ve led. I’ve had bosses who would ask forgiveness from the team if they did something that just was outside of Scripture and I saw the humility that it takes to do that. The world will say it’s the opposite: if you’re the leader, you don’t admit your faults and people should just follow you regardless. But I’ve seen that modeled so well. People being humble as they lead has taught me a lot about leading other people, but also to be the most effective director or employee, it is dependent on your relationship with the Lord. If I’m not following the Lord and I’m trying to do a hang time with a girl, what wisdom do I have to give? If I’m out of line with Christ, how am I going to lead? How am I going to do a Club Talk in the summer or lead a staff or Bible study if I’m not in line with the Lord myself?
Oh, that’s good!
What attribute of God has been most impactful to you this past year?
Well, this has been a wild year. I think it would be the two-fold attributes of His faithfulness and His sovereignty. Seeing and really trusting that the Lord has perfect timing and even through hard things, it really is okay. Even my current job is an example of His faithfulness and sovereignty.
And I wish I could say life has been super easy and I trusted the Lord fully through it all. And I mean, I do trust the Lord, but trusting the Lord doesn’t mean everything around you is going well. At the end, when we step into eternity, I wonder if we’ll have this big flashback moment, or just be able to say, “Oh, that’s what the Lord had… that makes total sense now!” But regardless, He is still faithful. He is just as faithful, no matter the season.