by Anna Birch Posted Sep 24, 2020
Taylor “Roctober” Gembol has been on full-time staff at Pine Cove since 2017 and is currently the Timbers camp director. A fan of extreme sports, spending time with his wife and puppy, and all things related to the ocean, this guy loves people and fun! Something that is evident by just meeting Taylor is that he loves talking about what Jesus has done in his and others’ lives.
How did you end up at Pine Cove?
I ended up at Pine Cove because of one of my best friends who was a fellow pledge brother in BYX at Texas State. After my freshman year, he worked at Pine Cove and we were roommates together the next year. He came back just literally a different person! All of us as his friends were like, “What happened to this guy?” I had grown up going to camp at a small mom and pop camp outside of San Antonio with my family, so I loved summer camp. Through all my friend’s stories and excitement over what he was sharing, I thought it sounded amazing.
I worked my first summer at the Shores in 2014. I got my first taste as a counselor, and fell in love with it. By that point in my life, I had just finished my sophomore year and I knew full well that I wanted to do vocational ministry.
What full-time roles have you held?
My first role full-time was at the Woods, starting in 2017, as the Men’s Director. I did two summers in that role, then going into summer 2019, I got to step into the Associate Director role.
What are you most looking forward to while working at the Timbers?
I’m thankful for the leadership and the teams that I’ve gotten to be on—between the Shores and the Woods and just getting to see that lived out in very different personalities under Taylor “Fish Face” Jervis and Chris “Broflex” Boddy, but still centered on the same thing. I now get to develop that in my own team and get to be a part of setting the culture and getting people excited and inspired.
I’m excited to blend my experience on summer staff working at a youth camp with my resident staff experience working at a family camp—getting to take both of those and what I’ve seen from Boddy, what I’ve seen from Jervis, and using those to implement different leadership styles.
Together with our Men’s and Women’s Directors and our summer staff, we get to pour into eighth and ninth graders. I think that’s just such a sweet age where awkwardness meets growth. They’re just kind of figuring out who they are. Ultimately, they need to know their identity and they need to know the Gospel. That fires me up! Let’s go, let’s run for that.
What’s your camp name and what’s the story behind it?
My camp name is Roctober. The full version of that is “The Hunt for Red October” after the 90s movie starring Sean Connery. My favorite hobby is spearfishing and freediving. I grew up in Corpus Christi, and my dad and my stepmom actually put us through a scuba diving course when my brother and I were like 13 and 14 years old. From there, our family got into taking scuba trips. I absolutely love the ocean. I love the water, anything out at the beach. And so with that, I developed this new hobby of spearfishing while free diving with no tank. It’s such a niche hobby that just not many people do. During my name game, all that came up, plus my favorite color is red. I love to hunt and I used to play football, and hunting and football seasons are in October. A lot of people call me “Roc.”
Sounds fun and extreme. Do you enjoy any other extreme sports?
Yes, honestly, I do. Any kind of challenging, adventurous thing—snowboarding, pick-up basketball—if it’s outdoors and there’s something fun that you can do with it, I’m in for sure.
I have a picture on my desk of my wife, Brianna, and me in Idaho on a snowboarding trip, and it’s one of my favorite pictures.
Speaking of Brianna, tell me a little bit about your wife and how you two met!
So, we are a successful camp relationship! We met at the Shores in 2014 and got to know each other that summer. We started dating that next summer (2015) and then we dated all that year long distance.
We got engaged in 2016 and had a long-distance engagement—she taught and worked in Waco for that year and I finished up school at Texas State. We got married at the end of summer 2017 in California!
We have a dog that’s 10 months old right now. His name’s “RVCA” (pronounced REW-KA) after the surfing brand.
Do you have any funny skit stories or embarrassing moments at camp?
I remember one time at the Shores, I was a henchman for Colton Venner. They needed a big guy to come in and take the main guys to the stage. So I was in this two-sizes-too-small cheetah print shirt. Think Fred Flintstone. I had Colton on one shoulder and Michael Murphy on another and it was not working well. Halfway to the stage, I literally dropped Michael in the middle of the floor! So then as he falls off the one side and Colton starts to slip off the other side. As that’s happening, he totally takes my shirt with him! Definitely an embarrassing moment.
That’s hilarious. Some of the most embarrassing moments can come from skits! On a totally different note, who is someone on staff that you admire and why?
Just coming off of getting to work directly with and alongside him so closely for the last four summers, I definitely have to say Chris “Broflex” Boddy. Starting out as a Men’s Director, coming in all bright-eyed and not having a clue what to do at family camp and newly married and all those kinds of things, he met me with so much grace. I’m just so grateful that I get to continue to work with him since he is the ETX Senior Director of Ministries. I’m so thankful for his joy, reverence for Christ, and his desire to lead out of a relationship with Jesus.
At the Woods, we’ve had this phrase “UDOA” or “Utterly Dependant, Open, and Available” to remind us of the daily surrender to the Lord. Chris just represents that phrase so well.
What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
That’s a good question. Near the end of the summer, around week 9, as we kind of got to that point where it was like, “Okay, if the Woods gets COVID from here on out, we will miss the last two weeks of camp.” But by God’s grace, we got to do 11 weeks, which was just incredible in and of itself! And I was reading through Acts in our staff Bible study and this verse just grabbed me. Acts 20:24: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” If you look at Paul’s journey and his experience through the book of Acts, it is nothing short of hardship and difficulty and frustration. Yet his letters don’t reflect that—his letters reflect the love of Jesus and making sure that the people know to make His name great. What was most important to him was finishing the race, and not counting his own life precious to himself.
In application to this summer of what we got to do and what we got to be a part of, what’s greater than that?! We were getting to make Jesus’ name great. We’re tired, it’s hard, but what matters is making sure that we’re testifying to the Gospel because that’s why we’re here and this is what we’re doing! It lit a fire in me!
Awesome. Praise the Lord for 11 weeks of camp! What’s something you LOVE about working at Pine Cove?
How dynamic it is. Yes, there’s a job description, but then there’s what you actually do, and I love that. It’s amazing how many different things you can be a part of here and how many ways working full time stretches you as a human being and introduces new things to you. It’s fast-paced. It’s deep. It’s Christ-centered. I’m just thankful to be a part of it.
It’s so obvious that even in the craziness of a pandemic, and coming off of summer, as we navigate what the fall and what the future’s going to look like with COVID still going on—the main thing remains the main thing. From the top down you can see that Jesus is what matters.
Our motto of “Christ-centered, others-focused, and seriously fun” shows me that if I’m doing my job well, then I’m living in those three things.
You get to be crazy about Jesus here, crazy about His people, and have a blast doing it.