For 13 year old JC Brewster, WinShape Camps means more than a fun summer getaway — it means life change. Two summers ago, in 2016, JC began attending camp at WSC for Boys at Cleveland as a member of the Hydro Squad.
Like many campers, JC was nervous to spend a week away from home without his family.
“I had never been to camp before — especially overnight. I was kind of scared. Whenever I came though, all the counselors were really nice,” JC explained. “Then the first actual day came and we did all these activities and went to church – it was really fun.”
WinShape wasn’t just JC’s first time at camp; it also marked the first time that he had ever truly come to know who God is.
“Before that, I wasn’t really a huge ‘go to church’ or ‘worship’ kind of person. But at Ignite, I started actually singing because I knew the words from other nights and started actually realizing that it’s fun — so during it, I was really emotional. I started crying. But it wasn’t sad; it was happy.”
JC goes on to explain that it was at Ignite his first summer where he made the decision to follow Jesus for the very first time.
“That night, everything opened my eyes that I should change and I should worship our God.”
His decision to follow Christ was something that caused an evident change right away.
“I saw it IMMEDIATELY,” explained his mother, Shana McDowell. “It was like he could not wait to live life and keep that fire going. He carried that on his experiences from WinShape in the way that he talked to me; there was more respect for me as a parent. I could see a difference in the way he responded to things.”
JC also saw changes not just in his spiritual life and his emotional life, but in his physical appearance as well.
“When JC started going, I had just gotten a divorce one year earlier in 2013,” explained Ms. McDowell. “It was in that year that the weight begin to pile on, while transitioning through this life event.”
“But when he went to camp, he became more emotionally stable — and with all of the activities and gaining confidence, he dropped 65 lbs.”
After his first summer, JC began playing football and participating in activities he had never tried before. His newfound confidence and trust in the Lord was what truly “ignited” this transformation.
While at camp, JC not only learned how to turn to the Lord in his struggles, but also gained a mental and emotional peace that he carried on into his everyday life.
“It was really hard, but I think that WinShape was just in time and his right in time season for him,” said Ms. McDowell. “The fruits of that week last all year long. I see it in all the things that he does. It’s because of his time at WinShape. It’s like he’s a different child.”
Amidst the changes in his character and physical appearance, Ms. McDowell believes that the most impressive changes have been in her son’s relationship with God.
“His relationship with God is REAL,” she exclaimed. “It’s so difficult to believe that there’s a God when you can’t see Him. But I feel that for JC’s age, as he’s going through circumstances, he’s pulling his experiences from WinShape into those experiences. He is way more secure in his relationship with God, and that’s pretty big for somebody who is 13 years old.”
Though JC and his family are attending a new church, he is already looking to get involved with the children’s ministry to share all that he has learned. He also hopes to share his passion for the Lord while serving as a staffer for WinShape in the future.
“When he was at camp, he kept telling the counselors, ‘I want to do what you’re doing,’” said Ms. McDowell. “I can’t wait to see what he does.”
During his interview, JC also expressed a love for his counselors Cargo, Cray Cray, and Sandman, who truly left an impact on him and led him with boldness during his time at WinShape.
From providing spiritual guidance to sparking an interest in the Ukulele — shoutout to Cargo — the staffers at WSC for Boys at Cleveland planted seeds of joy and hope in the heart of JC.
Ms. McDowell believes that sending her son to camp is not just a summer activity, but is an investment in the spiritual life of JC.
“Most parents see the cost of camp and hesitate to send their kids — but they don’t understand what happens. We’re seeing the fruit EVERYDAY. 365 days a year,” exclaimed Ms. McDowell. “Break that down to how much that is a day — it’s nothing. It gives families a chance to invest in the future of their child.”
It is our prayer that the experiences offered at WinShape Camps transform every aspect of our camper’s lives — even outside of camp — and JC’s story is a beautiful testament to the transformative power of Christ on display at WSC.