Three years ago my life changed forever. I was sitting in my local mall’s food court and there was a poster advertising Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Camps. My curiosity was piqued and I had to know more. I signed up for my first summer as a youth volunteer for the 2011 WinShape Camps at Gulf Breeze, Florida. Camp came at such a crucial time in my life. I was in middle school and I had opportunities to get into so many things that could negatively impact my future. Seeing all of the staff members that have fully committed themselves to the Lord changed my perspective on everything. I saw how people who loved the Lord wholeheartedly lived, and that quickly became what I wanted my life to be like. Looking back on it now, I can’t imagine the kind of person I would be without getting to know Christ better. WinShape camps rescued me.
WinShape offers a unique experience for each camper. It caters to every possible interest for each child, offering a variety of skills from Soccer to Secret Ops. And with three choices, campers are able to immerse themselves in things that they love and even discover new passions throughout their week-long adventure. Another thing that I love about WinShape is how it presents Christ to the campers. WinShape goes much more in-depth than any other Christian camp that I’ve ever volunteered at, which is always a good thing! Each day has its own truth and saying that goes along with it, such as “Courage: Don’t just fight, rely on God’s might!” These truths are addressed throughout the day and then discussed again during Team Time, when staffers get intentional time with the campers in their groups. Team Time is just a small part of a larger, more incredible part of WinShape’s Camps for Communities: Villages. The Villages divide campers into three groups, Ocean, Safari, and Alpine, according to their age. (And just to be clear, the Ocean is the best!) I feel that the Villages help to give each camper an identify throughout the week. It makes them realize that they are a crucial part of their Village’s success, which encourages the children to bond together with the staffers and fellow campers to try to win Triangulation: a competition between all three Villages. Plus each Village has super-cool accessories such as t-shirts and sweatbands.
WinShape has many elements that makes incomparable to any other camp. It involves each camper’s family on Chick-fil-A Friday Family Fun Day, the final day of the week, which most camps don’t do. They get to participate in a shortened day of a camper. I love being able to watch the children share all they have learned about Christ throughout the week with their family. It’s evident how large of an impact the staffers have had on them. One thing about me is that I LOVE kids, like I really love them. It continues to amaze me how they can meet someone and instantly love them back. And that’s how I feel during the week of WinShape. Kids that I met the second I arrived were cuddled up to me when I was in Team Time rooms. As a volunteer, I can always see how everyone benefits from this week-long camp. It changes lives. WinShape transforms campers; it grows disciples and creates leaders. It’s truly the Best Week Ever!
Being a WinShape volunteer means the world to me. Whether it’s the week of camp or the middle of the year, I’m constantly thinking about camp because it consumes my life. Whenever I’m going through a difficult time I’ll pull out gifts from staffers, such as pictures, cards, and packages, and anything else that I have from camp. It always brightens my day while reminding me how the Lord has greatly blessed me with camp. WinShape is honestly my escape from the world that continually strengthens my relationship with the Lord each summer. The staffers that I’m blessed to work with are the most godly people I have ever met, they all have joy and love for the Lord radiating from them. Many staffers have become my life-long friends and role models. I’ve been able to watch my close staffer-friends graduate and even watch their love story unfold. It’s incredible how the Lord has placed each of these people into my life for a reason, because I wouldn’t be who I am without them. A lot of people don’t understand “why I take the religious thing so seriously”, so it’s nice that WinShape comes each summer. Every summer I’m introduced to more and more people that live the same lifestyle that I do. I get to share my journey with Christ with the campers and staffers and then get to learn more about how Christ has affected them. And the great thing is that our friendship doesn’t end when the Team leaves. I met up with Jessica at a UGA football game when I went up to Atlanta to visit family. I was also blessed to spend the final day of camp for the summer with the Red Team in Daphne, Alabama last year. How amazing is that?!
One of my most memorable WinShape moments was from 2012, my second summer as a youth volunteer. That Friday Jessica, a staffer that I had become close with, and I helped children accept Christ during the last Team Time. There was one boy in particular that was in the group that we were praying with. After we finished, he looked up at Jessica and I and said “I felt a ‘wave’ go through my body.” Jessica responded with, “That’s Christ entering your heart!”, to which he replied “I like the way that feels!” and then he gave the biggest, most joyful smile I’ve ever seen. Despite all efforts to keep it together, I completely broke down in tears once we entered the auditorium. And I’m not talking a few tears, it was like Niagara Falls. I have retold this story to so many people, and each time I get just as choked-up and emotional as the day that it happened. WinShape has helped many people all over the country, including me, come to know Christ better. It means the world to me to be able to experience moments like these with campers.
I can’t express enough gratitude toward WinShape. Camp faithfully continues to change my life. The thing is, campers and staffers may forget who I am, but I’ll never forget the way that they made me feel and all that they have done for me. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I’m able to become a WinShape staffer, and hopefully a director, myself. I want to do for other campers and staffers what they have done for me. I’ll admit another thing: I have a WinShape bucket list, and I feel like everyone needs one! It includes everything from visiting Mount Berry to owning super-cool things with the WinShape logo on it. This summer will be my fourth as a volunteer, but my first as a 16+ volunteer, and I couldn’t be more excited! All in all, I have no idea what my future holds. But one thing is for sure, WinShape will always be a large part of my life.
Gulf Breeze, FL