Silly me! I had this all set to post last week and forgot to actually post it! Last Wednesday night was actually April 25.

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Last Wednesday night was the last Awana meeting until next fall starts the cycle again, and per longstanding tradition, it was the Awards Ceremony. Somebody from my family is always there, because somebody in my family is always up for an award. This year was no different. Kalyn earned her Excellence Award, and Kimberly brought home a Timothy.

Awana, an acronym for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, is an international organization for young people aged 3 to the decrepit age achieved by high school seniors. Its purpose is to “lead kids worldwide to know, love and serve Christ.” It was started in 1941 to reach kids in the Chicago area and seems to have grown steadily since. I’d guess that’s due to Awana’s fun factor. Kids are absolutely encouraged to memorize Scripture and study the Bible, but there are also crafts, story times, and games every meeting. In fact, Awana clubs have the opportunity to meet regionally and compete against other clubs during organized events. Bible Quizzing matches are often featured alongside of the tug of war and various running races.

As I indicated in the first paragraph, my family has been involved with Awana for quite a while. I started, assuming my memory isn’t faulty, in 1st grade. I was a wee Sparky running about in my red vest, saying verses from my campout themed manual and earning tiny jewels for the bronze crown decorating my vest. Jacob was probably in Sparks, too, but I don’t really remember that. Not long after, my parents also got involved. They were the Cubbies (3-4 year olds kiddos) directors, and next thing you know, we were all church on Wednesday going to Awana. It took me a while to be terribly enthusiastic about it, like probably 3 years. I know my third grade book didn’t get finished in my third grade year. In fourth grade, however, I completed it and my fourth grade book, which made me the first one to earn an Excellence Award. That was probably in ‘84. Kalyn, as the youngest sibling, is the – hmm… – 9th one to win an Excellence. Other than the words, our trophies don’t look a bit alike. Even the Awana logo has been redesigned, but, given the gap in years, I suppose that’s only to be expected. I continued on my overachiever streak through the rest of my time in Awana, earning the Timothy, Meritorious, and Citation awards, along with various others. I also served as a leader and listened to youngeruns reciting their verses, and I even went to Scholarship Camp, an institution which, sadly, no longer exists. I was closely followed by my brother, sisters, and mother. I am very proud of them all!

Barring Award Ceremonies, I don’t go to Awana any more. In my “old age,” the tiny jewels that I was always managing to lose and the trophies seem a bit cheesy. My nostalgic moments get tinted with my recollection of how Awana was perfectly capable of being nothing more than another evangelical Christian religious program falling very short of actually inspiring kids to “know, love and serve Christ.” Despite the cheese and the overbearing of (my) religion, I’m glad I completed the program. I memorized hundreds of verses. I read through the whole Bible. I had to spend some time helping others. I went to the Games, Quizzing, and camp. I made good friends. None of that is enough to make me love Christ (in fact, as a kid, I was more concerned with not sinning than loving Christ, which I’d classify as religious), but having made up my mind to love Christ, those experiences and that knowledge have been of incalculable assistance. I think my other family members would say something similar.

That makes me hope that Kimberly and Kalyn will continue. There’s value in consistency, in finishing something that is sometimes hard and takes more than a day or a week or even a year to complete. There’s worth in knowing something of what the Bible says without always having to look it up. It’s fantastic to, especially as a child or young adult, have the experience of helping to meet the needs of others. I hope my little sisters do all of that, and I hope one day they get their Citations, too. I think if they do, they, too, will find they’ve learned some lessons early in life that serve them well later.

Congratulations, Kalyn! You are doing so well!

Way to go, Kimberly! You’re even more awesome than a plate of spaghetti!