(This past spring I had the privilege of being involved with the Write-to-Publish Conference held each year in Wheaton, Illinois. One of my responsibilities was taking part in a panel discussion where I presented the ministry of Awana. In doing so, I talked about the Citation Scholarships – for those students who complete the 3rd-12th grade work. Afterward one of the writers, Emily Gehman, approached me and said, “I’m a Citation earner and I received a scholarship.” This is her story. Thanks Emily, for sharing it.)
If you would have told the fourth-grade version of me that going to Awana would help me go to college, I probably would have said, “What’s college?”
For me, Awana was just something you did. It wasn’t really a choice. My three older brothers all participated as kids, so naturally I did too. Not that I didn’t want to – I loved it.
But I loved it not because of the games, as many other kids might say. In fact, I didn’t really like Game Time at all. (Read: I only liked the games I was good at … which weren’t very many). No, I loved the memorizing, passing sections, and finishing books. I loved the challenge.
Now, I look back and realize that Awana fit perfectly with the personality and passions God was developing in me.
The Long Haul
I was in Awana when it was still “old-school.” I was a Chum, then a Guard, and received those sweet wood-plated trophies. I think I still have a grey throwback uniform hanging in my closet. Those were the days!
I made it (complete with three grand-prix cars and four years of Bible quizzing) through my Meritorious Award. That was the not-everybody-makes-it-here milestone, and my eighth grade self though I had arrived.
Then I found out that another four years could get me a college scholarship. (By this time, I had learned was college was.) I thought, why stop now? Not to mention college isn’t exactly cheap – and I had my heart set on Bible college.
So I continued on. Four years later and the day after my senior banquet, I stood before the church as our Awana missionary, Rick Stomps, commented on how many times we’d seen each other over the last ten years. I received the Citation Award and some help for college.
But I came out of Awana with a lot more than that.
I had gained a love and passion for studying God’s Word. I gained a desire to be a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Rest of the Story
… is that I studied Bible and Counseling at Baptist Bible College, one of the many schools that honor the Awana scholarship.
And the verses I learned in Awana are still in my head – and my heart – reminding me daily of the truth of Scripture.