Fort Benning starts AWANA program
Eight-year-old Spencer Eifler struggles to keep the balloon balanced on his and 9-year-old Joseph McCaffrey's shoulders as the team finishes a relay race during AWANA Sept. 30.

FORT BENNING, GA - Fort Benning kicked off its first night of AWANA Sept. 30 at the School Age Services Center, welcoming more than 50 volunteers and 115 children.

What is AWANA'

"AWANA stands for 'approved workmen are not ashamed' and it's from 2 Timothy 2:15," said Rachel Bogle, AWANA secretary.

"Basically, it's saying we should study the Bible. That's what Paul was telling Timothy: we should study the Bible and know what it's saying," said AWANA commander, Chaplain (LTC) Tom Wild, 198th Infantry Brigade chaplain.

"The goal of AWANA is to reach boys and girls with the gospel of Christ and train them to serve him."

A worldwide Christian-based program, AWANA is open to Fort Benning children ages 3 to sixth grade. The free program will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday at the new School Age Services building on Ingersoll Street.

It's held there because more people signed up than the Follow Me Chapel could accommodate.

"Kids have fun when they go to AWANA," Bogle said. "It's just different than any other experience they've ever had. They get to play games and do crafts, and it makes learning about God and (scripture) memorization fun."

Typical activities include an opening ceremony, team-based games, songs and small group time, where children work through age-appropriate handbooks.

When they finish workbooks, bring a friend or "wear a crazy hat for crazy hat night," they can earn rewards, badges for their vests or even plaques, Bogle said, similar to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

"It's exciting," said 9-year-old Ryan Figgins, who attended AWANA at a church in Illinois before he moved to Fort Benning. "They have great games, and it's really fun to memorize the verses with your friends."

Many of the kids attending AWANA Wednesday, including 10-year-old Kate Miller, had never been to the program before. Kate saw a sign-up sheet at the Follow Me Chapel and heard good reviews from other kids, so she wanted to try it out, she said.

"I like it," Kate said, after one night of activities. "It's impressed me how the people are so nice. They encourage you. They teach you about God in a way you can understand. And you can have fun while you're learning."

Spanning 80 denominations, all 50 states and more than 100 countries, AWANA is great for military kids because it gives them something familiar nearly anywhere they move, Wild said.

"This is the fourth installation I've been at that I've had the privilege to be part of starting up an AWANA club," said Wild, who left clubs of about 100 kids each in West Point, N.Y., Fort Polk, La., and Bamberg, Germany, that are still going strong today.

"So I have seen how much the kids enjoy it and how much the parents like to see the kids in AWANA. Once people get involved and see what a great program it is, they don't want it to stop.

"All the chaplains and congregations on post have been very supportive, and we really appreciate the staff at SAS Center for allowing us to use their beautiful new facility."

All volunteers undergo background checks and receive training in advance.

For more information, call Wild at 706-544-9458 or Bogle at 334-855-4457.

Page last updated Thu October 8th, 2009 at 18:23