Youths find spiritual enrichment in Awana
December 9, 2011
By Wendy Brown
WIESBADEN, Germany -- The words Nathaniel Enriquez, 8, uses to describe why he enjoys the Awana religious education program are a testament to its popularity among children.
"You get to learn stuff like Bible verses and Bible stories," Enriquez said, describing what he does at Awana meetings.
Note, he said, "get to."
Enriquez, who has participated in the program since his preschool years, said the program is also a lot of fun.
Rachel Kistler, Awana director, said she would like more people to know about the program, which meets from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the Wiesbaden Middle School gym. The program is nondenominational Christian, and children 3 years old through sixth grade are welcome to participate, she said.
During meetings, children hear Bible stories, memorize Bible verses, sing songs and play games, Kistler said. Children are split into three groups. The "Cubbies" are of preschool age, the "Sparks" are in kindergarten through second grade, and the older children are in the "T&T" group (short for Truth and Training).
Each week's meeting has a theme, and at the Nov. 29 meeting, Enriquez dressed up like a cowboy for the program's "old fashioned" theme. About 75 children attended the meeting.
Dressed up in 1960s garb, Bekah Covey, 12, said she has participated in Awana since preschool. She thinks it is a great program for all kids, she said, but especially for children who have never been to church. The program gives newcomers the chance to learn about Christianity.
Also, "It's a good place to meet other kids and make friends," Covey said.
Her father, Chaplain (Maj.) James Covey, said Awana is a popular program at U.S. military installations throughout the world because it is nondenominational Christian. Protestants, Catholics, Baptists -- the Christian denomination does not matter -- participate in the program, he said.
While one of the challenges of military life is the frequent moves, Awana has been a constant in his children's lives because of its presence on military bases, said Covey, who has been a military chaplain for nine years.
The chapel system supports Awana by providing literature and supplies, he said.
Awana is a worldwide organization that began in Chicago in 1950, according to Awana's website. Since then, the organization has grown to work with 22,000 churches and orphanages in more than 100 countries.
Also, the organization works with more than 100 Christian denominations, according to Awana's website.
Angel Cruz, father of Autumn, 4, and Savannah, 5, said his family participates in the program because he and his wife Sarah want their daughters to grow up learning about their religion. "It's good to give them a good Christian foundation so they understand church," he said.
Also, the program provides the girls with an opportunity to socialize with other children their ages, Cruz said.
Kistler said the program is free.
About 30 adults and teenagers volunteer to make Awana happen, Covey said, but the program is always looking for more volunteers. People can contact Covey at mil 335-5173 for more information. People may also contact Kistler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Awana go to http://awana.org.