AWANA: Beyond Hip and Trendy

Tonight Sarah and I forfeited Wednesday night Bible study in favor of attending Evie’s AWANA awards ceremony. For the last six months Eve-Marie has had her nose planted in a small, red, spiral bound book memorizing Bible verses. For each section of her book she passes, she earns some fancy decorations for her super cool red vest. All sarcasm aside, the girl’s been a memorizing machine; plowing through an entire school year’s worth of material in half the time and tonight she earned the Sparks Blue Ribbon for finishing her book.

Now I am super proud of Evie. She worked hard for this honor, but I’m a little hesitant to endorse AWANA. It’s an all volunteer ministry so it’s really not a slick as I think ministry should be. There whole focus is Scripture memorization (Which has prompted lines like, “We were hoping you could get us into Heaven. We know a lot of Bible Verses“). Plus anytime you have kids running around in vests the dorkiness of the whole thing just kinda overwhelms me. I showed up tonight wearing arrogance like a rain parka, pretty much knowing how much cooler I was than everyone there.

The ceremony itself was about as lo-fi and homegrown as you’d expect. As each leader took the podium they gave a short synopsis on either the numerical growth or lack there of within their age group. There was a huge emphasis on the numbers and during the final address the speaker encouraged leader participation by saying literally, “I don’t aways want to be here but I show up anyway so you should to.”

I just thought to myself, “Where are the stories of change or impact? Where’s the accomplishment beyond just numbers? Please speak to me about relationships or something that I can understand as remotely dealing with Jesus Christ.”

Then it happened. The final presentation was the awards to all of the leaders for how many years they had been involved. Again numbers, but as they walked to the front I started to notice who they were.

They were all a bunch of ordinary people.

Overhanging stomachs and receding hair lines came parading by wearing an array of dorky, colored polos. To call the assembled crew “ragtag” would’ve been kind. But as I watched I caught a glimpse of what God can do, really what God does best. He takes the broken and the oppressed and remakes them into something beautiful. I tell you the faces of these saints were beauitful.

Here were all these people I’d been mentally snubbing and yet God had been using them. It’s like I was snubbing God. They may not be doing everything right, but they were following God passionately and I truely belive that God cares more about passion that doing things right. The whole experience really humbled me.


 

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