Awana Was a Staple of My Childhood
Love for God and others leads Mandy Hornbuckle to a fulfilling career and a desire to serve

A few months ago, Mandy Hornbuckle’s box of Awana memories tumbled out the back of a truck going 60 miles per hour down a Texas highway. The box contained old Awana uniforms, pins and her Citation Award, the highest achievement in Awana. Mandy Hornbuckle earned the Citation Award for learning Scripture verses and truths

As the box hit the pavement, the contents scattered all along the road.

“My dad and his friend stopped the truck, and my dad played Frogger across the busy highway to gather the contents of the box,” Mandy explained. “It's a good thing that this wasn't the most important thing I gained from my 14 years in Awana. But it's still kind of sad. They recovered my Citation Award and it’s a bit scratched, but I’m glad it survived.”

The Citation Award is a reminder of the powerful influence of Awana in giving Mandy solid footing for a relationship with Christ and a biblical perspective on life.

“Awana gave me a strong foundation for my faith and the ability to defend my faith to anyone who asks,” she said. ”I know what I believe and why.”

Growing up with a solid spiritual foundation for life
Mandy and her older brother were raised in a loving Christian home in a suburb of Dallas. Her parents’ strong faith in Christ impacted her life at a young age. She trusted Christ as her Savior as a young girl. Church played an important role in their family life.

“My parents were good spiritual examples to me,” Mandy said. “I started attending Awana when I was 4 years old and continued through high school. I also attended Awana camp each summer, where I experienced a lot of spiritual growth.”

Mandy’s parents, Jim and Michelle Crawford, were Awana leaders for many years. They knew the benefit the program provided in building a strong spiritual foundation in their daughter.

“Mandy repeatedly used Scripture to clarify her point and stress the importance of what the Bible had to say on a subject,” Jim remembered. “It wasn't a game circle and grabbing bowling pins anymore. It wasn't memorizing chunks of text to get blue plastic awards for her shirt. It was a foundation built on solid rock.”

Most parents worry about peer pressure and that their kids will be led down the wrong path. Jim and Michelle didn’t have such concerns in Mandy’s case. 

“Her understanding of Scripture made us comfortable with the unknown that intimidates so many families,” Jim said.

A chance to give back
Mandy now serves as an Awana leader. Here she poses during Decorate a Leader Night Last year, Mandy began serving as an Awana leader at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where Chuck Swindoll serves as senior pastor. She knew it was time to give back to the ministry that had helped shape her life and been such a staple of her childhood. So far, it’s been quite an adventure.

Mandy’s group of third- and fourth-grade girls in Truth & Training club are off to a great start this year in Awana.

“My group of girls seems to be multiplying every time I come back, which is wonderful and terrifying all at once,” Mandy said.

One of the best things about serving in Awana is the chance to impact young girls’ lives.

“Time after time, these kids amaze me with their developing personalities and senses of humor,” Mandy described. “I love seeing the lesson click for them during Large Group Time or when I’m explaining a verse and they get it. I also love how excited they get during Game Time when their team wins first place.

“I enjoy the little notes they give me and the jokes they tell me. I love hearing their voices recite the Word of God.”

Using her gifts to make a difference
With a degree in communications and journalism from Texas A&M University, Mandy landed a job as a broadcast editor for Insight for Living, the Bible-teaching radio ministry featuring Chuck Swindoll. Mandy takes Chuck’s edited messages and adds music and an announcer’s voice before they air each day on stations around the world.

“I love my job. The people I get to work with are great,” Mandy said.

Not only does she work professionally full time and serve as an Awana volunteer, but Mandy also loves to use her gifts to serve others in unique ways.

Last month, she started a ministry Web site called Survival Mode Parent. The goal of this site is to match people who need help while their child is in the hospital to people who are willing to provide for basic needs. She has formed a network of volunteers from every part of the country to help parents facing a crisis.

“It’s what Jesus taught,” Mandy said. “We need to be there for others in their time of need.”

Finding love through a black belt
As Mandy’s taekwondo instructor, Jack Hornbuckle helped Mandy earn her black belt. Along the way, they also fell in love and were married March 22, 2008. Mandy’s parents learned taekwondo from Jack, too, and both have black belts.

Jack competes around the country in taekwondo and finished second in the 2009 Taekwondo World Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas.

They live in Allen, Texas in the house Mandy grew up in. Her parents live two houses away.

“The nice thing about this house is that because this is the house I grew up in since I was 4 years old, it has a lot of sentimental value to me as well,” Mandy said. “No matter how much work it is to fix things that break and upgrade the things we want, I'm so glad to be making memories as newlyweds in the same house that I made memories as a child.”

Hopefully there’s a place on the wall for a scratched and dented Citation Award.

It’s Amazing
What God
Has Done

Otto Melby was a carefree 13-year-old from a loving Christian family in Chicago when an unexpected event rocked his world.

When his father passed away in 1949, Otto struggled profoundly with the loss. His mother became deeply concerned as she watched her son grow increasingly confused and angry with God and those around him. It was clear to her that he needed a male mentor to fill the void left by his dad’s death.

Read More

Using Her Gifts to Serve Others in Full-Time Ministry and Awana

A few months ago, Mandy Hornbuckle’s box of Awana memories tumbled out the back of a truck going 60 miles per hour down a Texas highway. The box contained old Awana uniforms, pins and her Citation Award, the highest achievement in Awana.Mandy Hornbuckle earned the Citation Award for learning Scripture verses and truths

As the box hit the pavement, the contents scattered all along the road.

Read More

Celebrating 50-Plus Years of Faithful Awana Service

Gwendetta Albright’s 50-plus years of faithful Awana service at a church in Chicago has changed lives in hundreds of families

Gwendetta Albright grew up on the west side of Chicago. She trusted Christ for salvation at a summer camp at age 13. She then started serving as an Awana leader two years later in 1958.

Read More

First Family Church: Using Awana to Reach Kids and Parents for Christ

A few years ago, Roger Stuart’s life changed dramatically. He trusted Christ for salvation through the ministry of First Family Church in Overland Park, Kansas.The Sparks children's ministry club at First Family Church in Overland Park, Kansas

“I came to First Family Church in hopes of finding a great children's ministry for my daughter,” Roger said. “I was more concerned with her spiritual growth than my own. But listening to my pastor preach, I felt like he wasn't talking to a congregation of 2,000; he was talking to me and my own personal struggles.

Read More

Hope Amidst Hardship

For 12 years, Carlton Carty knew only intense poverty and suffering. Now, thanks to an Awana program in central Jamaica, he knows Jesus as Savior.

The first time they met, Carlton Carty made an immediate impression on Brad Rostad—but not exactly a good one.

Read More

An Oasis
of Hope

The Awana program at the only evangelical church in Gaza is extending God’s love, truth and grace to kids and families in this volatile region.

Thursday and Friday afternoons, a haggard bus drives a circuit through garbage-strewn neighborhoods in one of the world’s most volatile and densely inhabited areas of the world, where half of the population is under age 15.

Read More

31 Years of Service Brings Generations to Lasting Faith in Christ

If you’re ever looking for someone from the Wallace family, there’s a good chance you’ll find them at Harvest Bible Chapel in Lake Zurich, Illinois on Monday nights.

Every Monday starting at 5:30 p.m., four generations of Wallace family members serve in Awana. Bob, age 85, and Lucille, 82, along with their daughter Diane and granddaughter Jill, are faithful leaders in the Sparks (kindergarten through second grade) and T&T (third to sixth grade) clubs. A great-grandson, Brayden, is only 1 and stays in the nursery but is certain to someday be in Puggles (for 2- and 3-year-olds).

Read More

The Model Awana Leader

Jim Barker was facing a dim future when his aunt brought him out of the backwoods of Tennessee to live in Chicago during the Great Depression.

Jim resided in one of the poorest sections of the city. He was painfully shy. He had a meager educational background. He wasn't good at sports. His Southern accent made him a target for insults. He didn't own a car and rarely had money in his pocket.

Read More

Baseball Continues To Be a Tool to Proclaim the Gospel

Alvin Davis has hit his share of home runs over the years. As first baseman for the Seattle Mariners from 1984 to 1991, Alvin racked up 160 home runs and batted .280 in 1,206 games. He homered in his first two big-league games and once belted a grand slam with both Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. on base. Alvin Davis played eight seasons and made the All-Star team with the Seattle Mariners

Alvin was named 1984 American League Rookie of the Year and was also selected that year for the All-Star Game. He was the first inductee into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame in 1997.

Read More

to Awana and Helping Their Own Kids Develop Lasting Faith

You may know what it’s like to get one or two kids ready for Awana and to church on time. But can you imagine getting six kids organized and out the door?

The Pilgrim family lives in Huntsville, Alabama, and all six children participate in Awana at Whitesburg Baptist Church every Sunday night:

Read More

Building a Worldwide Kids’ Ministry From the Ground up

Art Rorheim is co-founder of Awana. Art built Awana from the ground up from its early days as a weekly club program at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago.

Art was introduced to youth and children’s ministry in 1935 at age 17 when Lance Latham, his church’s pastor, asked him to serve as a club leader at the North Side Gospel Center.

Read More

Leading Awana to Influence Generations of Kids to Follow Christ

Since 1999, Jack Eggar has served as President/CEO of Awana. He has provided strategic leadership for the ministry’s efforts to equip churches and parents in raising children and youth to know, love and serve Christ. Under his guidance, Awana has expanded its impact from a total of 9,000 churches around the world in 1998 to over 22,000 as of 2011.

Knowing that parents are the key influencers in their children’s spiritual development, Jack invested vision and passion to give direction for the recent launch of the Modern-Day Joseph and Awana at Home initiatives.

Read More