Their children were asking when AWANA was going to start again. They loved it. They were learning Bible verses and remembering them, not just memorizing to pass a test and then forgetting.
“We couldn’t imagine our kids missing out on AWANA just because no one was willing to step up and lead the program that had meant so much to them and to us,” said Andrew Ward. He and his wife Brooke have been Crossroads’ members since 2018 when at a friend’s invitation, they visited Crossroads and found the church to be doctrinally sound, friendly and a place to serve.
So they discussed it, prayed about it, and decided the Lord wanted them to be the ones to step up and be Crossroads’ new AWANA commanders. “Not that we know that much about how to lead AWANA,” Andrew said, explaining the extent of his involvement had been little more than listening to children recite the memory verses they had been learning.
“If we can serve in some way, we’ll do it. We’ll figure it out,” Andrew said, counting on help and guidance from Pastor Richard, Creative Ministries Pastor Rhett Marley and from Angela Gravely, who has hands-on AWANA experience. Their most pressing challenge is finding and recruiting volunteer workers.
“We don’t want to confine this AWANA program to just Crossroads people,” Andrew said. “Our aim is to expand to include the community.” He agrees that by reaching out to children, they are reaching out to the children’s parents as well.
Although they grew up in the same Baptist church in Manning, S.C., “I knew his family, but I didn’t know Andrew,” Brooke said. “We met at our pastor’s house. It was our youth pastor’s plan for us to meet.” They married in 2010 and have four children: Carys, 8, Davis, 6, Coen, 4, and Elliotte, 2.
Andrew is a graduate of The Citadel, served eight years as an Army officer, and studied apologetics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Brooke is a nursing graduate of Charleston Southern University and worked as a pediatrics nurse in Raleigh, N.C.
They both profess faith in Christ from an early age—Andrew at 7 and Brooke in Vacation Bible School. But their awareness of God’s presence in their life came later. Andrew recalls an incident in the Army when a fellow soldier challenged his faith. He claimed the only reason Andrew was a Christian was because of his Baptist upbringing in the Bible-belt South. If he had been born in Iraq where they were stationed, he would be a Muslim.
The confrontation made him question: “With all the other faith claims what made his right? What rational basis do I have?” The questions and doubts led him to a study of apologetics at Southeastern. Brooke credits the mentoring of a high school math teacher for a closer relationship with the Lord.
As for their role as AWANA commanders, “I don’t know all we’re getting into but it’s going to work out,” Brooke said.