Droves of children in bright red Awana Club vests entered Liberty Chapel to learn and have fun with their friends during a meeting Sunday night.
Captain Elliot Pernula, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, is the commander of Fort Campbell’s Awana Club. He said the club is designed for children across the installation.
“Awana Club is a nondenominational Bible club that focuses on the study and memorization of scripture, combined with games and teaching,” Elliot said. “This is for any kid from any organization on Fort Campbell who wants to come, and is willing to have fun and play games with a focus on memorizing Bible verses.”
Through lesson plans and workbooks, children in the Awana Club learn to grow as Christians.
“All of the lessons come straight from Bible verses, but they all have real life applications, so one of the challenges is to not just do rote memorization, but to apply what they learn,” he said.
This year, 120 children are enrolled in the program, which began in early September. The 120 slots were filled within three hours of open registration, Elliot said.
“We fill up very quickly,” he said. “However, we do maintain an active wait list, so if there are any openings we can get another child involved as quickly as possible.” Pernula said the program had a rocky start this year, because he deployed to Baghdad about a month before the program began.
However, his wife, Olivia Pernula, stepped up to lead the program as interim commander for four months. Her husband returned to Fort Campbell just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his Family.
Olivia said although she has been involved with Awana for several years, serving as a leader and director, this was her first time taking on the role of commander.
“Taking care of all the children, the adults and the parents was overwhelming,” she said. “I knew the Lord would give us the grace to do it, but I still had to take a deep breath in and ask the Lord for help.”
To be prepared for the 2016 program, Olivia began designing lesson plans, organizing supplies and completing background checks on the group leaders about eight weeks in advance.
Although her husband was deployed, Olivia said she still relied on him for guidance and support to continue running the program in his absence. She had to call him a few times just to find out where he kept supplies.
“At one point our secretary asked me where our [supply] cabinets were and I didn’t know, because they had moved the cabinets,” she said. “Trying to find the commander’s book was another thing. I didn’t think I would need it, but I ended up needing it.”
Elliot said he is proud of his wife and her ability to keep the program running smoothly.
“Olivia did awesome. I knew she would be able to do it,” he said. “I had no worries or concerns and I was able to focus on the mission while I was gone. I was able to support the Awana Club from afar and watch as it grew and they continued to do awesome things.”
Elliot and Olivia were members of the Awana Club when they were children. They said it has been fun to see their children participate in the club meetings and enjoy it as much as they did when they were younger.
“Right away we knew we wanted our kids to be a part of this,” Olivia said.
Each week, more than two million youngsters, 330,000 volunteers and 260 field staff take part in the Awana Club program in 30,000 churches globally, according to the 2015 Awana Annual Report.
“It’s a wonderful way to teach your children the Bible and discipleship,” Olivia said. “It’s a great way to serve the children and to prepare them for being leaders and Christians. It’s just something we really enjoy doing.”
April Curry, secretary for Fort Campbell’s Awana Club, said her Family was first introduced to the program several years ago by a friend while they were stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“It’s an awesome program,” Curry said. “These kids are learning so much. They are bonding with other kids who are part of the same faith. They are learning a lot more than just Bible verses.”
The Awana Club has served as a foundation of stability for the Curry Family over the past 12 years.
“We have PCSed six times in the past 12 years,” Curry said. “But at every installation we have participated in the Awana Club on post.”
Despite moving frequently, Awana Club has been something for her children to look forward to at every installation, especially for her oldest daughter.
“My oldest daughter has been in this since she was a Spark,” she said. “At first she was just learning the verses, but now she is learning the morals of the stories. You can see a change in her. She is an obedient child, very helpful and loves to learn. [Awana Club] has been a huge part of her life.”
For more information or to add your child to the Awana Club wait list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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