Great Britton Upbringing Yields Lasting Results
Family’s siblings credit parents, Awana for preparing them to follow Christ as adults, whether raising their own kids, working overseas or serving children in an inner-city church
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Mark and Diane Britton are the parents of eight children. They spent their child-rearing years on a farm in Cassopolis, Michigan, with goats, horses, pigs and chickens. Everyone had chores and plenty of playmates.
Mark served as associate pastor at Community Baptist Church in Edwardsburg, Michigan. He and his wife encouraged their kids to participate in Awana, starting with the Cubbies preschool program and going through the high-school ministry, Journey.
“Awana is so effective in grounding kids in the truths of God’s Word,” said Mark, who became an Awana missionary for northern and upper Michigan in 1997. “Through its input and study, our kids were exposed to the gospel and had an understanding of what that all meant. They each trusted Christ as Savior at a young age.
“Awana has been and continues to be important in the life of our family. It’s a real blessing.”
Six of the grown Britton kids have earned the Citation Award, the highest achievement in Awana, and are currently serving in Awana at churches in Ohio and Michigan. Here are three of their stories.
Sarah graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a degree in music performance. After graduation, she served as a missionary in Peru and taught music. She also served at an Awana club in Peru.
After moving back to the U.S., she settled in Dayton, Ohio, and is in her third year as a music teacher at Dayton Christian School. Awana continues to be a priority in her life.
“Awana has been a big part of my life,” said Sarah, 27, who earned the Citation Award in 1999. “A group of us worked together towards the award, and we have lots of great memories. Several of us are now serving together in Awana at Washington Heights Baptist Church in Dayton.”
Every Wednesday night, Sarah leads a group of girls in T&T and also helps as game director. As if that wasn’t enough of a commitment, she also serves on Sunday nights as a Trek (middle-school) leader at Immanuel Baptist Church in the inner city of Dayton.
“It’s a very different Awana experience Wednesday and Sunday nights,” Sarah said. “With my inner-city group, the kids are not there to get through the books. Their main motive for coming is to see people who care for them and show love to them. We don’t have one student who comes from a two-parent home.”
Awana keeps these kids off the streets and brings them to a place where they can learn God’s truth.
“Recently during Large Group Time, a middle-school girl who often gets in trouble at Awana for fighting raised her hand asking for prayer,” Sarah said. “She asked for the Holy Spirit to be evident in her life. So I know that God is getting through to her and she is changing.”
Beyond leading at two different Awana programs, Sarah is also a member of the Ohio Awana ministry team. She and the team provide assistance at conferences and special events.
Sarah’s passion for kids is obvious in her life.
“I know that my purpose on earth is to love God, enjoy Him fully and to express that love to others,” she said. “My desire is to reach out to as many people as I can. I believe one of the best ways to impact the world for Christ is by reaching kids through Awana. I think it’s the best youth ministry in the world!”
Sarah’s twin brother, Ben, also earned the Citation Award in 1999. He attended Cedarville University and helped with Awana at three different churches during his college years. He graduated with a degree in computer science.
“Having a solid Bible background from Awana really helped with my Bible classes in college,” Ben said. “I also learned about Bible study and how to study the Bible more in-depth.”
Ben had an opportunity to put his Bible training to the test during a semester studying abroad in the Middle East.
“I was exposed to services in mosques and to all kinds of religions and cultures,” Ben said. “Being in countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco made me think through why Christianity is right and what I really believe. My strong Bible background from Awana and college was extremely helpful in solidifying my beliefs.”
Ben’s passion for Awana continues in his current role as a Sparks leader and game leader serving with his sister and childhood Awana friends at Washington Heights Baptist Church in Dayton. He is also a part of the Ohio Awana ministry team and assists in coordinating Bible Quizzing.
“I participated in Varsity USA’s (now Summit’s) National Bible Quizzing when I was in high school,” Ben recalled.
Ben works full time as a software engineer at Northrop Grumman and is working on a master’s degree in computer science. He is married to Ann, who he met on a church mission trip to Mexico. They have two children: Caleb, age 2, and 7-month-old Hannah.
As commander at Calvary Baptist Church in Hillsdale, Michigan, Nathan, 22, may be young but is certainly not lacking in Awana experience. Like his siblings, he participated in Awana from Cubbies through Journey and earned his Citation Award in 2004.
Nathan serves as commander while studying at Hillsdale College and plans to graduate in May 2009 with a degree in political science. He helps run Awana clubs on Wednesday nights and leads the Trek program on Sunday nights.
“I started attending a church once I got to college and noticed they didn’t have Awana,” Nathan said. “I mentioned to the pastor that I was an Awana missionary kid, and he asked me to help him start the program. It’s a small church, and we usually have 10 to 12 kids a night. It’s such a blessing to be a part of it. I see how God uses Awana to work in children’s lives.”
Awana played a critical role in Nathan’s spiritual development. When he was 12 years old, his parents became Awana missionaries and the family moved to Kalkaska, Michigan. Nathan left his friends in Cassopolis and a different environment proved challenging.
“I struggled until the end of high school,” Nathan said. “But through Bible memory and God’s Word, I got through it. I was a part of National Bible Quizzing, and this was a big blessing. I studied for months, and it was a great growing experience for me. All that memory work has never left my heart.
“God taught me that no matter the circumstances, I need to keep going. At college, it can be a temptation to be slack about my faith, but Awana has really helped me keep my priorities straight. It’s all about Him, and I need to keep doing what God has asked me to do.
“Awana taught me what we are to do as Christians and the principles by which we are to live life.”
Nathan desires to share those truths with others and plans to attend seminary in fall 2009 to pursue a career in full-time ministry.