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Lasting Faith, Love and a Life Partner
A strong biblical foundation, a desire to serve Christ and even marriage -- Rachel and Patrick Dudenhofer got it all in Awana
When Rachel Dudenhofer first started attending Sparks, the weekly Awana club for kindergarten through second grade, she had no idea that she would one day meet her husband through the Awana program.
“We first met when we were both attending Awana Canadian Adventure (a now-defunct summer camp) as 15 year olds!” Rachel shared. “My parents were Patrick’s counselors and got to know Patrick much better than I did that year. But over the coming years, we became friends, as did our families as we all ministered together throughout Michigan at Awana events.”
Rachel and Patrick remained friends through college.
“After we graduated from college, we even both participated in helping organize and take a small group of teens on a short-term mission trip to Peru,” Rachel said. “Patrick took the next step of asking my dad if he could court me in July 2006. We were married in August 2007. The Lord brought the most wonderful man into my life through Awana!”
Leadership gifts at a young age
Rachel’s walk with the Lord began when she accepted Jesus as her Savior at age 5. Her involvement in Sparks at Community Baptist Church in Edwardsburg, Michigan, was just the beginning of her time in Awana. She worked her way through all the programs, even becoming a student leader at 14, until she reached the highest achievement in Awana – the Citation Award.
“I remember loving every aspect of the Awana program. From the competition of Game Time as well as Handbook Time and the wonderful songs and stories during Large Group Time. My best friends are the same today as they were during my Awana years! So many fond memories and friendships were built through Awana.”
Rachel’s involvement with Awana did not end there. Today she is a registered nurse at a pediatrics office and volunteers as a Sparks leader at Washington Heights Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. She also plays the violin at church and Awana conferences. (She won the talent competition in 2000 at what is now called Summit, the annual gathering of Awana high-school students from across the country.)
“Awana molded my understanding of God and His Word,” Rachel said. “Awana has given me opportunities to share the good news with children and experience the joy of watching them come to know the Lord as their Savior and grow in Him."
Rachel highly recommends that parents send their children to Awana.
“Christian parents in the church can especially utilize the Awana program to aid their children in learning God’s Word and hiding it in their hearts as well as giving them more opportunities to hear more about Him through Large Group Time lessons,” Rachel said. “You never know when God may bring those verses you learned as a child back into your mind and draw you closer to Himself.”
Patrick Dudenhofer’s story
Patrick trusted Christ as his Savior when he was 6 years old.
“I was in the top bunk bed in my second-story bedroom during a very loud thunderstorm, and I knew (having heard the gospel through my parents, Sunday school and Sparks) that if I died I would not be in heaven with Jesus – so I trusted Christ while huddled under my blankets,” Patrick shared.
Patrick started attending Awana as a kindergartener in Sparks and continued through the middle-school program at First Baptist Church in Stanton, Michigan. Though the church did not have an official Awana high-school program, he completed Awana materials in high school to earn his Citation Award.
A leader in the making
Much like Rachel, Patrick has served as an Awana leader since ninth grade. He has been a Sparks game director but also served as a Sparks club director and assistant commander helping oversee a church’s entire Awana program while attending Cedarville (Ohio) University. Currently, he is a Sparks leader and the kindergarten game director, where he uses his gifts in trick roping, juggling, unicycling and balloon animal art.
He and Rachel also serve together on the Ohio Awana missionary ministry team, helping with Awana Bible Quizzing competitions, AwanaGames™ sporting events and Awana Ministry Conferences for local-church volunteers. Outside of Awana, Patrick is a computer scientist at the Air Force Research Lab.
Why choose Awana?
Looking back, Patrick sees how Awana prepared him to be a modern-day Joseph – faithfully following God through college and into adulthood.
“Awana provides a great foundation in God’s Word – and when clubbers participate in events like Bible Quizzing, God’s Word is etched even deeper in their hearts,” Patrick said. “When difficulties come or people want to know of the hope that is in you or how God views the issues and situations that we find ourselves in – those who have worked through Awana have a great start at knowing God and seeing things from His point of view.
“The opportunities for service for those who participate in the middle-school and high-school programs are amazing as well. Awana seeks to train young men and women to serve the Lord and provides many chances for them to exercise their knowledge of God and His Word in practical ways. They can minister as leaders for younger clubbers or serve as a line judge at AwanaGames. These kinds of opportunities encourage a pattern of service to the Savior that will carry on after teens earn their Citation Award and begin the next phase of their life’s adventure.”