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- An Awana alumnus, Ed Gossien trusted Christ for his salvation in Awana at age 8.
- Ed and his wife, Kim, partnered with their church to nurture an enduring faith in their two kids.
- Ed now serves as an Awana missionary in the Pacific Northwest.
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‘Awana Was Like a Sense of Rescue for Me’
How God used Awana to change Ed Gossien’s life and give him a lifelong calling to serve Him
Ed Gossien grew up in northern California with his parents, an older sister and two younger brothers. The Gossien family attended First Baptist Church, and Ed and his siblings participated in Awana.
As a young boy, Ed found Awana to be a safe and caring place each week. Things at home were sometimes challenging.
“For me, I loved the connectedness I felt in Awana,” Ed said. “The man who drove the bus was friendly and consistent week after week. The leaders made me feel cared for and loved. They wanted me to know I was special.
“I worked hard in Awana because I knew the leaders loved me and I’d do anything for them. I liked the awards and candy, but it was the leaders who were loving and consistent that made all the difference in my life.”
Ed heard the gospel message explained at Awana one night when he was 8 years old and trusted Christ as Savior. It changed his life.
“Awana was like a sense of rescue for me,” Ed said. “I have such gratitude for Awana and the leaders who cared for me.”
Trophies are nice, but God’s Word remains
As an athlete who excelled in football and wrestling in high school, Ed accumulated many trophies over the years. But the only trophy in his possession today is his Awana Timothy Award.
“It sits on my desk as a reminder of all I learned earning the Timothy Award,” Ed explained. “God’s Word changed my life, and the award is a visual representation of my precious years in Awana.”
Getting on God’s path
After attending Linfield College in Oregon for two years, Ed knew the path he was on did not lead to the kind of life God intended for him.
“I became spiritually lazy in college,” Ed said. “I made some bad choices, and in my spirit I knew better. Verses I had memorized in Awana often came back to me. God used them like a hot poker to drive me back to Him.”
Ed decided it was more important to be in a right relationship with God than to pursue a career or further education. He left college and didn’t look back.
He transitioned to a job in the restaurant business and later managed restaurants for 15 years. In 1981, Ed married Kim, a girl he knew in high school who attended the same church. They settled in Sacramento, California and had two children: Heather, now 25 and married, and Matthew, 23 and also married.
Giving back to a ministry God used to change his life
When Ed and Kim started bringing their kids to Awana, one of the leaders discovered Ed had been in Awana as a young boy.
“He said to me, ‘You went to Awana?” Ed recalled. “‘We need a director.’”
Ed and Kim began serving as directors, and it was trial by fire. But they loved every minute of it. They also learned about Awana missionaries in Germany and developed a heart for that country.
A calling to full-time ministry in Awana
In 1994, Ed sensed God directing him into full-time ministry as an Awana missionary. He thought maybe he’d serve overseas in Germany.
He joined an Awana ministry team and began the procedure of applying for the missionary role in the summer. It’s often a two-year process, but Ed interviewed in October and was at Awana headquarters in January 1995 for missionary training.
Ed served churches and leaders in northern California and northern Nevada for 10 years. In 2005, he and his family moved to Oregon to assume the lead missionary role for the Pacific Northwest. His region includes Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska and Washington. He oversees missionaries in these states and also about 140 churches.
With a heart for Awana in the U.S., Ed’s passion for Germany never wavered.
Starting Awana in Germany
In 2001, Ed traveled to Germany for two weeks and helped start the first Awana club in the former East Germany.
“The four of us on the trip started playing games in a park to draw interest,” Ed said. “The club we helped start is still going strong today.
“Kim and I went back in 2005 with a team of eight high-school girls. We helped another church plant a new club.”
The life of an Awana missionary
There’s really no such thing as a typical week for an Awana missionary.
“Each week, I communicate a lot by phone and e-mails to missionaries and commanders,” Ed explains. “I explain new products, travel to several churches and try to be an encouragement to others. I also am an advocate for Awana and speak in churches when I get the opportunity.”
Ed’s long history with Awana allows him to lead his ministry team with an extensive knowledge base and a heart to serve others.
“Ed’s ability to challenge and motivate the missionaries in his region make him a great lead missionary,” said Arlyn Nies, the regional missionary to the North West and North Central regions who trained Ed. “I appreciate Ed’s heart and compassion for the Lord and the missionaries and leaders with whom he works. Ed is easy to work with and is a forward thinker, always looking for ways to improve the ministry.”
A teammate in life and ministry
Ed and Kim have been married for 28 years and are teammates in life and ministry. Kim serves as the T&T (third- to sixth-grade) secretary at Salem First Baptist in Salem, Oregon. In fact, you’ll find the whole Gossien family at Awana on Wednesday nights. Son Matthew helps with Game Time, and his wife, Joy, is a T&T leader. Matthew earned his Awana Citation Award in 2005. Daughter Heather and her husband, Joel, are the T&T directors. Heather earned her Citation Award in 2003.
“Our highest priority for our children is that when it is all said and done, they would be walking firmly with the Lord,” Ed said. “Heather and her husband are T&T directors in our club. Matt is our T&T game director, and his wife is a T&T leader. We are so proud of their continued involvement in Awana.
“However, what is most important is that their involvement reflects the commitment they have to serving Christ. Our kids, because of their firm biblical foundation, greatly due to Awana, are able to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Ultimately, the most important contribution that Awana made to our children surrounds their salvation. Heather trusted Christ when she was in Sparks (kindergarten to second-grade program). She then led her little brother to Christ when he was only 4.”
A vision for the Pacific Northwest
One of the driving forces in Ed’s life is the vision he has for the Pacific Northwest; it’s what gets him out of bed each day.
“I want every child in my region to have the same opportunity to go to Awana as I did,” Ed said. “We’re not even close yet. We need more Awana programs.
“Sometimes ministering in the Pacific Northwest feels like being an outsider looking into a very different world. Some have said that it is the least churched part of the country. We have over three million people where we live in Western Oregon alone. That means there are about one million under the age of 13 that need Christ. The need is great. I’m a part of a very committed team with a singular mission, and it’s great to see that.”