Awana Was a Staple of My Childhood
Love for God and others leads Mandy Hornbuckle to a fulfilling career and a desire to serve

A few months ago, Mandy Hornbuckle’s box of Awana memories tumbled out the back of a truck going 60 miles per hour down a Texas highway. The box contained old Awana uniforms, pins and her Citation Award, the highest achievement in Awana. Mandy Hornbuckle earned the Citation Award for learning Scripture verses and truths

As the box hit the pavement, the contents scattered all along the road.

“My dad and his friend stopped the truck, and my dad played Frogger across the busy highway to gather the contents of the box,” Mandy explained. “It's a good thing that this wasn't the most important thing I gained from my 14 years in Awana. But it's still kind of sad. They recovered my Citation Award and it’s a bit scratched, but I’m glad it survived.”

The Citation Award is a reminder of the powerful influence of Awana in giving Mandy solid footing for a relationship with Christ and a biblical perspective on life.

“Awana gave me a strong foundation for my faith and the ability to defend my faith to anyone who asks,” she said. ”I know what I believe and why.”

Growing up with a solid spiritual foundation for life
Mandy and her older brother were raised in a loving Christian home in a suburb of Dallas. Her parents’ strong faith in Christ impacted her life at a young age. She trusted Christ as her Savior as a young girl. Church played an important role in their family life.

“My parents were good spiritual examples to me,” Mandy said. “I started attending Awana when I was 4 years old and continued through high school. I also attended Awana camp each summer, where I experienced a lot of spiritual growth.”

Mandy’s parents, Jim and Michelle Crawford, were Awana leaders for many years. They knew the benefit the program provided in building a strong spiritual foundation in their daughter.

“Mandy repeatedly used Scripture to clarify her point and stress the importance of what the Bible had to say on a subject,” Jim remembered. “It wasn't a game circle and grabbing bowling pins anymore. It wasn't memorizing chunks of text to get blue plastic awards for her shirt. It was a foundation built on solid rock.”

Most parents worry about peer pressure and that their kids will be led down the wrong path. Jim and Michelle didn’t have such concerns in Mandy’s case. 

“Her understanding of Scripture made us comfortable with the unknown that intimidates so many families,” Jim said.

A chance to give back
Mandy now serves as an Awana leader. Here she poses during Decorate a Leader Night Last year, Mandy began serving as an Awana leader at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where Chuck Swindoll serves as senior pastor. She knew it was time to give back to the ministry that had helped shape her life and been such a staple of her childhood. So far, it’s been quite an adventure.

Mandy’s group of third- and fourth-grade girls in Truth & Training club are off to a great start this year in Awana.

“My group of girls seems to be multiplying every time I come back, which is wonderful and terrifying all at once,” Mandy said.

One of the best things about serving in Awana is the chance to impact young girls’ lives.

“Time after time, these kids amaze me with their developing personalities and senses of humor,” Mandy described. “I love seeing the lesson click for them during Large Group Time or when I’m explaining a verse and they get it. I also love how excited they get during Game Time when their team wins first place.

“I enjoy the little notes they give me and the jokes they tell me. I love hearing their voices recite the Word of God.”

Using her gifts to make a difference
With a degree in communications and journalism from Texas A&M University, Mandy landed a job as a broadcast editor for Insight for Living, the Bible-teaching radio ministry featuring Chuck Swindoll. Mandy takes Chuck’s edited messages and adds music and an announcer’s voice before they air each day on stations around the world.

“I love my job. The people I get to work with are great,” Mandy said.

Not only does she work professionally full time and serve as an Awana volunteer, but Mandy also loves to use her gifts to serve others in unique ways.

Last month, she started a ministry Web site called Survival Mode Parent. The goal of this site is to match people who need help while their child is in the hospital to people who are willing to provide for basic needs. She has formed a network of volunteers from every part of the country to help parents facing a crisis.

“It’s what Jesus taught,” Mandy said. “We need to be there for others in their time of need.”

Finding love through a black belt
As Mandy’s taekwondo instructor, Jack Hornbuckle helped Mandy earn her black belt. Along the way, they also fell in love and were married March 22, 2008. Mandy’s parents learned taekwondo from Jack, too, and both have black belts.

Jack competes around the country in taekwondo and finished second in the 2009 Taekwondo World Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas.

They live in Allen, Texas in the house Mandy grew up in. Her parents live two houses away.

“The nice thing about this house is that because this is the house I grew up in since I was 4 years old, it has a lot of sentimental value to me as well,” Mandy said. “No matter how much work it is to fix things that break and upgrade the things we want, I'm so glad to be making memories as newlyweds in the same house that I made memories as a child.”

Hopefully there’s a place on the wall for a scratched and dented Citation Award.


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