In the mid 1990s I served as the Awana Commander in my home church, First Baptist Church of Frostproof, Florida. I also had the opportunity to serve on the South Florida Awana Ministry Advisory Board. God used AWANA in my life as part of my call to the ministry of the Gospel. Awana is an acronym for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed” and is based on 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
My wife Emilee and I traveled to the Chicago area to the headquarters of Awana in 1997 for a “Discover Awana” experience. We seriously considered serving vocationally with Awana but God soon led us in a different direction. The trip proved to be pivotal as I had the opportunity to meet a spiritual giant in Art Rorheim.
Mr. Rorheim’s name is not particularly well known outside of the parachurch world, but he was the co-founder of Awana along with Lance Latham. He would go on to serve the organization for decades, and today Awana is in more than 100 countries today reaching millions of children. There are few people I have encountered in my life as genuinely spiritual as Mr. Rorheim was.
On our visit to the headquarters of Awana, we were welcomed into Mr. Rorheim’s office and encountered a humble, kind, and friendly man. He kept a large bowl of coins on a table in his office from all over the world. We were invited to take a few of the coins and were given a small globe. I still have the globe and the coins in my study. The visit with him was truly a blessing.
Awana is known for emphasizing Scripture memory. Art Rorheim practiced what he preached. He memorized significant portions of the Bible and expected Awana Staff to do the same. He was a special man who deeply loved the Word of God.
Some years later I saw Mr. Rorheim again at a graduation ceremony at Liberty University. He was recognized that day and received an honorary doctorate. Mr. Rorheim was frail from age by that time but had the same warm spirit and welcoming smile I remembered from years before. I thanked him and let him know how much his influence had meant to me personally and how he influenced my call to ministry.
Art Rorheim’s life goal is reflected in Awana’s purpose statement- “To reach boys and girls with the gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him.” He was faithful to the task to the end of his life. Only God knows how many people will be gathered around the throne in Heaven someday because of the influence of this man.
Genesis 25 records the death of Abraham, the servant of God. According to verse 8, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” Art Rorheim breathed his last at the age of 99, and died in a good old age on January 5th. I am grateful to God for the influence of this man, who was truly a spiritual giant.