Thursday, June 28, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Karen Wingate

When I Was Just a Kid

Karen and "Gunky" (her sock monkey)

Karen Wingate

Karen, as a teacher, knows first hand the thrill of reaching children for Christ. She has seized teachable moments over the years and found ways to reach even more children she will never meet by writing the VBS (Vacation Bible School) curriculum for Standard Publishing for eight years. With degrees in Christian education and a thirst for knowledge, she is always up for the next challenge. Now she is teaching teachers what she has learned with her blog.

As she shares her childhood, you can't help but see how this need to know and to reach out was a part of her that even she isn't sure how it came to be--except that God had special plans for her and she didn't shrink away from them. Always a doer, Karen gives 100 per cent: whether teaching (for 25 years,)writing her blog and curriculum, leading and speaking to groups in everything from historical research to teaching tips to writing, her much published writing, or playing her beloved piano (and she's taught piano,)helping her daughters grow into lovely young women, or helping her husband to meet his work's challenges as a pastor or just fixing a meal for the many visitors to their home and church.

Now, with a family of her own and as the wife of a minister in a very busy church life, Karen doesn't let things get her down for long. She trusts God and walks into challenges with faith that has grown over years of conversations with God and getting to know Him.

Let's see what it is that has given Karen a rich life of faith and determination:

Childhood Ambition: I was one of those enthusiastic children whose ambition was whatever struck my fancy at the moment. I flitted from one childhood dream to the next, one moment wanting to be a teacher, another, a librarian, yet another a professional musician. Most of all, I wanted to BE someone, someone important, someone others would notice. My mother couldn’t understand this drive I had to be in the limelight; I didn’t either. Perhaps it was because I didn’t get the attention at home I needed; perhaps it was also my desire to overcome the confines my severe visual loss I so craved to be known for something other than “Karen, the girl with the wiggly eyes and the Coke bottle bottom glasses.”

(Karen is the youngest in sibling photos--age 2 here)

Favorite Toy:When I was little, my grandma made me one of those sock monkeys. I couldn’t say Monkey, so I called it my 'Gunky' and the name stuck. (See photo at top)

Fondest Memory (then): James Whitcomb Riley wrote a poem entitled, “Out To Old Aunt Mary’s.” His reflections mirror my sentiments about Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Eldon’s home, the center of my fondest memories. Tucked against the foothills of the Rincon Mountains and on the threshold of the Saguaro National Monument in Tucson, Arizona, then home offered a place of serenity. I remember the hikes, the games, the meals, the slide shows of their most recent trip abroad. It wasn’t just the house; it was them. They are the most cheerful and positive people I know. They were always interested in us, always in for a good time, always willing to spend time with us.

Proudest Moment (now or then): I have written religious education curriculum for twenty years. We usually write material two years in advance. In 1999, I wrote VBS material for Standard Publishing with the title “Jesus to the Rescue.” The theme centered around rescue workers and rescue operations. It was slated to sell for VBS programs in 2001. In January 2002, I received a letter from the Direction of VBS ministries. She told how they had received numerous letters telling what a blessing the material had become to countless churches in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attack, that the theme of the material had prepared the children to see Jesus as our ultimate Rescuer. Two years before 9/11 happened, God knew and was guiding editors and writers to write the material that would minister to His people. I have won many awards and recognitions in my life that I could claim to be proud of. Yet at that moment, I was so proud to be part of a team of people that were working together to reach literally thousands of children with the comforting, saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: My biggest challenge was overcoming societal barriers because of my vision problem. I don’t think my parents realized how bad my vision was. I went to public school in an era before law mandated the education of the handicapped. I fought to be treated as normal, to do whatever everyone else did and maybe even go beyond what others did just to prove I could do it. My standards were irrationally high yet that struggle has made me strong and helped he realize just how much the human mind and body is capable of compensating for a loss.

My First Job: I worked for a summer as an interim activities director at the Tucson Association for the Blind. I was 19 years old. It still amazes me that the director had that confidence in me, for I planned events, arranged transportation, oversaw events. Most of my clients were elderly. On one of our excursions, a lady fell. She wasn’t hurt, but it scared her - and me too--but I acted calmly and reacted in ways I didn’t know existed within me.

Karen graduating with her mom from college

Karen says: My mom and I graduated together from college in 1982. She went back to college when she was 40 years old. It took her seven years, but she did it."

Childhood indulgence: Homemade ice cream! My family was very frugal and disciplined. Indulgence was a bad word. Yet when we made homemade ice cream, you just weren’t trying hard enough if you didn’t have at least two bowls of Grandma’s special recipe. Oh, and was it worthy!

(Crystal Editor's note: Karen has a great interest in food and cooking, and I've heard she is a fantastic cook--even taking up the challenge making tasty meals with dietary limitations.)

Also, much to my disciplined family’s duress, I indulged in reading. I remember hiding behind my grandmother’s couch to read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Grandma reminded me of the Nazi Gestapo as she came into the living room, saying, “Where’s Karen? She’s probably reading. I have to find her some work to do so she’ll stop reading.” She didn’t find me – that day!

(Crystal Editor's note: Whoo hoo! You knew you loved Karen, didn't you? Now that girl was destined to be a writer and we are richer for it.)

Karen at age 9

Favorite Outfit as a Child: One year, my mother made a pilgrim costume for Halloween. The next year, I took off the cap, the collar and the apron, chose a different hat and apron, donned hiking boots and sashayed into the streets as Granny from “Beverly Hillbillies!” I saved the costume and years later, my older daughter went as a pilgrim and my younger daughter as an Indian!

Favorite Childhood Movie: I didn’t watch many movies as a child. I’d rather read the book. I still remember hiding in the back of our truck when my family went to the drive-in theatre to see “Swiss Family Robinson.” I’ve always been a whimp about scary movies!

Favorite Childhood Book: My favorite was the one I currently held in my hands – with a few exceptions.

Childhood Hero: Toss up between Helen Keller and Jim Elliot. Their writings and philosophies about life and God influence my life to this day.

Go to to read the latest on teachers in Christian education issues and the inside scoop on what it’s really like to be a children’s ministry worker.
(Teaching Helps Inside the Classroom with Karen Wingate.)

Karen has written numerous articles and will soon have an article published in Pray! magazine entitled, “God’s Waiting Room: How to Endure the Silence of Unanswered Prayer.”

She is the official writer of the Standard VBS material for Primaries and Middlers and has done this curriculum for eight years.

Her three book series, Five Minute Sunday School Activities will be published in 2008 by Rainbow Publishers.

Salvation Army has just published her two year curriculum guide for their youth program aimed at unchurched kids.

Also, check out her contributions to Ministry in Motion ezine with ministry-related articles and advice.

Karen's Favorite Christian Ed Sites:
Children's Ministry at Christianity Today
Children's Ministry at Group Publishing
Danielle's Place
Rainbow Publishers
Susie's Kids
VBS at Gospel Light
VBS at Standard Publishing

As Karen has said, "Teaching is a never ending learning process." We celebrate that kind of attitude here, but Karen exemplifies it!

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