Being based in Oshkosh most of the year, John and Diane Windle are busy in the ministries here at RiverValley Church and are active members of our family, but they are also full-time missionaries on the staff of Camp Forest Springs (CFS) in Westboro, WI.
During the year John and Diane travel throughout the Midwest and beyond with their concert and puppet ministry, “Hairy and Company,” as part of the Outreach Ministries of CFS. Diane is also active in Women’s Ministry, sharing her passion for the Word with women of all ages. During the summer the Windle’s spend most of their time at CFS, being a vital part of the camping ministry to children, adults, and families.
Teaching with Music and Puppets
“So how did you go about creating a music and puppet ministry?” John and Diane Windle can’t answer that question, since they never planned to spend over three decades doing family ministry. It just happened. Actually, they are convinced that God planned it, and they just walked through one open door after another.
The first opportunity for such a ministry was in their home church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “It started mushrooming, snowballing from that point,” said John. Eventually, other churches requested that they come to do concerts, and they often spent their weekends ministering in churches in the Midwest.
A church in Michigan asked them to come and share in the week of VBS. They agreed, and Chuckie, a mouse puppet they used only once before, accompanied them. Chuckie made the announcements for each day, and so their puppet ministry began in a small way. A bear, Buckwheat, was added soon after.
In December of 1976, Dick Angelo called John to ask if he and Diane would lead music at Wintertainment. Dick had never heard their music, but he explained that he was a bit desperate since the musicians who were scheduled to come had just canceled. John was excited and quickly called Diane, but she was less than enthusiastic. “I really don’t want to do this,” she said, “I need a vacation.” John called Dick back and told him they would be there.
Neither the Windles nor Dick knew what to expect, but God was clearly at work. Within three months, John and Diane joined the missionary staff of Camp Forest Springs in a new position called “Outreach Ministries”. The Windles reside in Oshkosh and travel from there, ministering in churches and letting them know about Camp Forest Springs.
John and Diane began using their puppets for Junior Camps in the summer of 1978. Thirty years later, “Hairy and Company” have become a tradition, not only for Junior Camp, but for Family Camps, retreats, and even Colorama, a special week in the fall for senior citizens.
Whether doing programs at camp or traveling the Midwest and beyond, the cast of characters help them communicate truth about salvation, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of obedience. Music continues to be an essential part of the ministry for worship and memorizing Scripture. Diane writes most of the songs they sing, using simple, sing-able tunes and truth from God’s Word.
We were especially blessed to hear what happened last year concerning a young boy from Iraq. His family was living in Korea because his dad was the Iraqi ambassador. He loved the puppets and wanted to buy the DVD. The next day he also talked his mom into buying the music. Later on that year, his family trusted Christ, were discipled by some of the staff at the school, and moved back to Iraq. It is a blessing to know we had a part in the ministry to that family!
Another tradition that we have is a birthday party for Jesus at Heart Love Place, an inner city Milwaukee ministry. This year over 200 people gathered to have family pictures taken, receive specially prepared gifts, sing Christmas songs, and listen to the gospel presented by Hairy and Company. It is such a delight to get to see these kids each year. God is using Heart Love Ministries in a huge way to impact His Kingdom! “
“We are so thankful for the privilege of serving Christ at Camp Forest Springs. The camaraderie and encouragement of the staff is a wonderful blessing. Godly leaders there have encouraged us to use our talents in ways we never dreamed, expanding our borders as far as Colorado, Texas, Washington DC, the Caribbean, and Korea.” They look forward to more travels, more summers, more songs, and more smiles as long as the Lord leads.
Please join us in praying for the Windle’s, who have made these specific requests:
- Pray for any unsaved campers to be open and receptive to the gospel while they are at camp.
- Pray for Christian campers to be convicted and repent of sin and grow closer in their relationships to the Lord Jesus.
- Pray against a spirit of bullying this summer as kids from all backgrounds attend camp.
- Pray for the personal Spiritual health of our staff and guest speakers.
- Pray for the Scholarship Fund. We are going to have more campers attending who are using scholarship money than what we currently have in the budget. Pray that people will continue to give throughout the year as we do our Scholarship fund-raising.
- Pray that all the camps will fill up, specifically for the youth camp and adventure trip openings.
If you would like to know more, just visit www.hairyandcompany.com or you can call Diane at: