John and Diane never planned to spend more than three decades doing family ministry, it just happened, and they are convinced God planned it – they just walked through one open door after another.
Being based in Oshkosh most of the year, John and Diane Windle are busy in the ministries at RiverValley and are active members of our family, but they are also full- time missionaries on the staff of Forest Springs Camp and Conference Center (FS) in Westboro, Wisconsin.
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 FS. Diane is also active in Women’s Ministry, sharing her passion for the Word with women of all ages. During the summer, the Windles spend most of their time at FS, being a vital part of the camping ministry to children, adults and families.
The first opportunity for such a ministry was at RiverValley. “It started mushrooming, snowballing from that point,” says John. Eventually, other churches requested 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 Forest Springs Camp and Conference Center in a new position called “Outreach Ministries.” 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.
The Windles are privileged to work with amazing staff membrs in a commuity of believers who love Jesus and desire to use their gifts to share the gospel. It has beena fruitful time with many campers trusting Jesus as their Savior. One camper wrote this comment:
"This is the best week of my life. I felt like the puppets really helped make learning about God fun! Everything in camp was amazing. I hope I get to come back next year."
- That youth campers returning home from the youth camps that just finished at FS would find other Christians to enourage them to continue to grow in faith.
- That families would be strengthened through their quality time together here at camp. (Family campers arrived on July 15th).
- That camp staff would have strength and health (lots of sickness is going around - John struggling with voice issues).
- That they have input into the lives of the young staff that serve at FS in the summer.
- That God would provide wisdom as John and Diane work more and more with broken families.
If you would like to know more visit www.hairyandcompany.com or call Diane at 920-203- 2463.