By Holly Jo Linzay Regional Reporter
PINEVILLE – Intense concentration furrowed the brows of the nine ninth- grade students lined up across the stage in a face-off battle in the state Bible Drill competition.
A scripture reference was called. The drill conductor said, “Start.” The students quickly flipped through their Bibles and then stepped forward when the verse was found. Time was called after eight seconds.
In the end, two freshmen – Milain Marce, Ascension Baptist Church in Gonzales, and Jackson Barnes, First Baptist Church in Covington – were named winners and this summer will represent Louisiana Baptists in the Youth Division of the Bible Drill national competition in Concord, North Carolina.
That match is representative of a day of fierce competition at the 2019 Louisiana Baptist State Youth and High School Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament held April 27 at the First Baptist Church in Pineville.
Brandon Lewis, LBC youth ministry strategist, said Bible Drill is part of a discipleship program designed to assist youth in developing useful skills and knowledge of the Bible.
The program teaches and tests students’ knowledge of the books of the Bible basic beliefs and doctrinal convictions, and, different approaches to the plan of salvation.
Students competed by grade level in three divisions: Children’s (4th-6th), Youth (7th-9th) and High School (10th-12th). All 146 participants had completed two other stages of competition – church and district — before reaching the state events.
“There’s been such an excitement here today,” said Mitch Peltonen, a Bible Drill coach and minister from Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Slidell.
“Through the years, there is such an apparent difference in the lives of the yout who have been involved in these competitions. There I more of a dependence on the Lord when faced with things that come into this dark world. They are overcomers because they are relying on the Word that they have hidden in their hearts,” Peltonen said.
Kristy Alfollette, a Bible Drill coach from FBC Slidell, agreed, and said she has witnessed how involvement in the competition has shaped the lives of many of the youth in their church.
“Learning the Scripture draws them closer to God and helps lay a foundation for their lives,” Alfollette said, adding that for 10 years her church has tracked the lives of their Bible Drill participants through college, work and marriage.
“And 48 of the 50 young people we have tracked are still following the Lord today,” she noted. Saturday’s event at First Pineville was one of three at different sites. Temple Baptist Church in Ruston and First Covington also hosted state competitions.
Bobbi Liner, an eighth grader from the First Baptist Church in Slaughter, said, “I’ve grown spiritually. At first, I didn’t know where to start studying the Bible, but Bible Drill has helped me learn the Word. It’s given me a foundation and has helped shape my life.
“I can be in a situation at school, not knowing what to do, and then the Word pops up in my head. I’ve grown closer to God because of it,” he said. “Bible Drill is a choice. We choose to study the Word of God. It’s up to us to study.
“The whole Bible Drill experience has helped me find a reason to get into God’s Word. It’s been life-changing in a very personal way. Bible Drill has increased my faith and I’ve recalled Scripture that has helped lead others to Christ,” said Tristen Bueche, a junior from the Fellowship Baptist Church in Greenwell Springs.
He added that he has been able to let his “light shine for Jesus,” and that he is excited about the opportunity to use his training during a mission trip to Honduras this summer.
Another junior from Fellowship Baptist, Luke Norton, agreed.
“Really knowing the steps for salvation and key Bible verses has helped me be a witness many times, especially on mission trips,” he said. “Bible Drill has certainly expanded my knowledge of God’s will. I know where certain verses are, and I know how to share the Gospel. Because of Bible Drill, I have moved out of my comfort zone with confidence, and I’m learning more and more about God,” said senior Eric
Whitten from the Lakeshore Baptist Church in Monroe.
“I’m finding I still know the Bible verses we had to learn years ago from Bible Drill,” said Cate Stennett, a senior from First Covington. “These verses stick with you for life.”
Lewis said the Speakers Tournament is designed to stimulate growth toward Christian maturity by asking 10th-12th graders to think seriously about their spiritual commitment. This year participants addressed such topics as “The Résumé of a Disciple” and “Words: Tools for Destruction or Construction.”
The students had 4-6 minutes each to present their speeches. A senior from First Covington, Kathryn Broussard, won the 12th Grade competition. Chris Pugh, a senior with Ascension Baptist, was the overall winner of the High School Division in Bible Drill. He and Broussard will represent Louisiana Baptists in their respective competitions in the High School Division at nationals. Other state winners include:
SPEAKERS TOURNAMENT 11th Grade — Laura Aime, a junior from the Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, earned first place and Desiré Crow, a junior from Ascen-sion Baptist, finished second. Philip Caples, vice president for the integration of faith and learning with Louisiana College, presented each with four-year scholarships (Aime: $4,500/year; Crow: $3,500/year).
10th Grade — Halle Boren, a sophomore from First Covington, won first place.
BIBLE DRILL 12th Grade — Ashlyn James, First Baptist Church, Montgomery, and Erin Whitten, Lakeshore, tied for first-place.
11th Grade — Anna Stames, First Baptist Church, Gonzales, and Jinny Schober, Heritage Bap-tist Church, Shreveport, tied for first and Hayden Alsept of Fellowship finished third. All three received four-year scholarships from Louisiana College (Stames, Schober: $4,500/year; Alsept: $2,500/year).
10th Grade — Logan Womack, East Winnfield Baptist, was named overall winner.
9th Grade – Winners were declared in three groups: Jack Stogner, First Covington, Milain Marcel, Ascension, Cameron Lindsay, Woodlawn, Jackson Barnes, First Covington, Kaleb Atkinson, First Baptist Church, Kilbourne, and Thomas Garbarino, First Baptist Church, Lafayette.
8th Grade — Winners were declared in two groups: Leah Amie, Woodlawn, Laynie Atwood, Kingsville Baptist Church, Ball, Katie Peltonen, Grace Memorial, Chase Haag, Kingsville Baptist Church, Ball.
7th Grade — First place: Brodie King, New Chapel Hill Baptist Church, West Monroe, and Timothy Singletary, First Covington. Second place: Peyton Moschell, Grace Memorial, and Madison Bueche, Amite Baptist Church, Denham Springs.
No winners in the fourth, fifth or sixth grade competition were announced.