By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional reporter
PINEVILLE – Excitement soared as contenders in the state Bible Drill competition lined up, listened as a Scripture reference was called out, furiously flipped pages in their Bibles and stepped forward ready to respond.
“You can see a passion for the Word in these students’ competing, and seeing that fires up my spirit,” said Jennifer Thomas, who was attending the State Tournament for Youth and High School Bible Drill & Speakers’ Tournament for the first time. This year’s event was held April 30 at First Baptist Church in Pineville.
The Bible Drill competition is part of a discipleship program designed to assist youth in developing useful skills and knowledge of the Bible. During the tournament, participants compete in tests of their knowledge about the books of the Bible, basic Scripture references, different approaches to the plan of salvation and Scripture references relating to key beliefs and doctrinal convictions.
Chloe Whitehead, a ninth-grade student from First Baptist Church in Gonzales, has competed for the last six years in the Bible Drill tournament.
“It’s been a fun way to learn the Scripture and to have the answers for different questions that even I have had growing up,” Whitehead said about the tournament and preparation for the event.
Her father, Mike Whitehead, remarked how the studying and preparation process for the Bible Drill tournament has made a positive impact on their entire family.
Steve Maltempi, youth strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, agreed and said he is a big believer in the impact the tournament makes on families.
“There is nothing more important than hiding God’s Word in your heart,” Maltempi noted. He said for most youth and their families preparing for the Bible Drill tournament is a year-long commitment.
“Most of them stick to it to the end, a total commitment. We hope the end result is that they’ll have a faith that transfers into college and into their marriage,” Maltempi added.
Carter Byrd, a seventh-grade student from Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, said this was his fourth year to participate in the Bible tournament.
“It’s fun to learn the scriptures. Each year I like to challenge myself to always do better,” Byrd said.
Two of his eight siblings competed in this year’s competition. Stephanie Byrd, his mother, said the time and commitment to studying in preparation was “a lot of work” for her children, but worth “every minute.”
“The Word is what will stand, and it’s our offensive weapon against the things of this world,” she said, adding that her children gain more knowledge each year they compete in the Bible Drill.
About 160 students competed in the 2016 state tournament, and two were selected to represent Louisiana Baptists at the National Youth Bible Drill Tournament: Mitchell Bearry, from Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, will compete in the 12th grade level at the national competition, and, Chloe Whitehead, from First Baptist Church in Gonzales, will compete in the 9th grade level.
Other winners at the state level include:
7th Grade — Five Bible Drill winners were recognized in two groups: Gaige Lavigne, FBC Gonzales; Emeline Soileau, FBC Covington; Ashley Lewis, Fellowship Baptist, Greenwell Springs; Hannah James, Fellowship Baptist, Greenwell, Springs; Allie James, FBC Montgomery
8th Grade – Four people were named Bible Drill winners in three groups: Florence Caraza, Quitman Baptist; Liliana Talazac, FBC Covington; Kaitlyn Ezell, New Chapel Hill, West Monroe; Anna Starnes, FBC Gonzales.
9th Grade – The first and second place Bible Drill winners for each of two groups were: Chole Whitehead, FBC Gonzales, and Jonah Brown, FBC DeRidder; Ashlyn James, FBC Montgomery, and Chris Pugh, Ascension Baptist, Gonzales.
10th Grade — The overall winner was Lathan Lasyone, Atlanta Baptist.
11th Grade — Students with the three highest overall scores were awarded scholarships to Louisiana College: Noah Starnes, FBC Gonzales, received a $4,500 annual scholarship for first place; Julianna Schober, Heritage Baptist, Shreveport, received a $3,500 annual scholarship for placing second and Kendra Wilson, FBC Lafayette, received a $2,500 annual scholarship for coming in third.
12th Grade — Rachel Copland, FBC Copland, was named overall winner and Mitchell Bearry, Woodlawn Baptist, Baton Rouge, won the Bible Drill competition.
Students also participated in the Youth Speakers’ Tournament, a competition which asks students to write a speech and present it to a panel of judges, who assess the composition and delivery. This event is designed to stimulate growth toward Christian maturity by asking youth to think seriously about their Christian commitment.
Winners for 2016 include:
11th Grade — Students with the three highest overall scores were awarded scholarships to Louisiana College: Joy Nettles, FBC Covington, earned first place honors and received a $4,500 annual scholarship; Jacob Talazac, FBC Covington, placed second and will be rewarded with a $3,500 annual scholarship; Kelli Hemphill, East Winnfield Baptist, earned a third place finish, which garners a $2,500 annual scholarship.
12th Grade — Jonathan Singletary, FBC Covington, earned the right to represent Louisiana Baptists at the national competition in Georgia.