Our Trip to the National Bible Bee!
Some of you may have noticed a lack of posting recently. Well, that's because Bible Bee happened. And now you get to hear all about it. So, sit back and let us (along with Hannah W.) tell you about our incredible experience at the National Bible Bee competition in San Antonio, Texas, with our awesome group of friends.
In all, fourteen awesome kids from our host group qualified for Nationals: Sarah J., Landon B., Owen B., Rosie A., Titus A., Joseph A., Alec W., Hannah W., Caleb W., Sam M., Josh M., and Lincoln N.
There were also two alternates: Myself and our friend Jaqui N.
(In order to keep up on other things that were going on, I chose not to advance to the Nationals part of the competition. And although she participated in most of the study meetings, Jaqui was unable to come to Nationals due to various circumstances. However, both of us are totally planning to do it next year.)
Throughout the summer study, we had each memorized fifteen short scripture passages and worked through a discovery journal. Every month, we met together with our group to recite, study, play trivia games, and have fellowship afterward. It had been a blast.
To everyone's ecstasy, it was decided that the study groups would continue. With such a challenge, a support group would definitely be a big help.
And so it was that I got a front row seat to the hard work these guys were putting in. I listened in on their study times, getting to hear all kinds of lively discussions about passages in Philippians. As I quizzed various friends, it was amazing to see how quickly they were learning their passages. And the months raced by, until December arrived.
We arrived at the Drury Inn on a bright Monday morning. As we unloaded our luggage, some families from our host group were also arriving and we stood talking in the sunny parking lot for a while. It was exciting to see all of our friends from Ohio, but more exciting, and slightly daunting, was the fact that tomorrow was Preliminaries.
Tuesday morning dawned. It was the morning of the CBT (computer-based test) and orals. Mom and I walked through the glass doors leading into Oak Hills Church—the biggest church I had ever seen in my life. The rest of my family was still at the hotel.
We walked down a hallway full of people and turned right, where a group of Juniors was assembled outside the CBT lab. I waved goodbye to Mom and joined them.
I saw Owen talking to some friends, and I went to stand with him.
Soon the Juniors were ushered into the testing room. The kids sitting next to me look just about as nervous as I was. I could see some of our friends across the room. Alec was glancing around, probably looking for us. Owen was talking to some other kids like he wasn't nervous at all. I was very nervous.
My stomach was flipping like a seal as I clicked the start button. I hardly remember my impressions of the questions. I tried not to think about how I was doing; I only focused on the questions as they came, considering and answering them to the best of my ability. Soon the test was over. I went back over the questions that I thought I should reconsider. Finally, I clicked finish. I had four minutes to spare.
The kids around me finished up their tests and we drew pictures on our paper, showing them to each other silently for the next few minutes. I was still really nervous. When the remaining time had run out, all of the Juniors lined up in the hallways to go to Orals. People lined the hallways to give us high-fives.
My orals round was held in a Sunday school room. There were eight people in my group and we stood out in the hallway while each person recited. Our hallway was filled with groups of waiting Juniors. Moderators kept sweeping up and down the halls, alternating between encouraging high-fives and shushing. The recitation rooms had to be completely quiet. Most of the boys in my group were snickering at a blackboard filled with prayer requests, since one of the prayer requests read “stop peeing the bed”. At least they were laughing instead of being nervous. I, on the other hand, was nervous. I prayed with several of the kids that were going to recite before me, and one by one they entered the room to recite, until it was my turn. I tried to walk confidently up to the front.
“Please state your name and Bible translation,” came the moderator's calm, even voice.
“Sarah Johnson, New King James Version.”
“Sarah, please recite Matthew 6:20-21." She spoke clearly and distinctly.
I started reciting, timing myself the way I had practiced. It was a passage I felt comfortable on. I made no mistakes. She gave me the next reference. I was slightly less confident on it, but by now it didn't matter. The competition had faded out of sight and I was glad to be reciting. I recited the next few passages with no mistakes, but then I came to Psalm 32:1-7. I made one mistake, but for some reason it didn't seem to matter that much. I could hardly believe that I was actually enjoying Orals! I had feared and partially dreaded orals all week. In all, I made two mistakes during orals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our Junior Semi-Finalists!
When we got to the church, I still was carefully guarding myself against actually thinking about how important this moment was. We found our Local group, but the seats were nearly full - Dad, Caleb, and I had to sit near the back of the group, isolated from the rest. Then Grace a few rows ahead, and on the other side, yelled that they had an empty seat!! As I was sitting down, Ethan W., in the row behind me, said, “Hey Hannah, congratulations in advance on making Semi-Finals.”
If I didn’t make Semis, so many people were going to be disappointed. But… I couldn’t do anything more now, and what I had done hadn’t been enough to get me into Semis. This was going to be devastating. We counted down and EZ [Emil Zwain, the announcer] walked out onto the stage. Excitement and dread both filled my chest as I leaned forward, grinning in anticipation.
[After the Primary semi-finalists were announced] “Well if that wasn’t exciting enough, now it’s time for our Junior Semi-Finalists!!”
My heart stopped. NO. NO. NOOOO!!!! I wasn’t ready. It came way too fast! What was happening?? I was going to die if I didn’t make it. But I didn’t make it. Thousands of panicked thoughts filled my head as everything I’d been holding back for the past five hours came gushing out in tears.
“To start us off, please join me in welcoming GRACE P.!!!”
I don’t remember if I even clapped. I was just hunched forward in my seat, sobbing and violently wiping away tears as Grace and Sarah tried to comfort me. “It’s okay!” “It’s gonna be okay!”
No, it wasn’t.
A sobbing breath escaped me as I glanced up, completely overwhelmed with fear for myself but joy for Grace L.
Yes, it was.
Suddenly I felt calm. It was okay. It didn’t matter if I didn’t make it.
“HANNAH -” my picture popped up on the screen - “W----T!!!!!!!!!!”
A bolt of something - shock or joy or… something - shot through me. THEY JUST CALLED MY NAME. I’M A SEMIFINALIST.
Screams erupted to my right and I staggered to my feet, unable to think or cry or even breathe. Grace stood too and encapsulated me into a huge hug, still screaming. I started to uncontrollably shake as every emotion imaginable came and completely overwhelmed me. I let go of Grace, gave Sarah a quick hug too, then stumbled over the other people in the row to get out. I walked down the aisle to the stage still shaking and literally speechless with gratitude and amazement. I did it! No, God did it!! You did it. THANK YOU LORD.
I sat back down, clutching Hannah's camera and watching her run down the aisle in the direction of the enormous stage. Except for the colorful lights on the stage, the room was dark, and I soon lost sight of her. Then she walked onto the stage. The cameras picked her up, and I saw on the screens that she was gasping for breath. EZ's voice kept announcing qualifiers, but I was so focused on Hannah's priceless facial expressions that I forgot to listen...until I heard a name I knew.
I screamed again, almost dropping Hannah's camera. Our whole group was screaming and clapping wildly as Titus made his way to the aisle.
Then EZ announced the rest of the qualifiers. There were no more names from our group called. When he was finished, I hugged Sarah, who was next to me. She had put in so much work! But she was grinning and clapping for Titus and Hannah, and she seemed to be doing alright. I was so proud of her.
Then the Perfect Oralists were announced...and Lincoln's name was called! Our group went wild again as he hurried toward the stage. He'd made it through all fifteen of his orals passages in ten minutes—with zero mistakes! And it was his first year. Then Sam's name was called! Grinning, he ran down the aisle to the stage as we cheered. Our group had done so well!
And it wasn't over. It was time to watch Titus and Hannah compete. Maybe one of them would make it to finals!
Look for the release of Part 2 later this month!
Bonus: An Interview with Rosie and Lincoln!
What was it like for you before/during orals?
Rosie: Orals is such a special experience! It has been an enormous blessing to get to share God’s story of how He glorified Himself in my rounds through my situation in 2017 over and over since then; and this past year, He blessed it just as much, though not nearly as drastically! I was one of the last ones to recite in our room, and one of the things we decided to do while we waited was ask the contestants who were about to go in for their recitation what they most needed prayer for, and then we would each pray for them during that time. I heard a number of the contestants in our room talk afterwards about how orals went, and it was overwhelming and hugely encouraging to hear how specifically God had been answering our prayers! This ended up being my favorite part of orals, along with having several of my family members in my round for the first and last time.
What was it like for you before/during the CBT?
Rosie: This year, I was not nearly as prepared for the test as I have been in previous years; and one thing in particular that I was slightly concerned about – which had never been an issue for me before – was the time limit on the test. Having taken a couple practice tests before Nationals, I noticed that it was a lot harder for me to pace myself on a 150-question test in forty minutes than the Bible Bee tests in the past, which were 200 questions in one hour. So I had been praying specifically, that God would give me five extra minutes on the test to be able to go back over any answers that I was unsure of. He gave me nine!
What was your favorite part of Bible Bee?
Lincoln: One of my favorite parts would be learning so much about God’s Word.
What was it like for you before/during orals?
Lincoln: Before orals, I was going over passages in my head. During orals, I just let God do what He wanted to do.
What was your favorite passage you recited during orals?
Lincoln: Psalm 32:1-7
Are there any moments from the trip in general you would like to share?
Lincoln: Staying up late pretty much every night to play cards and talk.
'Til next time!
~ The Storyweavers