December 11, 2013 – Havana, Cuba…Libna Stevens/IAD
No one was more shocked than Jempsy Tisma when he was declared Inter-America’s Bible Boom winner last weekend.
Tisma, from the Haiti region, spotted his fellow countrymen in the audience, grabbed the Haitian flag and chanted “Haiti! Haiti! Haiti!” at La Vibora Seventh-day Adventist Church in Havana, Cuba, site of the 2013 Bible Boom.
With a medal around his neck and holding his three-foot-tall trophy, $1,000 cash prize, and the Caleb Award title, Tisma quickly felt reality sinking in – a reality he had been dreaming about for more than three years.
Tisma, age 20, from the northern part of Haiti, became the first winner to grab the Caleb Award title, the Bible Boom’s top award, from among the two French-speaking church regions in the IAD.
“I have seen how God opened the way and solved every challenge along the way for me to get here,” said Tisma. From getting his travel visa 24 hours before his flight to numerous competitions this year, Tisma rejoiced in looking back at all that took place.
Winning regionally meant studying the Bible for hours, memorizing the books of Ephesians through Hebrews, and beating hundreds of young people along the way. His regional win got him a one-year scholarship and a laptop computer. He plans to begin his theology major studies at Haiti Adventist University. In 2012, he competed and ended in 7th place, and in 2011 he won the top church region title but was unable to travel to the final competition in Puerto Rico.
“I wasn’t going to compete this year,” said Tisma, “but my mother told me in January to enter the competition because she had had a dream that I would travel outside of the country to compete.” Tisma jumped at her advice and dove into Bible studies.
Finalists had to answer 50 questions correctly on their computers in the least amount of time possible. There were five, ten, fifteen, and twenty point questions with multiple-choice answers.
“Tisma was no where near the top when the competition started, but he came through fast answering those high-point questions right,” said Richner A. Fleury, youth ministries director for the church in Haiti.
“Tisma represents our young people across our country,” said Fleury, “they are passionate about the Word of God, trust in His leading and long to do His will.”
Sharing his experience through this victory will continue to be a mission for Tisma. He said he will continue to lead as president of the Youth Lovers of the Bible Club in his church, teach Sabbath School and assist with the Pathfinder clubs at Eben-Ezer Temple No. 1 Quanaminthe Adventist Church.
“We have to keep a close relationship with God, praying and studying God’s Word and being good witnesses for victory in Jesus,” Tisma said.
Praying, studying the Scriptures and witnessing is at the core of the mission of the youth ministries department in raising a powerful generation in this world today and a big reason for the Bible Boom initiative, said Pastor Benjamin Carballo, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-American and organizer of the event.
“The Bible is the expressed will of God for us, God’s special manual and the only way a young person can be ready to make the most important decisions of his or her life and remain faithful until Jesus comes,” said Pastor Carballo.
Clinging to the Bible for hope and guidance is key for young people affected by the financial and political challenges where they live, especially in Cuba, Carballo said.
“We dreamed for years of bringing this youth ministries event to Cuba and are thankful that was made possible,” said Carballo.
The event was such a momentous one because in the history of the church in Cuba, a youth event of this scope had never been held on the island before and was one that was awaited by thousands of young people who travelled to the capital city to witness, added Carballo.
More than 2,000 young people crowded the Vibora Adventist Church to witness the Bible Boom event and participate during a spiritual weekend filled with music, poetry, and spiritual messages.
“We are so happy to have for the first time something so important for our youth,” said Pastor Aldo Perez, president of the church in Cuba. “There are hundreds of young people who have traveled far and wide to sleep on the floor in Adventist homes. They came to witness your commitment to God and His Word during the event.”
Most attending participated in regional competitions through oral and written tests, a testament that the Bible continues to be a source of strength, added Perez.
The hundreds attending the weekend event represented the 13,000 Adventist youth throughout the island – nearly one third of the church membership, said Pastor Ruber Alvarez, youth ministries director for the church in Cuba.
“For the youth to come here it costs upwards of $20 US dollars per delegate, a challenge because some parents barely earn $15 dollars each month,” said Alvarez. “But they see the challenge as an opportunity for spiritual growth and fellowship with other youth from Inter-America.”
The event featured mini-concerts and poetry reciting from throughout the island. One such group called the Baracoa Poetry Trio traveled from Baracoa–the farthest eastern part of the island 22 hours away, said Dayami Rodriguez, communication director for the church in Cuba and coordinator of the Friday night vespers and Sabbath program. “They travelled by bus and by train since Tuesday. And not the kind of transportation that anyone can imagine,” added Rodriguez. “To them participating in the event meant an essential part of witnessing for God.”
The oldest organized Adventist Choir on the island with more than 50 years performing each Sabbath was featured during the event. The Orfion Choir from Pinar del Rio Adventist Central Church, the western part on the island, performed under the direction of Josue Tielves—who joined the choir from age 14.
Cuba’s Religious Affairs Leader Sonia Garcia Garcia welcomed the young delegation and praised the work of the church during the event for “being a church that studies and knows the Sacred Book and is concerned with the well-being of its members and community.”
In addition, Bible Society and representative from the council of churches in Cuba congratulated the church leaders as they witnessed the international event take place in the Adventist Church.
Dr. Hiskia Missah, associate youth director for the Adventist world church, encouraged finalists and all young people present to continue mediating on the Bible and using the Sacred Book as a weapon to combat the difficult times they face.
“Read the Word of God, put yourself in the hands of Jesus and you will be safe,” said Dr. Missah.
Pastor Abner De Los Santos, vice president for the church in Inter-America, motivated the youth to not only to seek God through His Holy Book, but be attentive to hearing His voice.
“Learn to obey the voice of God and follow His direction through the Bible,” said Pastor De Los Santos. “God has chosen you to be His ambassador, He wants you to accept His salvation and renew your commitment to Him.”
Renewing his commitment to God is exactly what Luis De Jesus Cruz wanted to do. De Jesus Cruz, from Nicaragua and representing the South Central American church region, took second place in the Bible Boom. De Jesus finished only five points behind Tisma.
“I really feel honored that God gave me this opportunity to come in at second place,” said De Jesus Cruz.
De Jesus Cruz is no stranger to participating in Bible competitions. In 2009 he finished third at the union level and second in 2011.
He managed to memorize Ephesians to Hebrews in six months, lead as first elder in his church, lead a small group, and hold evangelistic campaigns in Lirio de los Valles Adventist Church in Matagalpa, all while colporting to pay for his industrial engineering degree for the past five years.
De Jesus Cruz is eager to get other young people to study God’s Word and experience the excitement of spending time with fellow finalists and young people in Cuba.
“I want young people to draw close to God and be ready for His soon coming and studying the Bible is key to obtaining that,” he added. De Jesus Cruz emphatically said that he plans to participate in next year’s territory-wide Bible competition for first place.
Third-place winner Anayansi Soriano from the Honduras church region was thrilled to make it to the top three and is already planning to study for next year’s competition. When Soriano, 26, returns home she will pack her home and her four-year-old daughter and move with her husband, a pastor, to a new district.
“I want to study the Bible and prepare young people to get involved in a closer relationship with God and take a shot at the top winning spot next year,” Soriano said.
It is not about winning the first, second or third spots in the Bible Boom, said Carballo. “Having an army of young people studying the Word of God means each one of them is a winner in God’s eyes,” said Carballo.
Ten years of having thousands of young people study their Bibles is making a difference, according to Carballo. “The amount of youth participating in the Bible Boom from adventurer club age, pathfinder age and young adults has been very visible,” he explained.
It means that more and more of the 1.5 million young Adventists in Inter-America are jumping on board to pray, read and share the Gospel with others. “There are more young people giving their life to Jesus than ever and thousands more wanting to serve and become faithful disciples in school, at church and at their jobs,” added Carballo.
“Young people studying the Word of God, living a life of service and a mission of committing to God is necessary in building a powerful generation in Inter-America and the world today,” said Carballo. “If we continue being the people of the Bible, we will ensure we have leaders centered in the Word of God and a church that will not be blown away by the winds of change in erroneous doctrines.”
Leaders throughout the territory will begin promoting the next books to study throughout their churches, districts, and regions.
Next year’s Bible Boom books to be reviewed include Hosea through Micah. IAD Bible Boom is scheduled to take place in Guatemala, August 2, 2014, during the church’s territory-wide Youth Congress event.
To see photos of Inter-America’s 2013 Bible Boom event, CLICK HERE
IAD Youth Ministries Resources can be found at: