December 9, 2008 – Mandeville, Jamaica…[Libna Stevens/IAD]
Months of preparation and local competitions came to a climax for 15 young people at this year's Inter-American Division (IAD) Bible Bowl finals held Sabbath, Dec. 6. Glimar Garcia Olivera, representing the Cuban Union, won this year's Bowl with a score of 420 points and a 37-second lead on the second place finisher.
“If I told you how God has led me so far, you wouldn't believe it,” said Garcia, a 30-year-old father of three. “I feel God has miraculously led my life in everything.”
Garcia, who won the Cuba national Bible competition for two consecutive years and placed second in last year's IAD Bible Bowl, said he studied hard to get to where he is. He won a laptop computer. A Seventh-day Adventist for 10 years, Garcia said he wants to encourage young people to study the Bible.
The grand finale competition brought the finalists to Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica, to answer some 40 questions on the Book of Isaiah. Each contestant answered via individual computer terminals while a crowd of about 1,500 cheered them on. The two-hour event was streamed live over the internet.
“Trust in the Lord, follow His steps and cling to His plans for your lives,” Garcia said.
“I feel really happy to finish second place,” said Federico Daniel Mendez, who represented the Central Mexican Union. “It was a bit difficult to study Isaiah but I learned so much and am so happy.” Mendez said he skipped his graduation ceremony to attend the competition. Mendez's second place prize was a six-month scholarship to study English at Northern Caribbean University.
Representing the Puerto Rican church region was 18-year-old Ambar Marin Lopez, the third place finisher.
“I think this competition was fabulous,” said Marin, who is attending her first year at Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez. “I have been blessed immensely in studying the Bible and we need to wok hard so young people can be involved in the studying the Word of God more.”
Church leaders started the territory-wide Bible Bowl competitions five years ago as a way to motivate young people to study the Bible.
“We want our young people to be in touch with the Bible as they live in these times and get ready for the Kingdom of God,” said Pastor Bernardo Rodriguez, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America and organizer of the Bible bowl event. “It's astonishing to see how the young people are committed to learning more about the Bible through this activity. Most of them have memorized the whole Book of Isaiah.”
Rodriguez believes the competitions also promote unity. “Seeing the beautiful spirit of unity and participation among the finalists reveals so much of the love of Jesus,” he said. “Being from different countries and with three different languages involved, these young people have bonded in just three days. They show a genuine appreciation and love for each other.”
With the competition finished, thousands of young people across Inter-America can now start studying the Book of Revelation for a chance to win in next year's Bible bowl which will take place in Guadeloupe on Dec. 5, 2009.
The winner of next year's Bible bowl will join the four previous winners for a chance to win the Super Bible Bowl competition planned to take place in Miami in 2010 during the church's executive committee meetings. The winner will become a special youth delegate and receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Adventist World Church Session in Atlanta in the summer of 2010.
Nigel Coke contributed to this report.
For more information on Inter-America's Bible Bowl events, visit www.interamerica.org