Zarith Méndez (center) of North Colombia, smiles as she is declared Inter-America’s Quinquennial Bible Connection Champion after answering 99 out of 100 questions correctly and faster than three other finalists of the 2015-2019 year period, on Jan. 30, 2021.  Next to her celebrating is Pastor Mauricio Buitrago (left), youth ministries director, and Dubiel Quintero (right), treasurer of the North Colombia Union at the church’s studio in Medellin, Colombia. Méndez won an all-expenses paid trip as IAD Youth Delegate to the Adventist World Church’s General Conference Session next year in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. [Photo: North Colombia Union]

February 1, 2021 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

It was a familiar setting for Zarith Méndez, as she set out to answer Bible questions as quickly and as accurately as she could in front of the computer. Méndez answered 99 out of the 100 multiple-choice questions correctly, beating her three rivals during Inter-America’s quinquennial Bible Connect competition, on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. She was crowned the champion of 2015-2019 and will represent the Inter-American Division (IAD) as a youth delegate during the Adventist World Church’s General Conference Session next year in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.

Much like she did when she first won the IAD Bible Winner title in 2016 against 22 other contestants in the Dominican Republic at only 15 years of age, she breezed through the 100 questions on Saturday, finishing almost two minutes ahead of the first runner up. Now 19 and in college, Mendez is studying nursing in her hometown of Cúcuta, in North Colombia. She said studying the bible has changed her life completely and help her get involved with public campus ministries at her university to share what she’s learned from the bible with other students.

“The more you study the Bible, the more you understand the plan God has in your life and that’s how I’ve placed my trust in God,” said Méndez. “I can have a much closer relationship with God, as a friend, as my Savior, and as my Heavenly Father Who is always there watching my steps.”

Zarith Méndez of North Colombia, smiles as she holds her trophy for becoming IAD’s Bible Boom grand prize winner during the final competition event held Dec. 10, 2016, in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic. Youth Ministries director in North Colombia Pastor Mauricio Buitrago stands next to her in celebration of her victory. Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD file photo]

This time studying the book of Psalms strengthened her faith. To prepare for the quinquennial competition, she studied Psalms each morning at 4:30 a.m. During the summer months, she spent six hours a day studying. “What I most like about the Psalms are all the promises found in each one and the words of encouragement and trust that the psalmist places in God. It gives me strength and helps me reflect that all we need as human beings is to have God in our lives.”

She’s excited to be a youth delegate for the GC Session next year. “That will be like a dream come true and a great honor,” Méndez said.

Benefits gained from other finalists

Edna Ventura, 31, of Chiapas, Mexico, came in second place. She was the Bible Connection winner at the 2019 finals in Belize. She began a teaching degree at Linda Vista Adventist University in Chiapas, but due to the pandemic was left without a job and had to go back home to work at her sewing business.

Edna Ventura of Chiapas, Mexico, took second place in the bible competition Jan. 30. 2021. She was crowned IAD winner in 2018. [Photo: Chiapas Mexican Union]

Studying the Psalms felt very relatable to her, she said. “I identified myself a lot with the many falls and victories of David, for his repentance and pleading to God for purification in Psalm 51  and for the promises described in Psalm 126 which I hope the Lord can fulfill my life,” said Ventura.   Studying for the competition helped her focus more on the Bible and less on watching television and spending time on social media. “My time is limited these days, so during my free time I prioritize studying the Word, memorizing verses, paraphrasing and developing questionnaires,” she said.

Studying Psalms was a great blessing in her life because it was exactly what she needed in the midst of the pandemic that hit her hard. “I was discouraged but God has strengthened my life, I prayed more and I found all the answers I needed in the Psalms, and I’m so thankful and happy for that,” Ventura said.

Veronica Solis, 29, of Chiapas, Mexico, came in third. She was the division’s winner in 2019. She identified with the book of Psalms because it applies so much to the constant challenges of life and how God is faithful and helps in every circumstance like He did with David, she said. “Just like David, in sickness, with problems, temptations, we can go to Him and He can give us strength and help to move forward in the new opportunities he gives us even though we fall.”

Veronica Sólis of Chiapas Mexico, came in third during the quinquennial competition. She was the IAD winner in 2019. [Photo: Chiapas Mexican Union]

She praises God for all the wonderful things He has done in her life. “He saved me from death and I am dedicated to serve and praise Him always,” she said.

Fourth place was taken by Francisco Jané, 24, from Central Mexico, the second-place winner of the 2017 finals in Cancun, Mexico. The winner of that competition could not participate in the quinquennial bible competition so Jané was given the opportunity to take her place just two months ago. The three other competitors had a year to prepare.

Jané is a safety and environmental engineer who took to the study of the Psalms and marveled at how Jehovah will always be there to answer your prayer at the moment you need Him most. “I read and reread every Psalm, memorized some of them… I never had studied Psalms completely and it has been a real blessing for me to study and apply them in my life,” he said.

Francisco Jané, of Central Mexican Union
took the fourth place during the quinquennial competition on Jan. 30, 2021. He was second place IAD winner in 2017, and competed last week since top winner that year could not participate. [Photo: Courtesy of Francisco Jané]

Studying and applying God’s Word in the life of young people is exactly what the territory-wide bible study initiative across Inter-America is all about, said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, during the online event. “We are reaffirming with this special event of our conviction that God gave us His Word, His book of promises and we must treasure it,” said Pastor Henry.

“You have been studying the Word of God and that will enrich your life,” said Pastor Henry. “God will give us the Holy Spirit to refresh in our minds His precious promises.”

In the 17 years that the bible initiative has been in effect across the IAD territory, thousands of children and young people have taken part in bible competition activities, from young children in the Adventurers club, to Master Guides. Competitions begin at the local church level and finalists emerge at the union level.

Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America. [Photo: Keila Trejo/IAD File photo]

The mission is still to continue motivating the more than 1.5 million young people across Inter-America to dive into the Scriptures for it is at the core of the mission to prepare young people to be a generation transformed and ready to witness in their communities, said Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America.

It’s about becoming more connected to God, said Pastor Leonard Johnson, executive secretary of the church in Inter-America, as he spoke during the live online program. “The Bible helps us understand who we are, who God is and where we are going,” said Pastor Johnson. “When we are connected to God, we are connected to self and one another.”

The online program saw regional pastors and laypersons from each union be recognized for their dedicated service to leading young people across churches and districts in the IAD.

For activities, initiatives and additional information on Inter-America’s Youth Ministries Department, visit interamerica.org

To watch the online program, click HERE for English, HERE for Spanish, HERE for French.

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