For many youth participating in the Southern Union Pathfinder Bible Experience (PBE) competition, it doesn’t really matter who wins or loses, because the reward is the same — a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
“The good thing about this competition is that even if you don’t advance, you didn’t really lose because the blessing in this is what you have stored in your heart and mind to aid you in troubling times,” said 16-year-old Ryan Ramirez of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. His Pathfinder team and 44 others from eight states competed in the Southern Union PBE event on March 24, 2018, at Georgia-Cumberland Academy in Calhoun, Georgia. Each team was composed of six or seven participants and a coach. Teams that scored 90 percent or better advanced to the next level of competition, which in this case was the North American Division in Orangewood, Florida. There are four levels of competition: area, conference, union, and division.
Leading up to each competition, contestants spend hours memorizing biblical verses and chapters, and in some cases, the entire book (or books) of the Bible that are part of the test. At the event in March, the books were Esther and Daniel. There were a total of 90 timed questions.
Before the testing started, one of the pastors at the event prayed that God would give each of the contestants peace and recall, and that they would always keep God’s Word in their hearts.
Pathfinder Mark Mapes said he tries to do just that. The 12-year-old, who is a captain on his Carolina Conference team, has been competing three years. When he’s preparing, he said the verses of the Bible are more than just words to memorize, but texts that move him in a way that’s hard to explain.
“I feel a peace that comes over me,” said Mapes. “Like when Moses saw the glory of the Lord, I just imagine what that would be like. It just sends a peace over me.”
Abbie Wait, who is also in the Carolina Conference, said being part of PBE has inspired more indepth study of the Bible, and has given her a “better relationship with God.” The 13-year-old said she’s even seen improvement in her scholastic studies.
“It helps with so many processes of studying,” said Wait. “It helps me cast my fears upon Jesus, and have Him help me, and get so much more done.”
Lisa Myaing is a PBE coach in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. She said one of the things she enjoys about coaching is watching youth blossom spiritually as they study God’s Word — something she says is contagious.
“I just love to see that growth,” said Myaing. “And not only in them, but myself too, because I do it along with them. It’s really exciting to experience that.”
And at that point, “it’s not competition,” because the Holy Spirit is apparently at work, said Tammy Mapes, a coach in the Carolina Conference. She said it’s all about making sure the youth have the best learning and spiritual experience, which is why she and some of the other coaches reach out to other clubs to share ideas. “There’s a whole group of us that have a camaraderie,” said Mapes. “We work together as coaches to help our kids.”
Ken Rogers is the Southern Union youth ministries director and the organizer of the competition at the Union level. He said in the last five or six years, there’s been a rebirth of the Bible Bowl concept, “and the Pathfinders organization has adopted it and it’s just grown exponentially across the North American Division.”
“It has just become a very, very popular event, and something that the young people have just really adopted,” said Rogers. “They’ve taken to memorizing the Scriptures, and enjoying the fellowship that brings.”
At the March 24 event, there was a special moment in the midst of the fellowship. A young woman, Samantha Grady, who was wounded in the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, came to the competition to support her Pathfinder group. Seventeen people were killed and 17 more wounded in the shooting. There was silence as Grady talked about how she survived, but a classmate who was near her that day did not. Grady urged those listening to trust God, regardless of the situation, and be faithful. Her testimony was followed by applause.
One of the pastors then called for prayer, and a little girl, dressed in her Adventurer uniform, came to the front and offered a sweet, sincere prayer. There were tears in many eyes when she finished.
Pathfinder leaders said Grady’s testimony helped underscore the need for youth to really understand the verses they’re memorizing.
“I believe that the study of God’s Word will hopefully be able to be recalled throughout their lives, in times of trouble, stress,” said Rogers. “When they’re feeling discouraged, maybe a passage they memorized, or a Bible story that they remember, will bring them renewed faith and courage in their spiritual journeys.”
Ramirez said Daniel 12:13 is one verse that’s dear to him, and he encourages others to also store it in their hearts: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance,” NIV.
The following Pathfinder teams advanced to the North American Division: Charlotte Sharon Flyers; Raleigh Spanish Chosen; Wilkesboro Crusaders; Greenville North Stars; Altamonte Springs Knights; Bethsesda French Team A, Team B, and Team C; Eden French; Eliathah Evoys; First SDA of West Palm Beach; Forest Lake; Fort Lauderdale Spanish Astros; Hialeah Springs Spanish Team A and Team B; Lehigh Royal Knights; Maranatha Team A; Miami Central Spanish Team A and Team B; Midport Conquerors; Ocala Team A; Pompano Beach Team A and Team B; South Brevard Visioneers; Tampa Spanish; Westchester Spanish Team A; Fayette; Kingsport Swords; McDonald Road Bible Ballers; McDonald Road Flame; Pensacola Gators; Murfreesboro Bible Beast; and Owensboro The Beauty & The Beasts.
Southern Union | May 2018