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National tournament brings out brightest Bible buffs


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After a rigorous 400-question written test, the National Bible Bowl Tournament began.

Elliot Clark, Kelsie Sparks, Ross DeLong, Abby Johnson and Phoebe Mangas were in third grade when they began playing on the same team. Like most 8-year-olds, they were still defining their motor skills and according to developmental charts for third-graders, they were a typical mix of being helpful, cheerful and pleasant as well as rude, bossy and selfish.

Like most students with varied interests, among them they also participated in soccer, tennis, volleyball, theater, choirs, robotics and 4-H — but the one thing they’ve done consistently and together for the past 10 years is play Bible Bowl.

Along with Sam Weir, who caught the passion to play Bible Bowl in eighth grade, these six seniors with their five Mount Pleasant Christian Church teams and two Beginner Bowl teams are competing at nationals this week after three weeks filled with college tournaments.

Bible Bowl — a Bible memorization game, similar to the Brain Game where the team that anticipates the answer and buzzes in first gets points and gets to answer bonus questions — recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Meeting once a week for practice, sixth- through 12th-grade students (third- through fifth-grade play Beginner Bowl) meet weekly for practice after studying through the week and play in local round robins once a month, August through May, until summer competitions begin.

When I asked Greenwood’s Abby Johnson how many books of the Bible she has memorized since she was in third grade, she rattled off:

“Third grade: Joshua, Judges, Ruth; fourth grade: Luke; fifth grade: Acts and 1st and 2nd Samuel; sixth: John, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st and 2nd and 3rd John; seventh: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Daniel (prophets); eighth: 1st and 2nd Corinthians, 1st and 2nd

Timothy and Titus; ninth: Genesis; 10th: Matthew; 11th: Acts; 12th: Joshua, Judges and Ruth.”

Seniors Sparks, Clark and sophomore Daniel Bohnet were on the same team that won the Milligan College double elimination tournament in June. Kelsey noted that “winning Milligan was pretty awesome as well as winning the ultimate Frisbee tournament that weekend after the Bible Bowl games.”

Bohnet shared a favorite quick buzz on a keyword. This year there were 1,200 keywords (many students memorize the entire books and know instinctively where the keywords are) chosen from the books Joshua, Judges and Ruth. When the quizmaster started the question:

“I have a keyword tossup for 10 points: Walter Peyton … ”

Daniel immediately buzzed on the second word of the question “Peyton” — knowing that the famous running back’s nickname was “Sweetness” and the question would correlate with the keyword “sweetness” in Judges 9, which he quoted with ease.

“I waited all year for that keyword,” said Daniel, a football fanatic.

As I finish this column in downtown Indy, the double eliminations are just beginning. It has been a blessing to see these Johnson County young men and women begin as third-graders and head off to college holding God’s Word in high esteem.

Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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