April 21, 2015

92 Pathfinder Teams Take Gold in Major Bible Contest

Ninety-two of the 127 teams of Pathfinders that participated in an annual Bible contest last weekend came in first place, indicating their strong mastery of the Scriptures, contest coordinator W. Gene Clapp said Monday.

The roughly 760 Pathfinders tackled 90 questions from the New Testament book of Matthew during the finals for the North American Division’s Pathfinder Bible Experience, informally known as the Bible Bowl, at Southwestern Adventist University on Sabbath, April 18.

In addition to the 92 teams in first place, 33 teams came in second, and one team placed third, said Clapp, Pathfinder director of the Texas Conference.

“I am very excited for the kids from all teams!” he told the Adventist Review. “They certainly know their Matthew!”

First place went to teams that answered correctly 90 percent of the top team's score. Teams that answered correctly 80 percent of the top team's score got second place. Third place went to the others.

Last year, 88 teams participated, and 69 won first place, 16 won second, and two won third.

The contest was live-streamed from campus in Keene, Texas. (See video below.)

Even before the contest was over, the Pathfinders were being applauded.

“They are all winners just to get to this Bible Bowl,” said Marquita Klinedinst, who joined hundreds of viewers in watching the contest online. “Everyone has worked very, very hard,” she said in a live chatroom on the university’s YouTube channel.

The Pathfinders — aged 10 to 16 and on teams of up to six people each — spent hours studying and memorizing Matthew in order to win conference- and union-level competitions and thus make it to the finals.

A hearty roar went up around the auditorium when the last question was announced. The question, worth eight points, was: “According to Matthew 28:19, Fill in the blanks: '_____ therefore and make _____ of all the _____, _____ them in the name of the _____ and of the _____ and of the _____ _____!'”

Before disclosing the answer, Clapp said, “This particular text should be your life commission, and because of that I invite everyone to read the answer off the screen.”

In one voice, they read: “GO therefore and make DISCIPLES of all the NATIONS, BAPTIZING them in the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.” Reaching the end, the children again burst into loud cheers.

Questions during the finals were worth various points, with more complex answers earning more points. Question No. 21, for example, asked: “According to Matt. 12:22, what three problems did the man have who was brought to Jesus?”

The answer, worth three points, was: “Demon-possessed, blind, and mute.”

The questions, all announced by Clapp, were made available to the children in English, Spanish, and French.

Tornado sirens went off as judges counted the results late Saturday night, prompting Clapp to assure Pathfinders that they were in “the safest building” in the area and to urge them not to go outdoors. A song leader playing the guitar on stage paused to pray for God's protection.

The storm passed without trouble.

The contest is held on a different Adventist university campus every year. Last year, Pathfinders competed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland, and in 2013 they met at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

About 2,000 Pathfinders and their friends descended on Southwestern Adventist University on the eve of the contest on Friday.

“There are just so many great kids, and their enthusiasm is a blessing to observe,” said Darcy Force, the university’s director of marketing and public relations.

The university’s enrollment team helped the cafeteria pack 2,000 sack lunches on Friday to feed the guests after church services and before the contest begins.

The university also handed out “Welcome to Southwestern” bags, which Force said were filled with “fun stuff like lanyards, decals, SWAU teddy bears, water bottles, and some random $500 scholarships tucked in here and there.”

Pathfinders not too busy with late-minute memorization or studying toured the campus. Force said a major attraction was a triceratops skull in the dinosaur lab that the university was currently working on.

“It’s a pleasure to host the Pathfinders,” Force said. “Of course, we welcome the opportunity to show our Texas friendly hospitality and our wonderful campus.”