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November 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
This year the Bible Bee finals in Orlando, FL was truly an uplifting and encouraging event. The national Bible Bee was the vision of a dear friend of our family .During Shelby's memorial service, God revealed to him the idea and vision for the creation of a Bible Bee. This happened within 90 seconds. He later came to us and asked if we would like Shelby's name to be a part of a national Bible Bee. We were humbled and blessed for her name to be remembered by such a God honoring event.
Debbi and I go to the finals each year and can hardly believe so many young people have memorized hundreds of Scripture passages and verses. The finals begin with 100 children from each category, primary, juniors and seniors. Some families have more than 1 child in the national competition, but for the most part, almost 300 families attend together. This year a Bible Bee game show was filmed, and took place at the same time as the national event. This is a huge project by itself.
We try to meet as many of the families and contestants who come to the finals each year as we can. We love to meet them and hear the stories behind their attendance. Many of these young people, especially in the senior division, spend up to 6 and 8 hours a day memorizing God’s Word. They are very committed in their quest to make the nationals and, hopefully, win the monetary prize. Through this commitment, they receive a tremendous blessing and a relationship with Jesus Christ in a new and exciting way they never experienced before.
One little girl we met, Joy Gao, overcame many obstacles to make it to nationals. Her family, is first generation American citizens, first generation English speaking and first generation Christians from China. She lives in a Chinese community and attends a Christian school. Most of the children who make it to finals are home schooled and their parents, siblings, and grandparents often spend a lot of time listening to them as they quote their Scriptures. It is usually a family "team" effort. So, Joy making it to the finals was unusual in many ways. She and her Mom have started a Bible Bee Bible study in their community in California. It was a privilege to meet her and hear her story, one of many testimonies of God's goodness in these young people's and their families' lives.
The first year of the Bible Bee nationals, November of 2009, in Washington D.C., I met Noah Farley. That year, he was one of the primary finalists, but he did not win. This year, being the junior division winner, I went to congratulate him. His Mother saw me and came over to speak with me. She said ‘you probably don’t remember this but back in Washington D.C., in 2009, you came up to Noah when he was crying about losing. With tears in your eyes, you spoke to him, kindly encouraging him. That did more than you will ever know for him.’ After she shared the story, I did remember him and the few moments I had with him. He had been blessed and encouraged by our short conversation. Again, I had tears in my eyes as she shared how much my words meant to Noah.
After the senior finals, Debbi and I went up to the front to meet the winner of the grand prize, Daniel Fierer. As we walked up to have our picture taken with him, he began to tell us how much Shelby’s testimony meant to him. He said her life had inspired him, not only to win the Bible Bee, but to live his life for Christ. What a blessing and encouragement to know our family’s lives had touched these two incredibly smart and committed Christians, Daniel and Noah! But most important is their understanding that whether they win or lose the prize money, they have won totally by committing God’s Word to memory and being able to rely on them when they face life's situations and need answers. In talking with the second place winner, Brittany Schlichter, who we have come to know very well over the years, we were amazed at her attitude and feelings of accomplishment for memorizing so much Scripture. Next year she will be too old to participate again. She's made it to the finals every year since 2009. She and her family are considering coming back next year to volunteer and to continue their involvement with the BB. The impact this event is having in the lives of many young people across our nation is truly encouraging and gives hope for the future. To God be the glory, great things He has done!!
Holly, Micah and their family met us in Orlando to attend the event. More of our family came, my sister Sharon Burnette and Debbi's Mom, Barbara McGovern were there as usual. For years we have tried to have Holly's children meet their cousins, Sharon's granddaughters, Corinne and Sofia. We all thought Heidi and Corinne look a lot alike and they definitely do. We were excited to finally have them meet there in Orlando.
While we were at the Bible Bee, Kenny was in Haiti. He went down to work in the village and assist John Leininger with a team this month. Before the team arrived, Kenny spent time ministering to Daphlie’s 3 sisters. Losing her so unexpectedly has been difficult for them. He took the girls with him to Pastor Etienne’s home for a few days while he went further north with some others from the village to work on a home in the Pestel area. Kenny went to put a roof on a home being built for a family. The girls spent time with Pastor Etienne’s daughter, Jacqui, who is close to their age.
While going to Pestel, Kenny took gifts for the 10 children in Pastor Wilford's care. We had packaged clothes and shoes for each of these children and put their names on each pack. Kenny gave one to each of them. They were very excited and grateful to receive the packages. It took him a few days to complete the roof on the home. When they returned to the village, he left the girls and the others who had worked with him. He went home with Lussade.
They had a couple of days to get ready for John and his team's arrival. When they arrived, he got busy helping with the group. They did some small projects in the village, but most of their time was spent with the children and families in the Merci Village. They had Bible School for the children and did some teaching in the church in the evenings. But their priority was spending time with the people, and they did a great job getting to know the village families.
Many times we want ministry to be big. Our flesh wants to see many people give their hearts to Jesus Christ, which is a good thing. Living in Haiti and Mexico can make us feel like we never can do enough. However, God often uses our everyday life experiences, our time, our conversations and our willingness to slow down and spend time with others to share His love and His life with them. More often than not, it’s what we consider the small things we do, the short conversations, a word of encouragement or just a smile that can have an impact on someone else. God uses all our time, talents and actions. During the holidays, try to slow down and share Christ’s love and be an encouragement to your family and friends. Thank you for the love and encouragement you share with our family. May you and your family have a blessed and Christ centered holiday season!
Because of our Savior,
The Kennedy Family