Alright. I confess that in recent years Lynn and I have somehow joined the ranks of “Grandparent Groupies.”
I might warn you: Grandparenting is an extreme sport. In addition to buying anything they might be selling, taking them on trips and hosting “slumber parties” at our house, we also gladly show up at almost all of our four granddaughters’ events.
Russ Bartee, president of the NTLTC board, estimated that nearly 6,000 children participated at the three Dallas sites this year. Counting the families and sponsors who come along, the number jumps to 12,000. Some 230 congregations are involved.
With the theme “Unstoppable,” taken from the book of Acts, kids competed in song leading, signing, puppetry, public speaking, chorus, Bible Bowl, Bible Reading, Bible Quiz, Christian art, scrapbooking, Web Design and Power Point.
Our congregation, the Memorial Road church in Edmond, Okla., was assigned to the Anatole Hotel. When we checked in Friday afternoon, we were impressed by the magnitude of this luxurious hotel’s lobby and its massive art collection, with pieces that once adorned the royal palaces of kings and emperors. But the best was yet to come.
Once inside, we felt we had stepped into to a beehive. Vast numbers of eager kids, accompanied by smiling/stressed family members, swarmed over the massive hotel and atrium, packing the conference rooms and jamming the elevators.
In color-coded T-shirts, emblazoned with “Unstoppable,” the kids collected in congregational groups, practiced their presentations and nervously awaited their turn before the judges.
Danny Snell, site coordinator, told us the Board’s vision is to create a positive, family-focused event that develops Christian leadership. “We see it as a ministry of encouragement,” said Snell. Each child is encouraged to compete only against themselves, to attain their personal best.
Children prepare for these contests for three to four months prior to the convention. It’s obvious that the kids get a lot of encouragement from Bible study with their peer group. It makes study exciting and cool.
“It’s not what happens here that’s important; it’s what happens in those months preceding this,” said Snell. “This is the fun; the icing on the cake.”
Bible Bowl probably drew the biggest numbers. On Friday night we watched nearly 500 kids from grades 3 to 12 take a two-and-a-half hour test over the book of Acts. They answered 100 multiple choice questions. It probably would be embarrassing to see how we adults would fare on the same test.
Saturday was a long and fast-paced day, with well-organized coordinators juggling room changes and judges for hundreds of events while somehow keeping the massive convention moving on schedule.
Sherri Roberts, from College Station, Texas, is one of those amazing leaders. She coordinates judging and signing events and has been with NTLTC since its beginning. She owns an interpreting agency in College Station and says she keeps coming back because she sees the potential of the students who are learning to sign.
“I have watched many of them go into deaf missions or begin a deaf ministry at their own church as a result of their LTC experiences,” Roberts said. She allows special needs children to participate as signers, including those with Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, autism and children with dyslexia.
Those of us from the Memorial Road congregation in Edmond ate together in shifts in a large suite. Our meals, provided by a Herculean team of women, were delicious, and the fellowship sweet. As I looked around the room, I was struck with how much good was being accomplished in that room filled with laughter.
Parents were deeply engaged with their children; grandparents were there to cheer them on. All of us were celebrating our common spiritual faith.
I asked a few children why they came to LTC and what they might gain from the experience.
“Because I like studying the Bible, and this is a good way to study with people who have read the book more than you have. And I like it because you get to compete. I am very competitive, and I love to try my hardest.” – David Dento, 13, Lubbock, Texas
“I came because my sister did it last year. I’m doing the puppets. I’m pretty nervous, but it’s still fun.” – Kaley Whitley, 9, Brownwood, Texas.
Perhaps Taylor Glover, 9, of Mansfield, Texas, said it best. Taylor was competing in four events at LTC.
“This probably going to change my personality and the way I act.”
“Really?” I said. “In what way?”
“Well, I been trying all along to help people, but now I will really be able to.”
How grateful we are for the men and women behind NTLTC and for the families who are choosing a higher calling by sacrificing time and money to invest in their children’s spiritual education. Let’s lift up the hands of those who participate in this great event and encourage as many as possible to become a part of something that will bless their family for generations.
April 11, 2007