When Serah Keliwin arrived as the English teacher at Mount Diamond Adventist Secondary School, she heard that the school participated in the Central Province debating competition for years, but never won. She challenged her students to read a chapter of the Bible each day and then summarize it. She felt this would help their English which was often their third language.
She selected her team on the basis of their faithfulness to reading and summarizing a chapter a day. This was their main preparation to compete against 12 other schools, one at a time, over the course of the school year.
When a new student had not done well as their first speaker, she decided to change him before the next meeting. Sensing her decision, a colleague told her about this student’s passion for attending Mount Diamond. Previously attending a Catholic school, he had determinedly asked directions and paid expensive taxi fares to find this Adventist school during the vacation, in order to secure a place. The deputy had squeezed him in, recognizing his efforts.
Instead of changing him out, Serah instructed him to read out loud in the bush somewhere, two chapters of the Bible each day, practicing his diction, clarity, and emphasis. He did that faithfully over the next few weeks.
Serah’s team progressed to the top level against Sogeri National Secondary School. This school’s team had won each debate by a large margin and the school had won year after year. As Serah was preparing for the final day, 2 Chronicles 20:15 leapt out at her in her reading: “Don’t be afraid or discouraged… The battle is not your battle, it is God’s.”
She encouraged her team to focus on finishing within time limits. Each of her members finished within the allocated five minutes while each of the Sogeri members went overtime. The final speaker had 10 minutes to summarize and rebut. With his daily Bible summarizing practice, he finished right on time. The last Sogeri team member finished six minutes over time. Sogeri had been unseated and Mount Diamond had come first in the province. This was historic on both counts.
In 2014 the team won again and was asked by the Australian High Commission to challenge the National Capital District debate champions, a school where many students had English as their first language. On the morning of the debate, they drew encouragement from Jeremiah 1. They were worried but felt encouraged to believe in God’s promises. At the end of the debate, they were declared the Debate Champions.
Serah’s experience reminded me of the power of time with the Bible. I asked myself: “What if our entire Adventist education system did that?” I have personally added reading and summarizing a chapter a day within my own hour with God, and added some personal reflection questions to help me think deeply about my reading. I encourage you to do the same. Will you accept the challenge?
Note: Article written and posted in English