BROOKSVILLE — With wins at both the Central Florida and regional levels behind them, eight teens from the youth group of First Baptist Church are preparing for the July national Teens Involved competition at the Word of Life Bible Institute campus in Hudson.
Of the eight categories entered by the teens at the regional competition in Jacksonville last month, they placed in the top five in six categories and will move on to the national level.
Cheyenne Spurlock, Niki Tucker, Jen Brooks, David Seale and Kaylee LaPlaca will pursue additional awards in the Bible Quiz Blitz Challenge, where they took top honors.
Kaylene Parker will enter her short story, "Day of Reckoning." Kristy Madden and LaPlaca will present their drama, Futures, and Harrison Hadley will give his sermon, "The Roman Road."
Besides participating in the Bible quiz, Tucker also won for her clarinet solo of Amazing Grace, and Spurlock and Brooks for their original vocal/instrumental duet, Continuity.
The questions used in the quiz are based on lesson materials prepared by Word of Life that the students have been studying at their Wednesday night youth group meetings.
The teens, who are students at Hernando High School, said they are pleased that they won and are looking forward to giving their presentations at the nationals.
"When they announced our duet made it to the finals, that really surprised us," Brooks said. "No one ever really thinks they're actually going to get to go, and we made it. We were very happy, very ecstatic."
"At the regional competition, there were a lot of people there and they all work really hard, so I was pretty amazed," she said.
She's also happy about the week they will spend at the camp in Hudson that accompanies the midweek competition. "It's fun, but it's also hard work. I'm excited about having a week to get away."
Up to this point, the students have won pins, certificates and trophies. According to Word of Life spokeswoman Beth Hirzel, the 400 or so teens moving to the national competition will have the opportunity to win scholarships for additional time at the ministry's camp and to attend the Bible institute.
"There may be other prizes as well," she said. "There will be first-, second- and third-place winners."
Brian Brijbag is the youth director at the church, as well as the kids' coach and biggest fan.
"We have many talented young people here," he said. "This is their first year doing this, and they have been going up against teens that have done this for several years. They all did an excellent job."
Brijbag said Teens Involved is about more than winning trophies. It's to encourage young people to use the gifts and talents God has given them in service through the church. The teens have begun doing that, he said, and church members have been praying for and encouraging them.
"Before the very first competition, we did all the preaching and singing and drama in a church service before the adults here at First Baptist," he said.
"Afterward, the adults just swarmed the young people telling them how well they did. A lot of the young people that night gained the courage to actually use those gifts and talents because they were received so well."
Tucker said her talent is indeed a gift.
"I don't really do it for myself. I do it for God," she said. "He's given me the talent to do it, so I want to do it for him."
Spurlock and Brooks say their feelings about God are expressed in the words of their song:
"The seasons change, as do I. Nothing's the same, in this life. But through it all, You remain. You're constant, you stay the same. You are my sunshine, when clouds are gray. You make the darkness just melt away. You are my air when I cannot breathe. You are my continuity. As long as I live, as long as I breathe, You are everything, everything to me. As long as I laugh, as long as I love. You are here for me, here for me. You are my sunshine, when clouds are gray. You make the darkness just melt away. You are my air when I cannot breathe. You are my continuity."