Vivian Westfall describes her nine-year-old daughter Marija as a bright, sweet girl who has an exceptional verbal memory and a high rate of comprehension. Interestingly, Marija and her two sisters were all home-schooled.
Marija and her family have been members of the Grace Vineyard Church on Diamond Drive since 2005. When Grace Vineyard sponsored the local competition for the National Bible Bee, a competition organized by Shelby Kennedy Foundation, Marija decided to compete.
The first competition was Aug. 28 in Los Alamos and across the nation, and 15 kids from around New Mexico competed in Los Alamos. The competition is divided into three age groups, Primary (7-10 year-olds), Junior (11-14) and Senior (15-18).
Across the country, over 6,700 kids started the competition, and about half of those were in the 7-10 age group, according to Vivian, and 1,200 from that group ended up making it to the August 28th competitions.
“It’s more than reciting,” says Vivian. “It’s the written test that’s really challenging.”
The competition began with the Oral Speed Round where children were required to recite 30 passages of the 62 assigned passages (250 verses) in 10 minutes, which was worth 300 points. The second round was a written comprehension test covering the Book of Colossians and Ephesians, cross references for Colossians and the key words from those Bible books in Greek, and comprehension on the 250 memory verses. The children were given one hour and the test was worth 600 possible points.
In the August national qualifying round Marija ranked first, and she ranked second in the final round. The final round determined the winner of the local bee and gave the children an opportunity to recite Bible verses on stage before an audience of about 40 parents.
On Sept. 1st, Marija got the news that she qualified to go to the national competition in Schaumburg, Illinois on Nov. 11 ‘” 13. Qualification was based on performance of the top 100 contestants.
To cover the costs of traveling to Schaumburg (about $3,000), Vivian started fundraising to raise $2,000, and planned to cover $1,000 out of the family budget. She started with selling Usborne Books and Chuck’s Nuts through family, friends, her fellow church members and other church members. Vivian estimates she’s raised $1,200 to date, and she is working to get support from the business community.
Vivian continued to teach and practice verses with Marija and she requested audiences at local churches so that Marija could get practice reciting before audiences. She did recitations at the Church of Christ, Redeemer Lutheran and New Beginnings as well as Grace Vineyard.
The other child qualifying for nationals (from the senior group, ages 15-18) was Matthew Evans from Albuquerque has represented New Mexico five times at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, placing 5th in his last year of competition. Matthew ranked 7th nationwide in the August competition.
The top prize for senior age group is $100,000, for the Junior group is $50,000 and Primary group is $25,000. Look for an update on Marija’s status here after Nov. 13.
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