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Varsity USA 2002

Varsity USA is an annual event for high school students in Awana Varsity clubs throughout America.  It is divided into three parts: the National Olympic competition, the National Bible Quiz competition, and the Fine Arts competition with several categories.  Our trip was from Tuesday, April 16 to Sunday, April 21.  I was part of the Lone Star Regional team which was making its first ever trip to Varsity USA.

The team met at Austin Bergstrom International Airport on Tuesday afternoon.  After an uneventful flight we checked into the Sheraton Arlington Hotel (the event hotel where most of the teams stayed and where the Bible Quizzing and Fine Arts competition took place), ate dinner at Burger King, and began a weeklong policy of never going to bed before midnight.  My room had three guys (Jonathan, Chris and me) plus our Awana missionary, John Byerly.  Before going to bed we guys convinced him that if we would get him up at 6:00 AM—not an easy proposition— we could go swimming in the morning.  So promptly at 5:45 we dragged him out of bed to swim for an hour while everyone in the other rooms was still asleep.

The opening ceremonies on Wednesday were at 10:00 AM at Harvest Bible Chapel.  It was a great time of praise and worship with an excellent speaker, along with an introduction of the teams.  In the afternoon I was introduced to human bungee foosball.  The players put on harnesses attached to bungee cords which are connected to the ceiling.  The game is then played like soccer but each person is restricted to a certain area by his cord.  Also at the same location there was a revolving climbing wall which kept moving as you climbed.  For a good mental picture, try imagining climbing on the outside of a hamster’s exercise wheel.  At least that’s what it felt like!  We ate lunch at a park before returning to our hotel for the Fine Arts competition.  I played an arrangement of "Fairest Lord Jesus" for the piano category while Stacey delivered her council time in the public speaking category.  For dinner the team went to eat at Gino’s Pizza and then went up to the observation deck of the 100 story tall John Hancock Center for a great look at downtown Chicago at night from the "Best view in Chicago."

"The opening ceremonies were...a great time of praise and worship."

Thursday morning we went to Awana headquarters for the Citation Award Ceremony.  Six of us—Whitney, Britney, Katie, Crystal, Erin and I—received our Citation Award which represents having completed the ten years of work in Awana from third through twelfth grade and the completion of at least fourteen handbooks and manuals.  While we were there, we also took a tour of headquarters.  In the afternoon at the Awana Olympics, we played one full round and three play-off rounds.  This took almost six hours and left everyone absolutely exhausted but pleased knowing that we played our hardest.  In the end we finished with third place in the Midwest regional team division, just short of advancing to the final rounds on Saturday which admitted only the top two teams from each region.

On Friday there was Bible quizzing.  We had a good team comprised of Whitney, Britney, Katie, Crystal, Stacey and Chris, and they advanced to the bronze medal round.  After quizzing we went to watch a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park.  It was very cold and windy and started raining in the eighth inning but we stuck it out to the very end in one of those truly "memorable experiences."  Saturday we watched the finals of the Olympics and Bible Quizzing, and in the evening we went to the closing ceremony.  Like the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony was a time of praise and worship and listening to another excellent speaker.  We also listened to performances by the Fine Arts winners in some of the musical categories.  Though I didn’t win the piano competition I did receive a gold medal.  Sunday we had a team worship service before going to the airport for the flight home.

"Six of us — Whitney, Britney, Katie, Crystal, Erin and I — received our Citation Award."

The experience of Varsity USA was truly exceptional.  From the opening to the closing it was filled with events, excitement, and many memorable moments.  Any one of these events alone—whether receiving a gold medal in Fine Arts or being presented my Citation Award at Awana headquarters by Jack Eggar, the president of Awana, and Art Rorheim, Awana’s founder, or competing in the Olympics—would have made the trip special.  But the combination of these was extraordinary.  Yet the truly special thing about this trip, as is the case in most of life, was the people.  Being on a team with 14 teenagers with a desire to please God, having four team leaders who gladly gave up a week to give us the time of our lives, and being with over a thousand of the finest teenagers in America; that is what was priceless.  Sadly it is not often one gets the opportunity to be around and interact with people of this quality, particularly teenagers.  I thank God He chose me to be a part of this experience.  I am also grateful to my team leaders, John and Jamie Byerly and James and Sylvia Smith, who gave up a week of their lives because they cared about us.  I am sure their example will be remembered by each team member as we become adults.

"The experience of Varsity USA was truly exceptional. From the opening to the closing it was filled with events, excitement, and many memorable moments."

At the opening ceremonies the speaker gave a challenge to the audience, particularly to the Citation recipients.  It was to not let achieving the Citation be a pinnacle of success or a place to look back at the things we have accomplished.  Instead he challenged us to make it only the very beginning, the beginning of a lifetime of serving and pleasing God.  Every day this is my prayer, that I have only just begun.

"The speaker... challenged us to make it only the very beginning, the beginning of a lifetime of serving and pleasing God."

Last Updated: May 5, 2002