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Encouragement Writing craft

Finding God at the Spelling Bee

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Julie Lavender

Most of my newspaper bylines result from faith-based stories that I locate on my own. I enjoy sharing God-stories in the newspaper.

As a newspaper stringer, however, I often have the opportunity to cover news-related stories, and I can honestly say I enjoy most of those stories, too. Some are a bit of a yawner, though, and three-and-a-half hours of spelling words fell in that category when I covered a school district contest a couple of years ago. Towards the end, two young brilliant boys went back and forth for thirty-five rounds before Elikem Gato stumbled on the word “mukhtar,” and Eric Lim was declared the winner. 

Oh, dear – Elikem’s back, I mumbled quietly when I entered the auditorium to cover another spelling contest. This could go on forever.

I was lulled into amazement at the kids’ performance, just like last time, with the first pronunciation. 

When “folksiness” tripped up seventh-grader Nicholas Cortes, Elikem Gato correctly spelled “beneath” and “flail” to become the spelling bee champion. 

Gathering my journalist’s paraphernalia, I made my way to the winner. I snapped the obligatory trophy shot with his school principal and grabbed cute shots with his family, too. Both parents and two brothers congratulated Elikem and beamed with pride. 

All I need is a couple of quotes from the champion, and I’m outta here.

 “How did you prepare for the spelling bee, Elikem?

“I study a lot with my brothers – in the car, after school, at home. We call out words to each other. We grew up memorizing Bible verses at home, so memorizing words comes a lot easier for us.”

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Elikem Gato with his parents–and the championship trophy.

I paused from my writing and made eye contact with the youngster. His dad, a college professor, added in his beautiful Ghana-cadence, “We try to train our kids to live out their faith, to let the them know the importance of knowing Jesus and trying to live for him as best as God can help us.”

My grin widened almost as much as the trophy-holding champion’s, and I chatted with the family until the maintenance guy turned off the lights in the auditorium as a not-so-subtle hint.

I had my God-story for the newspaper after all, about a champion of words and the Word, and I couldn’t wait to get home to write the article.

Thank you, God, for reminding me that you’re with me in everything I write. Even when I don’t expect to find you there! 

BIO: Julie Lavender, author of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell), loves finding God in the little stories and the big stories with each newspaper article she pens. Author, journalist, and former homeschooling mom, Julie is a wife, mother of four, and grandmommy of one.