LTC resumes, an Easter tradition resurrected



Left to right: LTC students Mikayla Theis, Tristan Kunkel, Lily Cates, Laynie Bryan, Alina Miller, Mikenna Maxwell, Emilee Kunkel and Abby Schjang pose at Pleasanton Church of Christ in front of their bulletin board with puppets, props, art supplies and Bible Bowl blocks. MELISSA THEIS | PLEASANTON EXPRESS PHOTOS

Left to right: LTC students Mikayla Theis, Tristan Kunkel, Lily Cates, Laynie Bryan, Alina Miller, Mikenna Maxwell, Emilee Kunkel and Abby Schjang pose at Pleasanton Church of Christ in front of their bulletin board with puppets, props, art supplies and Bible Bowl blocks. MELISSA THEIS | PLEASANTON EXPRESS PHOTOS

Twenty-nine members of the Pleasanton Church of Christ were elated to take part in the Leadership Training for Christ convention at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Friday-Sunday, April 2-4. The annual convention includes a two-day Bible-related competition which concludes with a worship service on Easter Sunday.

This year, 11 Pleasanton youth participated in 11 of the 30 events and challenges offered, including: Drama, Puppets, Chorus, Song Leading, Bible Bowl, PowerPoint, Scrapbook, Bulletin Boards, Art, Service and Daily Devotional, with most of them competing in multiple events. They were not deterred by COVID restrictions such as the requirement that face masks be worn, even during performances.

2021 LTC participants included: Third graders Alina Miller and Lily Cates, fourth graders Tristan Kunkel, Emilee Kunkel and Abby Schjang, sixth graders Mikenna Maxwell and Elijah Marquez, eighth grader Laynie Bryan, 10th graders Mikayla Theis and RJ Marquez and 12th grader Heaven Marquez.

Left to right: Heaven Marquez, Elijah Marquez and RJ Marquez after their song-leading competitions at LTC in the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Left to right: Heaven Marquez, Elijah Marquez and RJ Marquez after their song-leading competitions at LTC in the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

“LTC was so fun. I was nervous because I have never been, but then when I got there and was able to play with my church friends I felt better,” firsttime LTC participant Lily Cates said. “Learning new things about God and the Bible was fun, too. I hope to go next year and be able to do art, drama, puppets and Bible Bowl again.”

Pleasanton kids and families weren’t sure if they’d get to attend at all this year. Since 1989, LTC had become an Easter-weekend tradition which has grown to include thousands of people. But after increasing restrictions beginning last March, and many churches moving to strictly livestreamed services, just weeks shy of the 2020 competition, congregations received the official word— LTC was canceled.

Though a blessing during a difficult time, many church leaders and members began to feel that online worship could not replace in-person gatherings as a long-term alternative. Though precautions had to be taken, the church needed to be together and active.

Even after the disappointing cancelation of the 37th annual Bible Bowl competition in Corpus Christi in November 2020, the congregation moved on and planning for April 2021’s LTC continued. Because these events are about so much more than winning a competition, kids, parents and coaches began official event preparation in January, not knowing if they’d get the opportunity to showcase their growth in God’s Word.

“Working with these kids has been motivating,” LTC drama coach Joy Gunter said. “Even without knowing whether the event would happen, their fearless optimism in each event was contagious. The future is bright because of their passion and devotion to learning God’s plan.”

When the announcement came that LTC would take place, it was also noted that, due to capacity restrictions, some congregations may have to participate virtually. By January, practice times were set, scripts written, parts cast, songs chosen and a study of Revelation had begun. Challenges, such as service projects and bulletin boards, began in the summer of 2020. It wasn’t until February 2021, two months before the competition, it was confirmed they would attend in person.

It’s fun to see old friends from other churches and to learn the Bible,” fivetime LTC participant and nine-time Bible Bowler Mikayla Theis said. “It’s just a great overall experience.”

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for each event. As they await the results, planning is already underway for Bible Bowl 2021 in Corpus Christi.

“Coaching these children encourages me and lifts my spirits,” mom and Bible Bowl coach Brandy Schjang said. “I am so proud of them.”

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