Junior Talent Debuts at GA18

(The following feature appeared in the publication General Assembly TODAY, published during the International General Assembly of the Church of God meeting this week in Orlando, Florida)

By David White girl named Addison, dressed in ballerina blue, asked for water to clear her singing throat and tissue to blow her nose. A mime named Caleb laughed out loud at a joke, proving mimes can talk, after all. A 12-year-old twisted hair locks with her finger as she pretended to be Jairus’ daughter.

One young girl from East Canada plucked at her violin strings. A boy out of Tennessee ran his fingers over the chords of an unplugged electric guitar. Still other children spun in their chairs, fidgeted in their seats, and asked if it was their turn yet as everyone waited in the cinder-blocked backstage for a chance to make history at the International General Assembly.

Everyone, meet the Jeremiah Generation: Kids Edition. They’ll be here all week, mostly in the Chapin Theater, singing, dramatizing, Bible quizzing and jamming on their instruments during the inaugural International Junior Talent competition – a younger version of the ever-popular Teen Talent – with this event being for Church of God kids ages 7-12.

“This is so exciting,” said Tennessee’s Aly Brown, dressed in ancient garb for her monologue. “To get to meet new people and make friends, and tell a story like an author, is awesome.”

Brown is one of more than 500 kids, from the Caribbean to Canada and throughout the continental United States, to enter this arts, drama, music and Bible competition. The winners will be announced Friday during the Awards Festival, starting at 5 p.m.

As one “proud mom” in the stands said, every contestant has already won.

Caleb Williams of the Fort Mills Church of God is entered in five categories. He came off the stage rubbing his elbows after telling the story of Samson and Delilah through a Solo Mime performance, dropping to the ground to act out Samson’s fall.

“The floor was harder than I thought,” he smiled.

Caleb showed Samson-like strength to stand in front of hundreds of strangers and perform without saying a word. The same goes for hundreds of others who overcame the potential for stage fright to use their gifts and talents on the color-splashed stage.

“I’m just glad God blessed me with the courage and bravery to be up there for Him,” he said. “It’s great to get this chance.”

The International Junior Talent at the General Assembly went from a great idea to a save-the-date reality in September 2017. Junior Talent has always been a state or regional competition, in part, to prepare children for the big stage of Teen Talent.

Thanks to visionary leadership on the local and international level, these kids now get the big stage to themselves through Friday.

In a cooperative effort between the International Youth and Discipleship Department and Church of God leadership, the decision was made to bring a talent competition back to General Assembly for the first time since International Teen Talent in 2008.

The Youth Department prepared manuals and guidelines in a hurry. State Youth and Discipleship Directors worked in overdrive to schedule their Junior Talent competitions, inform churches of the exciting addition, and help pastors and youth ministers do all they could to get their gifted children to Orlando.

They’re here, all right. So many, in fact, the competition had to start Tuesday, one day early, to get them all in.

Twenty-three teams are vying for a spot in the Bible Quizzing Final Four, starting at 9 a.m. Friday in the Valencia Ballroom. An amazing 44 students entered the male and female vocal solo competition. Drama teams from three nations, in categories ranging from Group Human Video to Solo Pantomime, acted out their faith.

No small coincidence: children’s church reported more than 400 kids in attendance on the first night of International General Assembly.

The Junior Edition of the Jeremiah Generation is indeed here to stay.

“The Church of God is making history with these kids,” said David Blair, the International Youth and Discipleship Director. “We believe in the Jeremiah Generation and we want to give them a platform to show, and minister with, the talents God has given them.”

Win or not, Cleveland’s Aly Brown, for one, is going to celebrate.

“I’m going to Disneyland,” she said, just like a champ.

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