Debate is the homeschool sport. It has grown to be since its creation in 1996, and I have been involved ever since. I was Superintendent of the largest Christian homeschool speech and debate tournament it its history, the National Invitational Tournament of Champions (NITOC). It took place at the beautiful facility of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs last week. What a grand experience it was for the approximate 2000 people who attended!
There were a lot of blessings throughout the week. Students had a great time (see the tournament’s Facebook Page for pics and testimonies). My perspective was mostly administrative. Could I share with you five specific blessings that I saw from my point of view? This is a long post, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate hearing about them.
1. Gracious Families
NITOC families invested a ton to come here. Nearly 600 competitors and their siblings competed. Don’t be fooled to think that they were all from Colorado. Only 15% of them were. So imagine the expense of traveling. It was pretty costly. Traveling creates tremendous anxiety in people, and when things go wrong, you can imagine how tense a situation can be.
One example kicked the week off. Focus on the Family’s back lawn was reserved for the student hangout area. Club canopies peppered the back lawn. On Monday night, we had a huge wind storm plow through our set up of canopies. All pop-ups that weren’t properly tied down (about half of them) were destroyed. I stayed up Monday evening making phone calls to the owners of the canopies to give them bad news.
I got nothing but graciousness and gratitude. I tried to apologize, but all I got was a string of responses: “Don’t worry about it,” “You can’t control the weather,” “Eh, things like that happen.” What great people.
2. Gracious Competition
Tuesday was the smoothest day of the week. I had 75 staff members busily letting everything flow nicely. Three of the four Focus on the Family buildings were being utilized. I took a walk to the operations building (we called it the “Ops Building”) to see how things were rolling.
I had a surreal moment. The building was very quiet. Debate rounds were going on in every room. I walked through the hall and peaked in. We had 360 students registered for debate, and they were peppered throughout the campus. All speaking with confidence and grace.
It was a blessing to observe. I wish you could have been there. If you have never made it to one of these tournaments, you are certainly missing out on one of the greatest movements among the younger generation.
3. Gracious Hosts
Focus on the Family was incredible. So incredibly hospitable and gracious. Allow me to explain.
Remember the canopies-turning-to-kites incident? Wind for most of the week forced a lot of our students and families indoors. The crowd of people was supposed to be outside. There was a tense behind-the-scenes moment that we thought we were exhausting our hosts. Do you know the feeling? Sort of when you are staying at someone else’s house, and you start to realize they don’t really want you there. We began to think perhaps that was the case.
Not on your life. The executive cabinet made super clear to me that they LOVED having the facility lit up with families! In fact, the President of Focus on the Family Jim Daly asked me to speak for their Board of Directors on Wednesday (a huge honor!). And on Friday morning, we had ticketed the number of guests for the chapel service with the employees. The Executive Cabinet called me to let me know that they wanted to throw open the doors on Friday and let everyone in. Wow, what gracious hosts we had!
4. Gracious Staff
As Superintendent, my job was to do nothing during the tournament. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it is sort of true. I had 75 staff members from all over the country who were tasked with their jobs, and my job was to make sure things ran smoothly.
And smoothly it did run! That’s not to say there weren’t snafus. When you push 600 students registered for 1300 speech and debate events, you’re going to run into issues. But the staff was focused on doing it right, making things happen that needed to happen. The integrity of NITOC was rock solid, and I have a gracious staff to thank for that.
5. Gracious God
God works in the most tense moments. I hope I kept my cool all week, but now that it’s over, I’ll let my guard down a little. There were some doozie moments! But God was there every step of the way, never leaving the immense event high and dry.
I think of one tense moment. No reason to give details of the small meeting I was having, but let me just say we were faced with a significant problem, and we were sort of at a dead end for finding a solution. We were interrupted by someone for a short while, and I took the opportunity to text, Wendy – my prayer warrior – with this txt: “Pray!!! I’ve got a big problem.” Immediately after the interruption, those of us wrestling with the conflict returned to our problem. It was like scales fell from our eyes, and we came up with a perfect solution. It was like the solution landed right in our laps, and we all kind of thought, “Duh.”
No, it wasn’t a “duh” moment. It was a “God loves us and our community and wants us to succeed” moment. Yet another reminder that God is sovereign.
If you would like to see more about this awesome event, visit the tournament website or Friend the Facebook StoaUSA page. The pictures and testimonies are very impressive. And if you are a homeschooler who would like to know more about this community, order my $20 book for only $1. You will be impressed and will want your children involved.