Seventeen-year-old Paul Allen figures he’s memorized 1,000 Bible verses over the past 12 years.
Luckily for him, it’s not a chore.
“I have a lot easier time memorizing things than other people,” he said. “Most of the time I can put them into a certain rhythm and that helps as well.”
In April, Allen, a senior at Skyview High and member of the AWANA club at Heights Baptist Church, received the Citation Award for completing 10 AWANA handbooks during his years in the third through 12th grades.
He is only the third of the more than 3,000 students who have gone through the Heights Baptist program since 1992 to earn the award, said the Rev. Sean Eddy, pastor of the church. It’s the highest achievement an AWANA member can earn.
The award also qualifies Allen for a college scholarship of up to $3,000 a year for four years at participating colleges and universities.
The acronym AWANA, which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, comes from the New Testament verse 2 Timothy 2:15. The goal of the nondenominational international ministry is to raise children and youth to know, love and serve Christ.
Allen, the son of Richard and Gilay Allen, attends Valley Bible Church. He joined AWANA when he was 5.
Youngsters in the weekly group focus on memorizing Bible verses, understanding the Bible, sometimes listen to guest speakers and enjoy physical activities, like dodge ball, to interact with the other members.
“They’re expected to do more serving and leading the older they get in the program,” Eddy said.
This year, Allen led games for the younger members and occasionally spoke or taught during the year. He also spent lots of time on his own reading the Bible, memorizing verses and learning how to apply what he gleaned in his own life.
That included reading the entire Bible and memorizing about 300 verses during his high school years.
Allen said he decided when he was 15 and another student earned the citation to work toward it himself.
“It felt very gratifying” to earn it, Allen said. “It felt like the culmination of everything I’ve been working towards. It was really nice to have the recognition.”
Allen lives a busy life. In addition to AWANA, he loves to read and swim.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 9 and reading since I was 4,” he said.
He’s a member of the Billings Aquatic Club’s Stingrays swim team, and sings in the Skyview High choir. He also enjoys playing video games, when he has a spare moment.
In addition to his high school classes this year, Allen has taken a couple of college courses at Montana State University Billings. He hasn’t decided where he’ll attend college, but he hopes to earn degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering and then do postgraduate work in physics, chemistry and mathematics.
As he looks back over his years with AWANA, Allen said what he has learned about that Bible will stick with him his whole life. But he has learned something else, as well.
“I learned that I can lead and help other people learn really well,” he said. “I can present things in a fashion they can grasp, and if they can’t get it one way, I’ll do it another way. It’s showed me some of my gifts and started developing some other ones.”