An Experience at a Bible Reading Marathon

 

There is something exciting and invigorating to be up in the middle of the night with friends. Something about a sense of mission and camaraderie in being awake when the world sleeps.

Forget after-hour parties or driving up a mountain for coffee; if you want an adrenaline induced heart pounding experience: volunteer with a group of friends to take the 3AM to 6AM slot of a bible reading marathon.

My first ever experience of a bible-reading marathon happened this year. It was the first ever Klang Valley Bible Reading Marathon (BRM1-KL) organised by the Lighthouse Watchmen Prayer Network Committee. The bible-reading marathon would last 3 and 1/2 days, with 84 hours divided into 28 slots lasting 3-hours each. The objective: to have the bible read from Genesis to Revelation in one unbroken successive run.

 

1st Klang Valley Bible Reading Marathon

 

In the fourth watch of the night before the dawn of Merdeka Day, my team from GCF (Graduate Christian Fellowship) would take the 24th slot of this marathon which was flagged off at 6:00AM, August 28th. We assembled at 2:30AM prior to our allocated time slot, and had the opportunity to observe the bible readers from the preceding slot finish up their tour of duty. We were guided on the format of the relay: each team member is allocated 15 minutes of reading, and as teams were to be 12 persons strong, that multiplied to 3 hours.

 

Our team leader briefing us on the format of the bible reading marathon

 

The format for the marathon is easier explained from tail-end of a reader’s 15 minute slot. It is as follows: As you reach the last 2 minutes of your reading slot, a bell will sound once. This signals the succeeding reader to get ready. At the end of the 15th minute, the bell would ring twice. And once you heard the ‘ting-ting’, you would finish the verse which you are reading, and call out the subsequent chapter and verse. The succeeding reader would then start and carry on until his 15 minutes are up.

Sounds easy, right? Yet, in my experience when observing the team before us and while we were sitting on the front row before the stage, there was a sense of solemn reverence which enveloped the area. We quieted and followed the reading of the text (in order not to loose track of the where the text is being read).

 

Site captain & timekeeper who ring the bells

 

The sense of anticipation is heightened as you go up the stage to sit next to the current reader of the bible. I hear the ‘ting’, walk up to the 2nd lectern beside the current reader on another lectern. I dared not take my eyes off my fingers on the page —  if you do and the wind suddenly flips the pages, you start to frantically look for page where the word is being read. You look for the sentences being read, you try to think where in the book you have seen those sentences. Your heart pounds as you, very quietly, flip the pages (like a duck paddling under below the waterline) to get back to where the word is being read, all the while hoping the double bell not to ring — which I did.

But I find the page, the words, and all is well. The bell goes ‘ting-ting’, the chapter and verse is called out, “Luke Chapter 2, Verse 12” and then I begin. Once you begin, there is no stopping, if you mispronounce a word, you keep going, if you miss a few words, you keep going. I read, focused on the lines of text and where my finger is, are, so that I don’t skip a line. My eyes focus in and out again, to keep tracking the words that are being read, while the very words of God are being read.

 

Our first reader underway and the 2nd reader on the standby chair.

 

Eventually, you start to settle in, and your heart starts to slow down, and you start to enjoy reading God’s word. I start to listen to the words breathed out through by my own breath. A quarter of an hour flies by, ‘ting’ and a little later ‘ting-ting’. Call out: “Luke Chapter 4, Verse 24”. The next reader starts straightaway and I return the bible to the stand-by chair and walk down the stage. My turn is over.

Some of my friends chose to read in the National language: Malay. Others represented the different languages in Malaysia: Mandarin, Tamil, and even reading from Braille. All of us thought it ever so delightful when our team leader uttered: “Salam sejahtera, hai engkau yang sangat diberkati oleh Tuhan! Tuhan menyertai engkau!” from Lukas Bab 1 Ayat 28. It is hard to describe, but somehow hearing Bahasa Malaysia gave me a pleasant homely feeling — that all is right and well — in this early morning of our 60th Merdeka Day, year two thousand and seventeen.

 

The reader on the left is waiting for his turn after hearing the first ‘ting’.

 

Each of us took our turn, reading for a quarter of an hour each and gradually emerged as veteran bible-reading marathoners. Before we finished our tour, the team members from our succeeding team start to arrive. And although we were only 3 hours older as seasoned marathoners, we passed on our baton proudly to the next team to run their marathon. It was as though the a new day had dawned on us, and we emerged seasoned. I guess that happens when we breathe out God’s very own words.

I will definitely be joining the 2nd Bible Reading Marathon, and even perhaps endeavour to train by finishing my reading of the bible. After all, it only took 84 hours to read the bible from cover to cover in this marathon. If I only read 3 hours a week, I would have completed the bible in 28 weeks — well within a year.

 

Filled with joy after doing your tour as a bible-reader.

 

Epilogue:

          Adjourning to breakfast at a dim sum restaurant nearby, we heard and looked up to witness 5 RMAF helicopters hovering above, carrying at the head of the formation: the Jalur Gemilang. How poignant the lyrics of our national anthem, with eyes focused on the good news we were reading, only a while ago —

 

Negaraku,

Tanah tumpahnya darahku,

Rakyat hidup, bersatu dan maju,

Rahmat bahagia, Tuhan kurniakan

Raja kita selamat bertakhta!

Rahmat bahagia, Tuhan kurniakan

Raja kita selamat bertakhta!

 

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