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Faith without fear

Ennis youth wins national award for public speaking skills
For many, public speaking is a phobia ranking alongside a fear of snakes or spiders, but for one Ennis High grad, addressing a crowd not only comes natural, it’s an ability at which he excels.
Matt Howerton’s expertise was put to the test and found worthy of the title of overall winner at the Baptist Youth National Speaker’s Tournament, held in Duluth, Georgia at the Georgia Baptist Convention Center last month.
The 18-year-old is proud of the achievement but humble.
“Having the experience and winning is a huge honor but I don’t feel like I deserve it,” he said. “God gave (blessings) back to me tenfold, and I am thankful.”
Howerton competed at the state level with 23 other finalists before moving on to national competition with another Texas delegate and seven other competitors from around the country.
Son of Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton and his wife Janie, he said the road to his accomplishment started in his sophomore year of high school when he became involved in youth activities at Tabernacle Baptist Church that included a series of academic exercises.
“It is sort of like UIL competitions for church,” he said. “There is a set of Christian themed topics. You choose one and prepare a four to six minute speech that you have to memorize and deliver in front of a panel of judges. The judges rate you on content but only about 20 percent of the score is based on that. The other 80 percent is completely based on delivery, so the more practice you get giving the speech to crowds, the better.”
Practicing for Howerton wasn’t necessarily a difficult task, having myriad opportunities to speak in front of the youth at Tabernacle, but he also gave the speech in front of the entire congregation before leaving for the national competition. What overwhelmed him was not the task of giving the speech but the support he received from the church and his family.
“It has been amazing and I am very blessed,” he said. My church was behind me and my family is very proud of me and I took that with me.”
Howerton credits an earlier experience beginning in fifth grade for his ability to be at ease with an audience, and said he’s lucky that people helped him nurture his gift.
“I really started performing in front of audiences in fifth grade when my teacher Cathy Criner told me to try out for a school play,” he said. “She saw something in me and knew I’d do well in front of people and that carried through to my high school career where I got involved in UIL in various subjects like prose and poetry as well as debate. I learned how to get my point across to people in debate and Tonya Harper really helped me with knowing how to communicate with an audience. I had great teachers who recognized a talent in me that I have been able to direct into areas that will help me the rest of my life.”
The award winning speech Howerton gave was titled “Stepping out on faith” and illustrated through Biblical examples people who were fearful of doing what God asked them to do but the end results were nothing short of amazing. He said he chose the topic for its simplistic theme.
“The topic is really basic and relates to everyone,” he said. “We all have lots of ways to go in life and if we look to the Bible for examples of people who were afraid to do something but because God asked them, they did it anyway and something ingenious happened, it is inspiring. I heard someone say once that the opposite of fear is faith and my speech showed how with faith God provides for his people.”
An excerpt from Howerton’s speech reveals his thoughts and his passion for his beliefs.
“The verse that is in the very center of the Bible is Psalms 118:8,” he said. “The scripture says, ‘It is better to trust in the Lord than put our confidence in man.’ This scripture should be the center of our faith. We should trust in the living God, the God who is our creator and our savior, the God of miracles, and the God who will judge us one day. Faith is obedience to God. God will do what He has promised us He will do. He will protect us and deliver us; if, and only if, we are obedient to Him. When He says we should step out in faith, we should do so, and we should step without fear.”
As he prepares for Baylor University in the fall, Howerton said he feels it’s important to take what he has learned from this experience with him to help create a future for himself.
“I was concerned about where I chose to attend college because so many kids go off to school full of faith but lose it somehow,” he said. “But Baylor encourages the spiritual side of its students and I appreciate that foundation. The experience of the speech contest has proven to me that I can be a witness and give a testimony for Christ in the real world and that is important to me. This experience was character building and will help me in every path I choose in the future. It has shown me to not be afraid to speak up.”
Howerton said he hasn’t ruled out a church-related field of work in the future, adding that he will apply the best qualities of his hometown to whatever path he chooses.
“Ennis is a great place to grow up,” he said. “I love this town and I will take the character of it with me wherever I go.”

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Posted by on Jul 1 2008. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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