14-Year-Old Surprises Camp Meeting by Reciting 3 Bible Chapters From Memory
The pastor’s daughter says her secret to memorization is writing out the verses and understanding what they mean.
A 14-year-old girl who awed a British camp meeting by reciting three chapters of the Bible from memory said the secret to memorization is to write out verses by hand and truly understand what you are reading.
The girl, Monica Rao Abbadasari, recited Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 to 7 at the South England Conference camp meeting on June 26 in Prestatyn, a seaside resort in Wales.
Monica, a soft-spoken girl with a gentle laugh, said she uses a straight-forward process to remember long biblical passages.
“Basically, I memorize five verses a day,” she said Thursday evening by telephone from her family home in London.
“I read through them so I know what I am going to memorize,” she said. “Then I write them down myself because, I don’t know why, when I do that, I seem to get them into my mind quicker. After I write them down three times, I read them through three times verse by verse. Then it is in my head.”
Given only two weeks to prepare for camp meeting, Monica didn’t have the 2,500-word Sermon on the Mount down perfectly, as she has with other chapters of the Bible. But the achievement left such a strong impression on attendees that it generated a brief story with the headline, “Teen Wows Audience With Bible Recital” on the news site for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Britain.
“As someone listening to her, what stood out was that every time she got stuck, the congregation would join and shout the next verse so she could get back on track,” said Kirsten Øster-Lundqvist, communication and media director for the church’s South England Conference. “This happened several times and showed the congregation was cheering her on to complete the performance.”
“I looked around to see if she was being prompted by a PowerPoint presentation, but she wasn't, she was doing it all by heart,” said camp meeting attendee Patricia Bedwood. “I think it's amazing to see such a young girl taking on such a long recitation. It reminds me of when I was a little girl decades ago, memorizing verses for Sabbath School. But she has far surpassed me!"
Coming in at 111 verses, the three chapters containing Jesus’ most famous sermon make a mouthful to remember. The passage begins with the words, “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In addition to the Beatitudes, the sermon includes the Lord’s Prayer and ends with the parable about the wise man who built his house on the rock.
How Monica Started Memorizing
Monica’s father, Mohan Rao Abbadasari, who is the pastor of two churches in London, first noticed that his daughter had an unusual ability to memorize long passages when he asked her at the age of 9 to type one of his sermons into PowerPoint. As he double-checked her work with her, he realized with growing surprise that she had somehow memorized the sermon.
“I knew she had been a brilliant girl from childhood, excelling at everything she did at school as well, but that was the incident that really blew me away,” Rao Abbadasari said.
He asked Monica if she would feel comfortable preaching the sermon on Sabbath, and she agreed.
“You wouldn’t believe the way she did it: so self-explanatory, her expressions, and she never looked at the notes,” he said.
After the worship service, two of the church’s elders approached Rao Abbadasari. One said, “Don’t ever ask me to preach again,” and the other warned him that Monica might steal his job.
Since then, Monica has preached and recited Bible passages at a number of churches.
After the first sermon, Rao Abbadasari asked his daughter to memorize a whole chapter from the Bible and suggested Hebrews 11, which discusses faith in action.
Monica, spending about 10 minutes a day on the chapter, returned a week later with the 40 verses committed to memory.
FIRST CHAPTER: Monica reciting Hebrews 11 when she was 9. Her father uses this video during presentations.
Finding Inspiration in Monica's Feat
Rao Abbadasari made a video recording of Monica reciting the chapter that he posted on YouTube and shows to young people — sometimes with startling results.
Earlier this year, Rao Abbadasari played the video to teens during a camp meeting at an Adventist boarding school in South Africa and asked if they had ever memorized a chapter of the Bible. When they shook their heads, he challenged them to memorize Hebrews 11, saying, “If Monica can do it, you can do it.”
“One 11th grade boy actually memorized it in those few days,” he said. “The school said, ’Wow, this has never happened in the history of our school.’”
He told the teachers, “Look, they have the potential. If you take an interest, they can do it.”
Rao Abbadasari said he doesn’t offer advice on how to memorize other than reading the selected passage repeatedly so that the mind begins to automatically remember which word comes next.
Asked what advice she had on memorizing, Monica said: “Just keep reading. The main thing is to understand what you are learning because if you don’t understand, it’s hard to get into your head.”
Monica, who hopes to become a medical doctor, possibly in neurology, also has memorized Revelation 21 and 22, as well as a variety of verses. She uses the New King James Version.
Worshiping at Home
Rao Abbadasari is a graduate of Spicer Memorial College, and worked as a pastor for five years in northern India before moving to Britain a decade ago. He currently serves as the pastor of the Walthamstow and London Asian Adventist churches.
He spoke proudly of Monica but said he always reminds her to remain humble about her “gift from God.”
Asked whether Monica retains the verses that she has memorized, he said that she needs about an hour to refresh her memory about any given chapter.
He credited morning and evening family devotions for improving Monica’s memory skills, and noted that he requires Monica and another daughter, 9-year-old Christina, to read one chapter of the Bible a day on their own and report to him on what they have learned. He and his wife, Christy Roseline, also have a third daughter who recently turned 1.
“God has blessed me with three girls,” Rao Abbadasari said. “Actually, I remember the first time that my wife was pregnant, I said, ‘Lord, if you give me a boy, I’ll make him a preacher.’ But God said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll give you a girl and you can still make her a preacher.”
Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ARMcChesney