For many college students, spring break is synonymous with catching some rays at the beach by day and partying all night. But over the course of three weeks in March, nearly 800 beach-bound collegians used their spring break to serve and evangelize.
Students from across the country along with student ministry leaders gathered in Panama City Beach, Fla., March 3-22, to participate in BeachReach, providing spring breakers free van rides, pancakes, Gospel conversations and prayer.
Through the annual collegiate ministry coordinated by LifeWay Christian Resources, BeachReach participants demonstrate a willingness to meet people where they are with a witness for Christ.
BeachReach also added a disaster relief component this year, partnering with local churches to help underserved schools repair playgrounds and other facilities damaged by Hurricane Michael.
“The Christian college students who came to be a part of BeachReach were so bold in loving spring breakers and pointing them to Jesus,” said Bill Noe, LifeWay’s collegiate ministry specialist. “They weren’t saying, ‘behave better,’ but ‘let me point you to Jesus who’s better than any other kind of life you might be living.’ We had thousands of Gospel conversations.”
As a result of these acts of service and the conversations they sparked, 42 spring breakers expressed faith in Christ this year. To help students visualize how the Holy Spirit was working over the course of the three-week period, each new believer’s name was written on a beach ball and attached to a display known as the Salvation Wall.
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At BeachReach, many Gospel conversations originate in church vans and buses used as free shuttles to transport students around the popular spring break destination. LifeWay employees serve as dispatch coordinators to handle the logistics of the service, which this year provided 13,247 free rides.
“At 9 p.m. we turn on the phones, and the spring breakers start calling in,” Noe said. “We take them where they need to go and try to engage in conversation along the way.”
Students often give vans creative names like Van Gogh or Sir Vancealot and write the phone number for rides on the side. Spring breakers also learn about the service through street teams who hand out cards and engage people as they’re walking around.
Each 12-passenger van is arranged with at least four BeachReachers — a driver, a navigator who handles logistics, someone in the back to monitor the safety of the vehicle and one person in the “hot seat” to take the lead in steering conversations toward Christ.
It’s often passengers, however, who initiate the conversations.
“People are curious why we’re willing to serve them for free so they’ll ask, ‘Why in the world are you doing this?'” Noe said. “It gives our teams a perfect opening to tell them about Jesus.”
Meanwhile, street teams pursue similar conversations on foot around town. They pass out cards, help people call in for rides by letting the dispatcher know how many people are in a party and where they’re traveling and starting conversations while waiting for vehicles to arrive.
“The street ministry is always interesting because you never know what you’re going to find,” Noe said. “We have BeachReachers who go into 24-hour diners to buy folks a meal and strike up conversations over waffles. Others might help students who’ve gotten separated from their group. We help them get somewhere safe.”
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Source: Baptist Press