WTAMU Students Spread Message of Service and Love During Spring Break

Callie Shipley, Coordinator for Junior Reporters

Among the thousands of spring breakers partying on South Padre Island, 820 college students arrived on the island with a different purpose in mind.

To love and serve.

Over spring break, 83 students from West Texas A&M University joined students from 23 other universities and organizations for Beach Reach, an outreach ministry designed to “meet needs and share the gospel,” according to freshman Health Sciences major Jordan Young.

“We meet needs by giving free rides and giving them food,” Jordan Young said. “It’s important to go because we have a hope that we can give to those people that are there. Those people there are hurting, are lost, and we’re able to help them, encourage them, and share the love of Christ.”

According to Campus Missionary Intern Brittney Williams, who works for the Baptist Student Ministry on campus and helped coordinate the trip, Beach Reachers served pancakes to 11,000 people and gave free van rides to 17,316 people.

“Over spring break, I really wanted to go home because this spring break was going to be the last time my family would be together for a long time before moving,” Communication Disorders major Emma Grace Hardin said. “The Lord pressed on my heart, ‘This is the one opportunity, a once-a-year thing, where you can go help people and give them hope.’”

WT Baptist Student Ministry Director Buddy Young started Beach Reach in 1980 with a group of 20 college students.

“Beach Reach is students reaching students,” Buddy Young said. “For me, the best part is seeing the life transformation that occurs in WT students as they step out in faith and trust God to move in and through their life.”

Although several people struggled with funding for the trip, freshman Starmie Bennett said that “God always provides ways for His work to be done.” Buddy Young mentioned his students going to Beach Reach while preaching a sermon at church, and without him asking for money, members walked up to him after the service and handed him “offering after offering.”

“Strangers were willing to help college students go serve the Lord,” Bennett said. “Others were provided for through their own church back home. Like for me, a brand new church in Lamesa was willing to fund my trip.”

With the obstacle of finances overcome, the students began a 16-hour drive to South Padre and arrived to work a full schedule. After serving pancakes in the morning and talking to people on the beach throughout the day, groups rotated among van rides, a prayer room, and a hotline room that handled requests for van rides. On some nights, the groups would also travel to bars and serve free pancakes outside. Hardin said she has heard Beach Reach described as “one long day with a few naps.”

During the prayer room shift, Beach Reachers could participate in different activities such as journaling, drawing, and writing encouraging letters to city policemen, firefighters, and medical workers. Many students focused on praying for an online wall with live tweets describing Beach Reachers’ ongoing conversations.

“Your prayer life really grows at Beach Reach because you become vulnerable to the fact that you’re putting all your trust in the Lord,” Mirtha Sanchez, freshman Elementary Education major, said. “While I was in the prayer room, you were put there to pray for the people on the wall. Then, sometimes, the person you were praying for would be saved. Your faith did grow a lot.”

In the van rotation, Beach Reachers would pick up people who called in on the hotline and start conversations with them during the drive. The average shift for van rides lasted from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

“Each Beach Reacher would share with the spring breakers in his row of the van,” Bennett said. “Your goal was to get to know them and ask questions—their name, school, major. Through that, you would connect with them, and hopefully, through your connecting, you would be able to turn the conversation to spiritual matters.”

Williams said that throughout spring break, 154 people “came to faith in Jesus,” and 52 people were baptized.

“Every time you went on the vans, it was just a big step of faith, knowing that every person who would step on the van was there for a reason,” Sanchez said. “Ten years later, a person may remember us from Beach Reach and see that love that he hadn’t found anywhere else because of Christ in our heart.”

Sanchez said she traveled to Beach Reach with the goal of showing God’s love to others.

“If I didn’t have Christ in my heart, I would have never cared for those people,” she said. “It’s not love that comes from me. It’s something that’s bigger than me and self. Love without conditions, unconditional love, to love similarly to what Christ did.”


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