Beach Reach by the numbers
1,040 students served over the course of three weeks
11,000 pancakes were served by Texas Baptist Men
25,262 free van rides were given on South Padre Island
186 commitments to Christ were made
62 people were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico
It was around 12:30 a.m., Wednesday morning of the third week of Beach Reach. Students were assembled in their assigned roles around the island. For some it was directing traffic in the busy Looie’s parking lot, others struck up conversations with spring breakers over pancakes. Some spent hours in the sanctuary of Island Baptist Church, which was converted into a prayer room for the week, with a live Twitter feed streaming prayer requests. And still others were riding on 15-passenger vans, one to a row, welcoming spring breakers for rides around the island and praying for opportunities to share the Gospel.
Brennan Waters, a student from West Texas A&M, was seated on the third row of “The big van upstairs” welcoming groups of guys and engaging in many varied conversations. A group of four entered the van and a young man named John sat next to Brennan. As soon as he sat down, he turned to Brennan and said “I rode on a van earlier today and they were telling me stories of how their lives were changed by Jesus. Can you tell me about your story?”
Brennan happily shared his testimony with John and then John quickly asked, “How can I have that in my life? I need that!”
As the van continued driving down the main road, Brennan laid out the plan of salvation for John. By the end of the ride, John had committed his life to Christ. The guys exchanged phone numbers and made plans to meet up later in the week.
There was great rejoicing on the van as Brennan shared the news with his fellow Beach Reachers. They headed back to the church and were met with several other stories of salvations that occurred within minutes of each other.
Marcell Johnson, a student from Houston Baptist University, was in the prayer room that night and was overcome with emotion as she looked around and saw so many people crying out to God.
“As I read the Twitter feed, I saw salvations coming in by twos and threes,” she said. “It was awesome. This is what we are purposed for.”
That night, within about 90 minutes, 23 salvations happened as Beach Reachers shared the Gospel with van riders, people eating pancakes and even one young man who entered the prayer room.
Within three weeks, 186 commitments were made for Christ and thousands of conversations centered around the Gospel occurred on South Padre Island. With an intentional focus of approaching every person met as an opportunity to encourage, provide prayer for and engage in a spiritual conversation, Beach Reach was, yet again, a truly life-changing week for all involved.
Shannon Rutherford, BSM Director at South Plains College, has brought groups to South Padre Island for seven years. She was greatly encouraged by her team this year, especially several young students, as she watched them push themselves to engage in spiritual conversations.
“They are doing the thing most of them are scared of and they can do it,” Rutherford said. “[At Beach Reach] they are working with their peers and they realize they can share their faith. Then, they can go back to campus and build relationships and do the same thing.”
For Marcos Ramos, an undergraduate student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Beach Reach was an opportunity to speak truth into the lives of people who like to party and seek pleasure in earthly pleasures, a place he knew well.
“Since I used to be like this, is a reminder who I used to be and now who I am in Christ,” Ramos said. “I'm a living testimony to God's saving power.”
During the evening worship service on March 16, Beach Reach Director Buddy Young spoke to the students on a passage from Luke 10.
“You are sent everywhere,” he said. “You need to understand God can use you anywhere you go. God will transform you when you let Him. We don't understand the concept of being always sent … You are appointed and sent by God to go. Whatever God calls you to do - you were sent by God.”
Although the intentional weeks of focused missions on the island have come to an end, the seeds planted during Beach Reach will continue to grow. One Dallas-based business man named Wade sent Young an email the following week, detailing a conversation he had with a young man who came to work in his office on March 18.
The young man, nicknamed Brian, had spent the week in South Padre Island with some friends, indulging in the well-known party scene. But, Brian had a conversation with a Beach Reach student which shook his core and made him reconsider his relationship with Christ. Rather than continuing the week with his friends and skipping work on Friday, like he had planned, Brian returned home early.
When he showed up at work, he met Wade, who is a strong Christian. The two began talking and Brian shared his experience during the week, to which Wade was able to encourage him and share his own testimony.
“Because of y’all's ministry, I was able to encourage and minister to a young follower of Christ. I was able to pour into Brian's life,” Wade said. “Being honest, I’m not sure if you would have told me that serving pancakes to a bunch of drunk kids in the parking lot of a club was doing God's work, but now after meeting Brian - you guys keep up the awesome ministry!”