Since 1980, students from universities from across the country, especially Texas Baptists college ministries, have traveled to South Padre Island during Spring Break. The UTEP Baptist Student Ministry has made the trek down to South Padre Island for eight years. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why on earth would a Christian Baptist organization go party it up in Padre?” Well the answer is they wouldn’t. It is quite the opposite, actually.
The Baptist Student Ministry students are there to work. This is a mission trip called Beach Reach. South Padre Island is an incredibly popular spot for students on spring break. People from all over the world go to attend concerts, house parties and festivities that occur throughout the week. For this reason many students are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, that means that spring breakers are getting behind the wheel when they should not, or they have to walk everywhere.
This is when the college ministries like the BSM takes the lead. Our mission is to reach others with the Gospel. Electrical Engineering student Monserrat Salas experienced this unconditional love and faithfulness of God during the week.
“This week, I was blessed beyond what I can imagine,” Salas said. “It was a week of sharing the Gospel, building relationships and prayer, this week I had the privilege of leading two girls to Christ, which I never thought I’d be able to do.”
College students pile up in vans and make their way to South Padre Island to help battle these issues. Biomedical student Jaqueline Serrano described the way she feels when she sees the way students spend their spring break.
“My heart breaks for the people on this island that are convinced by evil,” she said. “Our time in South Padre slowly came to an end, but our mission to share how Jesus changed our lives by living a perfect life doesn’t end.”
Spring break students can catch a free ride from one of the vans. When Beach Reachers are not giving rides, you can catch them giving out free pancakes in the morning at Island Baptist Church or late at night at Clayton’s or Louie’s backyard, the two famous places to be at every night. Beach Reachers work long hours, and do not get enough sleep. All of the students also had to pay to attend this mission trip.
Digital Media Production student, Hunter Taylor took part on this mission trip for the first time. I asked him why students would give up their spring break to go on Beach Reach.
“It’s honestly such an amazing experience,” he said. “We not only help people stay out of harm’s way, but we help them save money too! People are always shocked to hear that all of this is free and that we aren’t getting paid. When they ask us why we simply tell them that Jesus Christ came to serve and we want to do the same.”
Every opportunity was not in vain, Taylor also said that, “With the free rides and pancakes we have an awesome opportunity to connect with people and build relationships, through this we have a chance to share a bit about what we as Christians believe. Again, it is such an awesome experience!”
After three years of going on this mission trip, senior Psychology student Marina Vega said that every year was different, “although I have been there three times, it is still something new for me, I have expectations of how it is going to be, it never goes the way I imagine it. God opens doors that I couldn’t imagine he could open, also I really love the way we grow together and we become closer as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Aside from this being one of the most challenging weeks for most of the students, it is one of the most rewarding weeks of their lives. Nursing student Natassia Lozano described the way the bonds between sisters and brothers in Christ just refreshes the soul.
“What is even better and sweeter is having brothers and sisters there with you to spur you forward, encouraging you and sharpening you.” Lozano continued by saying, “One of the many things I also learned is that God is very much at work, and when the Body unites for one cause, one mission and one focus there is evidence aplenty that He loves us and that He loves those who don’t yet know they love Him too.”
Alejandra De La Cerda is a multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso.