By Rachel Ellington, Howard Payne University junior
BROWNWOOD – April 28, 2014 – Howard Payne University’s Baptist Student Ministry facilitates many events and trips that send students to spread the gospel. One of those annual trips is Beach Reach. For 34 years, college students from across the United States have traveled to South Padre Island during Spring Break to reach other students for Christ.
The founder of Beach Reach, Buddy Young, stated on the website that the main objective is to ensure a safe Spring Break while starting meaningful conversations about Jesus. While on the island, HPU students focused on servant hood and conversation while offering van rides, pancakes, bottled water and prayer, all free of charge.
This year’s Beach Reach kicked off on March 15, 2014, at Island Baptist Church, the base of operations. More than 800 students prayed for the week and shared a meal together.
Activities Sunday through Thursday consisted of van rides every day from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. The Beach Reach volunteers gave rides and took every opportunity to have conversations with each person. They also served pancakes in the church parking lot at the same times.
Giant sand sculptures in the middle of the beach – each depicting a different biblical theme or scene – also served as conversation starters. Beach Reach teamed up with Randy Hofman, a professional sand sculptor who created a different sculpture every day. Then students would stand around the sculpture and ask people what they thought about it. Hofman has created these sculptures at Beach Reach for 25 years in a row.
This year, according to Keith Platte, HPU’S BSM director, HPU partnered with Hardin-Simmons University and took 28 students. Seven of those students participated last year as well.
“We hope that every year the number of students we take on this trip increases because they keep coming back and they are bringing more students with them to be a part of this ministry,” said Platte.
HPU students had numerous favorite parts of the Beach Reach experience.
“My favorite part of Beach Reach was connecting with people on van rides, serving people and starting conversations about the sand sculptures,” said Courtney Tatum, a sophomore from Stephenville.
Zac Sterling, a transfer student from Farmington, N.M., recalled, “Making connections and having real conversations with real people on the vans was awesome.”
“Being able to reach people and show them the love of Jesus when they think they don’t deserve it was incredible,” said Dalton Clark, a freshman from Abilene.
Sophomore Ruby Johnson from Alvarado, who was a returnee to Beach Reach, recalled the prayer room the students arranged.
“We had different stations around the room with a prayer request table, a praise table and even a Twitter feed on a big screen,” she said. “The more people who were in there praying, the more cool stuff you could see happening. You could really see God moving!”
In addition to Tatum, Sterling, Clark and Johnson, other HPU students participating in the trip were: Shaefer Church, freshman, Bloomfield, N.M.; Kaiti Cochrum, sophomore, Burnet;
Lacy Culpepper II, junior, Zephyr; Ruth Davis, freshman, San Antonio; Cristalyn Fitzgerald, senior, Burleson; Allyson Gainey, junior, Kermit; Trent Gainey, junior, Kermit; Samantha Hill, freshman, Irving; TaShana Hooker, freshman, Carrollton; Dillon Hughes, freshman, Richardson; Kim Lilley, senior, Brownwood; Xavier McFalls, sophomore, Amarillo; Andi Peaster, sophomore, Edinburg; Emily Selman, freshman, Red Oak; Rebekah Steadman, senior, Fort Worth; Katie Vernon, junior, Bangs; Colette Wilcoxen, junior, Austin; Ashley Willis, sophomore, Mansfield; Joshua Woods, sophomore, Annapolis, Md.; and Brandon Yost, senior, Roseville, Calif.
“Beach Reach is about showing people Jesus through actions rather than just words,” said Keith Platte. “Our students met physical needs as well as a need for Christ.”
Photo cutline #1: HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry took a group to South Padre Island to minister during Spring Break. Pictured are (back row, left to right): Shaefer Church, Lacy Culpepper, Dalton Clark, Brandon Yost, Trent Gainey, Joshua Woods, Dillon Hughes, Ruby Johnson.
Middle row, left to right: Keith Platte, Andi Peaster, Rebekah Steadman, Allyson Gainey, Kaiti Cochrum, Ashley Willis, TaShana Hooker, Colette Wilcoxen, Courtney Tatum, Zac Sterling, Xavier McFalls
Front row, left to right: Cristalyn Fitzgerald, Emily Selman, Kim Lilley, Katie Vernon, Ruth Davis, Samantha Hill