BROWNWOOD – April 4, 2013 – Heading to the beach for Spring Break is a common experience among college students, but a group of Howard Payne University students had perhaps a different purpose in mind when they travelled to South Padre Island last month. Ten students from HPU’s Baptist Student Ministries, along with BSM director Keith Platte, shared the love of Jesus Christ with beachgoers during Beach Reach 2013.
According to the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, an estimated 50,000 students visit the island each March for Spring Break. Beach Reach was created in 1980 by Buddy Young, a seminary student and part-time Baptist Student Ministry director in Dallas, as a way for Christian students from different universities and churches to share the Gospel with their peers. The outreach has since expanded to Panama City, Fla., and other popular Spring Break destinations.
“Beach Reachers,” like the group from HPU, participate in a number of activities including serving free breakfasts on the beach, giving free van rides to people at night to anywhere on the island, cleaning up beach areas and many other acts of service. Most importantly, they serve and meet people with the intent of sharing the news of Jesus Christ.
“It was amazing how God was working through and in our students,” said Platte, who was particularly impressed with how open the beachgoers were to receiving the Word of God.
“The people in the vans were respectful and would let us pray for them when we asked,” he said. “Often, they wanted us to pray for them even more, which led to deeper conversations. Some people stayed in the van for longer than the length of their rides, so we would sit and talk for 45 minutes or so.”
The HPU group gave a ride to a man who stayed on the van for more than an hour as they delivered others to their destinations.
“He responded well when we presented him with the Gospel,” Platte said. “I can’t explain it any other way except to say that God was working on his heart.”
Platte and the students would have enjoyed more time with each of the people to whom they gave rides but recognize the importance of the interactions they had.
“Our job is to plant the seed,” Platte said. “Hundreds of seeds might be planted before anything takes root. All we can do is reach out and make that contact.”
Now that they’ve returned home, Platte encourages the BSM students to keep praying for the people they met.
“We pray that, even if they don’t remember our names or faces, the beachgoers remember the messages we were sent to deliver.”
BSM students who attended Beach Reach included Alex Caro, a senior from Howe; Lacy Culpepper, a sophomore from Zephyr; Allyson Gainey, a junior from Kermit; Jenny Goff, a junior from Austin; Ruby Johnson, a sophomore from Alvarado; Kim Lilley, a senior from Brownwood; Xavier McFalls, a freshman from Amarillo; Andi Peaster, a freshman from Edinburg; Rebekah Steadman, a junior from Fort Worth; and Whitney Williams, a sophomore from Gatesville.
Photo cutline: HPU students recently shared the Gospel during Spring Break at South Padre Island. The top row, from left, includes Rebekah Steadman, Jennifer Goff and Alex Caro. Bottom row, left to right: Andi Peaster, Xavier McFalls, Allyson Gainey, Lacy Culpepper, Whitney Williams, Kim Lilley and Ruby Johnson.