Students rebuild homes and share faith during spring break

Kelly Garrity, a ninth grader from First Baptist Church in Tyler, serves on a Bounce student disaster recovery team in Houston during spring break. (Texas Baptist Communications Photo)

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More than 1,400 middle school, high school and college students served across the United States in Texas Baptist mission endeavors over spring break.

Projects included rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes in Houston, providing free van rides to fellow college students in South Padre Island and engaging in evangelistic efforts alongside church planters in New York City.

Helping Houston ‘Bounce’ back

In response to Hurricane Harvey, Bounce—Texas Baptists’ student disaster recovery program—focused on serving the Texas Gulf Coast. About 500 middle school and high school students from 25 Texas Baptists churches spent a week helping Houston bounce back from disaster. They completed projects on 27 sites installing drywall, insulation, siding, painting and flooring involving 14,310 man-hours.

“I really wanted to help the people in need, rebuilding their houses,” said Hudson Grace, seventh grader from First Baptist Church in Corsicana. “I’ve seen why people have had to abandon this neighborhood and why they’re trying to rebuild it as fast as they can. God has really pushed us to help and has taught me to be grateful for the things you have, because in an instant they can be gone.”

Students presented the gospel at least 37 times, resulting in 15 faith commitments to Christ.

“I’m very encouraged by the highly motivated students we have with us at Bounce,” said David Scott, director of Bounce. “They are working hard without complaint as they serve the residents of Houston. As always, it is our hope that this won’t be something that our students do for a couple of days at spring break, but that missions will become a part of who they are.”

Evangelism in New York

Through a partnership between Go Now Missions and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, Texas Baptist students partnered with church planters in evangelistic efforts New York City.

For spring break this year, Go Now Missions coordinated 10 groups involving 125 students and leaders in New York. Over the week, students partnered with local church planters, ethnic ministries and a human trafficking ministry across the city’s boroughs.

While prayer walking around the Woodside neighborhood in Queens, Keeley McKinney, a student from Howard Payne University, was feeling discouraged one day. She walked into a local restaurant with a few teammates and met two people. After listening to their stories, McKinney was able to pray for them.

“I felt so called by God,” she said. “In that moment, God said, ‘This is why you are here, and this is your place to pray for them.’”

Beach Reach

Students were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico following a week of ministry at Beach Reach. (Texas Baptist Communications Photo)

Beach Reach at South Padre Island—begun in 1980 with 20 students—involved 676 student missionaries this year. Each night, student missionaries offered free van rides to students, ensuring their safety while providing opportunities for gospel conversations.

Supported by two Texas Baptist Men disaster relief cooking teams, they also served free pancake breakfasts.

This year, Beach Reachers provided 13,897 van rides and served 10,010 pancakes. They engaged in 8,934 gospel conversations, which resulted in 167 professions of faith in Christ, 55 baptisms and 47 recommitments to Jesus.

“Going on Beach Reach shows you that it’s hard to share your faith for a number of reasons, whether that’s fear of man, lack of faith or limiting the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Jaycee Porter, a student at Dallas Baptist University. “But this week, through my van, I learned what it truly looks like to plead with the Lord on behalf of someone else, to plead for their very soul.

Students from the Baptist Student Ministry at East Texas Baptist University served at Beach Reach. (ETBU Photo)

“Although I didn’t get to witness anyone put their faith in Jesus, my perspective on the power of the gospel and the ability I have to beg the Lord for salvation has been forever changed.”

Another missions effort through the BSM at the University of Texas at Arlington involved community ministry in San Antonio.

“We took a number of international believers for their first missions experience. They got great training and first-hand experience in gospel sharing that they can take back to their home countries,” said Gary Stidham, UTA BSM director.

Other BSM groups served through Mission Arlington, worked with refugees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, provided disaster recovery in Rockport, assisted with Vacation Bible Schools in Nacogdoches and New Orleans, and took part in community ministry in Sherman and San Antonio.

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