Voices: Reaching students for Christ at Beach Reach 2020

Craig Christina (far left), associate executive director of the BGCT, and his wife Tracy talking with TBM volunteers during Beach Reach. (Photo by Neil Williams / Texas Baptists)

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Years ago, when I was a college student at Baylor, I often went to the beach for spring break, not to share Christ, but—I’m embarrassed to say—to engage in the festivities.

Last week, I went to South Padre Island for spring break with over 650 Baptist Student Ministry students for Beach Reach 2020, and I had the time of my life.

The purpose of Beach Reach

The purpose of Beach Reach is twofold. First, it is to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with the students on spring break, also called “spring breakers.” Second, it is to inspire and motivate BSM students to be bold in sharing their faith once they return to their campuses. From what I saw, both purposes were accomplished.

I heard about one of our BSM students on the trip who is 80 percent deaf. Before going to Beach Reach, he wanted to back out because he didn’t think he would be useful.

“I can’t hear well, and few speak sign language,” he told his director. But his director convinced him to give it a try.

On the first day, he met a spring breaker who was deaf. He shared the gospel with him and led him to the Lord. The two have become instant best friends.

The devil tries to discourage us, but God always uses us to accomplish his will and share his love if we simply obey, serve and share. Remember, God doesn’t need our ability. He needs our availability and will work through us to do great things for his glory.

Beach Reach organizers

Beach Reach students spent their afternoons on the beach, sharing their faith. In the evening, they gathered for dinner and worship.

Organizers this year included Clayton Bullion, director of the Tarleton State University BSM, and Joe Osteen, director of the University of Texas at Tyler BSM. Under the guidance of Texas Baptists’ Director for Collegiate Ministry Mark Jones, they provided excellent leadership during the whole event. Clayton and Joe offered encouraging and inspiring messages each night to “fire-up” the students before sending them out to witness.

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At night, the students engaged in several activities, including giving free van rides to spring breakers, praying at Island Baptist Church and sharing their faith at Texas Baptist Men’s pancake tent.

A spring breaker contemplates Jesus

I rode in the van one night and was amazed at how easily the students engaged spring breakers in spiritual conversations. Some of the breakers were too intoxicated for dialogue, some were sarcastic, but some genuinely were open to hearing about Jesus.

On one van ride, a student named Ben said he would only believe in Jesus if his dead grandfather appeared to him one night, sat on his bed and told him Jesus was real.

“Why do you believe in Jesus?” he demanded. “What evidence do you have?”

I explained to him the Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years by dozens of authors from different backgrounds and cultures who were uniquely inspired by God.

I shared Jesus fulfilled dozens of prophecies in ways no one expected or immediately understood. I told Ben the familiar example that the odds of Jesus fulfilling just eight of those prophecies were so remote it was the equivalent of filling the state of Texas two feet deep in silver dollars, marking one with an “X,” and going out blindfolded anywhere in the state, reaching down and picking up that one marked silver dollar.

He sat wide-eyed and stunned as he contemplated those odds. Then, our driver Luke Johnson, the future director of the Oregon State University BSM, told Ben about Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

“If you don’t believe the testimony of Scripture,” Jesus said, “it won’t matter who comes back from the dead to tell you it’s all real.”

The ride ended with Ben and his fellow breakers exiting the van, but I could tell he was burdened as he reflected on all he heard.

I probably never will see Ben again this side of heaven. I hope I do see him in heaven, though.

Far reach of Beach Reach

As a result of Beach Reach, 70 spring breakers prayed to receive Jesus as Lord, and over 4,000 students heard the good news about Jesus.

We had to cancel the second week of Beach Reach due to COVID-19, but Texas Baptist students and volunteers will be back to South Padre Island next year, and I hope to be with them again.

Together, we are reaching our college campuses for Christ. Let’s continue to pray for our BSM students and leaders. Pray for the new believers and those who heard about Jesus. And please continue to support financially the Cooperative Program through the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Texas Baptists are serving over 130 college campuses with tens of thousands of students who still need to be reached for Christ.

Craig Christina is the associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The BGCT and Baptist Standard are independently-related partners.

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