BROWNWOOD - Watching from the sidelines of the 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Krystal Watson, sophomore at Texas A&M University, saw God moving through the kids at Champs Camp in Brownwood as they prayed with each other before and after each basketball game.
Raj Shah, graduate student at Texas A&M University, had never had the responsibility of taking care of kids, so going into Champs Camp was definitely stepping out of his comfort zone. During that week he met a second grader named Brenden, who he struggled to connect with at first, but at the end of the week, he almost welled up with tears when he had to say goodbye.
"During my time there, I definitely learned to love on children in a completely new and different way," said Raj.
"They go to share the gospel, in word and deed, and find that in the process they are changed, too," said Brenda Sanders, Texas Baptists student missions consultant. "As I visited groups and received reports from others, I saw students share their faith for the very first time. I watched students unconditionally serve special needs kids. I heard about students building houses and working among the down and out in Urban areas. And many of our students served their own peers through Beach Reach. In the process, these students were changed!"
This year, more than 1,000 Texas Baptist students were involved in Beach Reach at South Padre Island. They served upwards of 10,000 pancakes, gave free shuttle rides around the community and cleaned up the beaches, which allowed numerous opportunities for conversations about the gospel to occur. Through the spiritual conversations, 123 professions of faith were made, with 36 people being baptized during the two-week effort.
Janelle Daman, student at University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, noticed a young woman, Saira, staring at all the commotion going on in the water. It was a beach baptism. Janelle walked to the woman and asked if she knew was was going on, and the woman replied "no." God then opened an opportunity for Janelle to explain to the woman what it meant to be a Christian and know that God loves her and he died for her sins.
"She was listening to me so intently and she nodded to me, 'I want to grow closer'," said Janelle. "So I walked her into the ocean to get closer, and after watching for a while she leaned into me and said, 'I want that, I want to do that'."
Janelle's youth pastor came to talk to the young woman and her friend, Marie, about what baptism was and what it entails. Saira and Marie smiled and told the man that's exactly what they wanted and they were baptized in the ocean with everyone else.
A group of students from the University of Texas at Arlington BSM were involved volunteering in Laredo. During their time, the students ran a Vacation Bible School for children at Iglesia Baptista Santa Fe and presented a Youth Evangelism Conference, where 72 youth attended.
"It was encouraging to me to see such a natural discipleship process happen as the students from University of Texas Arlington got to team up with people in Laredo and share experiences with each other," said Caitlyn Barbee, campus minister at UTA.
Often times, students who go on mission trips have no prior experience with evangelism and find it nerve-racking to share the gospel. Alejandro Tremillo, student at University of Texas Arlington, found evangelism to be the hardest but most rewarding part of the entire trip.
"I was scared at first because I personally had never gone up to strangers and shared the gospel prior to the trip," said Alejandro. "But after practicing throughout the week, I left my fear behind and started sharing with people everywhere comfortably."
In Moore, Oklahoma, a group of students, from Prairie View A&M University, worked with Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery to assist families in debris clean up from the devastating tornadoes that have hit the city in the recent years.
"As Christians, we should live in a mindset that is not centered around ourselves, a task that is easily overlooked among our age group," said Tiffany Ross, student at Prairie View A&M University. "This mission trip was a great time of reflection on how God is using me and it helped me to see how I can incorporate service daily into my life."
Heading to the east coast in Tallahassee, Florida, 12 Dallas Baptist University students went to partake in the 2014 Habitat for Humanity mission trip. DBU has a special 26-year history of involvement with Habitat for Humanity and this year proved to be another great experience. Partnering with students from the University of Notre Dame, the DBU team worked diligently all week clearing a property for a new home to be built, as well as working on the installation of siding and a roof on another home.
"All of our students worked together very well and they all worked very hard, with hearts working unto the Lord," said Josh Hemby, director of the BSM at DBU. "This was so appreciated by the Habitat employees and other volunteers."
Spring Break can be more than just a time to go to the beach with friends, sit at home relaxing or catching up on sleep. These students found ways to volunteer and give back during their week off of school.
"The students' understanding of the needs of people and how to minister to them was expanded," said Sanders. "We are seeing students return to their campuses eager to put what they learned into practice. In that way, the mission trip goes on as students begin to live 'on mission' right where they are."