SOUTH PADRE ISLAND—- 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. Saira was vacationing in South Padre Island for the week of Spring Break like 75,000 other college students. Janelle was there with her Baptist Student Ministry to evangelize and witness to her fellow college students.
Janelle walked to Saira and asked if she knew was was going on, and she replied,“No.” God then opened an opportunity for Janelle to explain to Saira what it meant to be a Christian and know that God loves her and He died for her sins. The beach baptisms took place the last day of Beach Reach where those students who had given their lives to Christ were able to make their professions of faith and were baptized in the ocean for all to see.
“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.
“After [Saira] was baptized, she came towards me smiling and crying,” said Janelle. “She let me pray for her and I invited her and Marie to come to worship that night. I believe God prepared her heart to receive God’s words that day.”
“The main focus for us at Beach Reach is pretty simple,” says Keith Platte, director of the Howard Payne University Baptist Student Ministry. “We will meet people’s needs including safe van rides at night, providing adequate food and water and lending a listening ear while telling them about Jesus along the way.”
With more than 1,000 Texas Baptist college students from around the state on the island for this week long mission trip, students took the time to serve more than 12,000 pancakes, give 9,600 free shuttle rides around the community and cleaned up the beach each morning, which allowed for numerous opportunities for conversations about Christ to occur. Through serving and sharing the gospel, 123 people committed their lives to Christ and 36 people were baptized.
Wayland Baptist Student Ministry Director, Donnie Brown and Kenny Lydick, assistant director, made the annual trek to the island with 22 students, where their primary activity involved was giving those participating in Spring Break activities safe van rides around the island. Giving van rides was primarily a nighttime ministry to help students who were intoxicated get to their destinations safely.
There was a man named Sam who boarded the van one night. He was alone, intoxicated and noticeably upset. He didn’t know exactly where he was or what he was doing and began to get agitated. He was eventually let off the van and the group apologized for not being able to take him any closer to wherever he needed to go. As the van drove away, Sam crouched down and began to cry as Mason Bass, student at University of Texas at Austin, noticed and asked to stop the van.
“I intended to just give him a hotline card and tell him another van would come for him,” said Mason. “But as Sam wiped the tears from his face, I figured something pretty bad must have happened for him to be like this, so I told him to get back on the van.”
Returning to the van, Mason and Sam remained silent for a few minutes until Mason noticed a picture of a girl on Sam’s phone.
“I asked Sam about her and his reply came back filled with anguish and anger,” said Mason. “He moaned through tears that he had done something he knew was wrong against his better judgement with a childhood friend.”
The van grew quiet for a moment, but the silence didn’t stop Mason from sharing the gospel and telling Sam about sin and the need for repentance. He continued to say that God offers forgiveness from sin and freedom through Jesus. After a few moments, Mason asked Sam if he could pray for him, and Sam nodded his head, “Yes.”
“I don’t quite remember what was prayed, but I remember the serious look in Sam’s eyes during it,” said Mason. “None of us might ever know what impact we had on Sam that night, but I am confident that God used us to help him that night.”
When the sun finally went down on that last day of Spring Break and the parties and mayhem came to an end, these college students involved in Beach Reach knew they had served well and done what God had called them to do. The seeds they have planted in people’s lives will prayerfully be nurtured for years to come.