Beach Reach is all about loving on people.
Essentially, we are a free taxi and free restaurant. This year, over 700 Christ-followers traveled down to SPI for a week. From 8pm - 4am, "teams" loaded up in vans and provided free rides to wherever the spring breakers wanted to go - the bar, the gas station, their hotel, Whataburger, etc. We also served a midnight pancake breakfast by one of the largest clubs on the island, and another breakfast outside our church (home base) in the mornings from 8am-12pm.
There was also the handing out of the hotline cards and cleaning Coca-Cola beach every morning (a different team each night, around 4am), when it's layered with cans, trash, shoes, lost cell phones and credit cards. On this beach, during the day, there was also a large sand sculpture - Christ's face and Christ emerging from the tomb were two I saw. One of the most important parts of the week was our prayer room at the church. We have a text message (or tweet) system set up, so while one-half of the team is out giving rides, the other half is on base interceding for their teammates and spring breakers.
The beautiful part about this past week, is that the Lord didn't just change lives of spring breakers, but also moved in the hearts of Beach Reachers. Through all the exhaustion, sharing, caffeine-overloads, sunburns and hours of praying...something inside of us changed.
On the first night of Beach Reach, all 700 of us gathered in a parking lot and prayed in small groups. We prayed for each other, the spring breakers, and everything that will happen that week. I talked with a girl that was a first-timer, and she asked why I came back to Beach Reach and to share about last year. The Lord has given me a heart for college students, especially the girls - and I know it's not just because I'm a college student, I can tell it's much larger than that. That reason, and the fact that I could've very easily been on the beach partying if the Lord hadn't changed my life, is why I go to Beach Reach. I want them to know there are more satisfying things in life.
There were four people I met that impacted me the most this week:
Yadi is a girl who grew up with a father who is a pastor. She knows the Truth, and hasn't totally rebelled against her faith, but was tired of 'that life' and just wants to have fun and party right now. I didn't get to share my testimony with her, but I so wish I could have.
By far, my favorite night of Beach Reach was Tuesday night. WT had the shift of working the midnight pancake breakfast. It was totally of the Lord that this conversation happened, because at first... I wasn't having any conversations, it was like I was invisible. Then, randomly, my new friend David walks up to Amanda and I and starts talking. Like most conversations at Beach Reach, it started with small talk about school, life, the island, etc. Turns out, he was a Mormon missionary for two years - but then stopped because he was tired of people throwing dog food and fruit at him while he was on his bike.
Our conversation eventually turned to faith and Christianity. I could tell he wanted Christ, I saw it in his eyes. I ended up giving him my Bible, yes... with all my underlining and notes. He had only ever read the Bible in the Old King James version, and I know he needed it more in that moment than I did. He told me that when he used to pray, he never "felt" God. Which, oddly enough, I had a conversation about last semester, but I couldn't get across to him how God is so much more than a feeling. It's an active relationship that we have to work daily on and grow in - and even then there will be bad days. He also knew that if he turned to Christ, he probably would need to stop partying. Although it was frustrating to not be there to see him accept Christ, I have been praying for him daily, and I know the Lord will continue to work in his heart.
On the beach, I talked to Jacob, who is already a Christian but really wanted to grow in his relationship with Christ. He and his wife can't find a Catholic church that they get spiritually fed at, and he doesn't have a daily walk with God; Sunday is enough for him. We talked about different denominations, spending time daily in the Word, and religion vs. relationship. I tried so badly to convey the importance of a daily relationship with God, but really all I can do is pray that God continues to work in his heart.
On our last night, Clay and I talked with a guy named Andrew. He grew up in Catholic school, and went overseas with the military for awhile. Clay talked about an active relationship with Christ, trusting in someone we can't see, and about sacrificing for God, after Andrew said he doesn't want to give up partying. Both Jacob and Andrew made a comment about how they try and live good lives, they're not bad people, and so they felt that was enough. Even though I was the one that did some clarifying, it was a beautiful reminder of how I don't have to do x-number of things for Christ to accept and love me. No amount of "good deeds" will make me right with Him - the "good' things I do, are just out of worship and love and a reflection of what He's done for me.
I'm still trying to comprehend everything, while in a state of exhaustion. But, I do know that the Lord has given me a big burden for the people I talked about in this blog, as well as just the lost around me. I literally saw the process of one girl getting some "beads" and it broke my heart, I literally had no words. I know that this week is always a reminder of just how powerful prayer and community are - and not just on mission trips. The Lord works differently in everyone, and every person's testimony is so unique and just proves how good He is - sharing my faith for the first time was one of the most amazing things of my life.
On a lighter note, I am currently rocking the back-of-the-neck sunburn. I have very little voice left. Oh yeah, and my team forgot me one night (and I was told, even a second night!) And, almost all 80-some of our group that went now call me j-sho. :)
But seriously, the biggest take-away from this trip is being reminded that it's not just a "mission trip," but that we should be living mission-minded daily, and reaching out to everyone around us.