Baylor BSM prepares to spread gospel during annual Beach Reach mission trip

Members of Baylor BSM travel to South Padre Island for their annual Beach Reach spring break mission trip to share the gospel. Photo courtesy of Kara O'Connell

By Abigail Gan | Reporter

Over spring break, hordes of college students flock to beaches across the country to escape from the worries of school and everyday life. This year, members of Baylor’s Baptist Student Ministries are joining in and heading to South Padre Island — but for a very different reason.

Baylor BSM will be working with Beach Reach, a South Padre Island-based ministry that serves spring breakers. According to its website, every year, “hundreds of Christian college students join together to verbally share the gospel of Jesus with those they encounter as they seek to meet their physical needs for food and transportation.”

Baylor BSM coordinator Kara O’Connell said the ministry includes free van rides throughout the island, with night shifts from 8 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 3 a.m. Each van has two groups, and one half prays in the prayer room while the other half is on the road. The ministry also offers midnight and morning pancakes.

O’Connell participated in Beach Reach while she was a student at Stephen F. Austin University, and she said the trip is special because it meets people where they are.

“Come as you are instead of coming to church when they feel like they have their lives together or wanting to talk about God when their lives are together,” O’Connell said.

McAllen senior Abby Jones said South Padre Island was where her family always used to visit and she grew up hearing about Beach Reach. Last year, she went to South Padre Island through the program for the first time.

“To be able to go somewhere, to help people who are just walking through some really hard things and going to Padre to kind of escape from life and avoid their problems through partying and stuff like that — it was just really heavy on my heart,” Jones said.

Jones said it’s important to remember that she doesn’t have any power to save anyone: only Jesus does.

“Letting the spirit of God lead evangelism is so important to me,” Jones said.

Henrico, Va., sophomore Madison Hatchel, who grew up in central Europe because her parents were missionaries, said she used to shy away from missions because they seemed like her parents’ thing.

“It really wasn’t until college that I was like, ‘Man, as a believer, I think this is also the commission for me to do this as well,’” Hatchel said.

Hatchel said she joined the leadership team for Baylor BSM last spring and decided to participate in Beach Reach despite it feeling out of her comfort zone. She said the purpose of the trip isn’t to convert people or “shove anything down anybody’s throat.”

“The entire purpose of why we go is literally just to serve people and love people,” Hatchel said. “And it is very different than any other mission trip I’ve ever heard of or been a part of.”

Hatchel said Beach Reach has a sense of urgency and conviction because they likely will never see the people they meet again.

“I think that’s the biggest thing I grew in, is how do you walk with conviction and be like, ‘Man, this is what I believe to be true’?” Hatchel said. “But also, you’re not there to preach at anybody.”

O’Connell said oftentimes, students aren’t sure how to interact with spring breakers at first. She said it’s cool to see students’ hearts change as they grow in confidence throughout the trip.

“Before the first night that we give rides, you can just see a lot of people doubting, questioning — like, ‘Why am I here? I’m not capable,’” O’Connell said. “It’s really cool to see people go from like, ‘Oh, it’s so awkward to ask if they have a relationship with God’ to, ‘How could I not ask them if they have a relationship with God?’”

Hatchel said prior to the trip, Beach Reach participants go through training once a week to bond, get to know their teams and learn how to navigate sharing the gospel. She said a large chunk of the time is also spent in prayer for the retreat.

Hatchel said her hope for Beach Reach is that people’s lives will truly be changed and conversations will lead people to know Jesus, not just during the week of Beach Reach, but also before and after.

“It’s not people just going on a trip for a week and just being like, ‘OK, we’re going to go and serve, and then I’m going to go back to how I live my life at Baylor,’” Hatchel said. “My prayer for myself and for our team is … we would just grow in training the gospel … and the Holy Spirit would move at Baylor even before Beach Reach.”

To stay updated on conversations, prayers and more, follow #SouthPadreBeachReach on Twitter.