Over Spring Break, the University of Memphis BCM sent students on 3 separate mission trips. This post is a student's experience serving in Panama City Beach, Florida with Beach Reach.
I knew it was going to be an interesting week when at 6 a.m. I dropped my pillow into a mud puddle on the way to the van. Thankfully, things could only get better from there. God was so faithful and good throughout the whole week as he stretched an introvert like me to have numerous conversations with complete strangers with a Gospel mindset. I also got to witness God use my fellow team members in powerful prayers, intentional conversations, and even through a salvation! It was a week I would not trade for anything, and I am so thankful God called me to Panama City Beach for spring break.
I imagine that most people have a preconceived notion about what Beach Reach will be like: “us”, the good ol’ Christians who are sacrificing their break to share the Gospel, ministering to “them”, the irresponsible drunk people who choose to spend their spring break partying. And to be honest, that was the mindset I had before I left Memphis. While it is true that we were bringing the light of the Gospel to a very dark place, God revealed to me very early on that without the grace of God, I would be no different from the partiers around me. God taught me this lesson through a guy named William from Decatur, Alabama. Throughout the course of the twenty minute van ride, I realized how much I had in common with William. Although I was unable to breach the Christian facade he was putting up, I enjoyed our time together and was actually able to have more conversations with him later in the week. By the end of the first night, God had given me eyes that see people as he does, and I was able to go throughout the week with a new burden for the ministry we were doing.
After giving me a new perspective, God continued to use me in ways that left me
completely dependent on his grace, which is a good thing! As an introvert, I knew that a week of conversations with random people was going to be very challenging for me. But God empowered me with the words to say and the discernment of when to say them. As a result, I was able to hold conversations with dozens of people that God has and will continue to work on.
Another example of God at work was shown through my physical strength throughout the week. My typical bedtime is usually around ten, and definitely before midnight; however, the average night at Beach Reach had us out past 2 a.m. Miraculously, though, God gave me strength to minister into the late hours of the night without exhaustion slowing me down. Although I don’t plan on making 2 a.m. the new normal, I know that I was able to make it through the week solely through the grace of God.
Of course, you can take the work God did in me and multiply by twelve to see the way he moved in our team from Memphis. There were actually around five hundred people in Panama City Beach for missions, and it was clear that the place was totally saturated with the Gospel. Just in examining our team, it is clear that God moved in powerful ways. Even though several of our team members were not feeling well at different points in the week, God used them to minister in different areas. Also, I have never been around so much prayer in my life. The leaders of Beach Reach stressed the importance of prayer in our ministry, and our group from Memphis took this seriously. God taught me by the examples around me what it looks like to be a prayer warrior for Christ.
Perhaps one of the coolest experiences of the week was being part of a group that had a Gospel conversation that eventually resulted in a salvation. Although I did not do much talking throughout the conversation, I was praying and seeing those prayers answered in real time! Overall, Beach Reach 2016 was a great experience that God used to grow me and prepare me for future ministry opportunities.
For more information on Beach Reach, click here.