Illustration by Kerry Zentner
Christian missionaries are known for traveling to poor areas of our planet to provide aid and convert heathens. So for the past 30 years, Christians have been hanging out at spring break hotspots.
Beach Reach is an organization that started in South Padre Island, Texas—where tens of thousands of drunk college kids descend every year—in 1980 by a Baptist seminary student named Buddy Young. His mission to deliver the Good News to half-naked, vomit-spewing kids turned into an annual event that now brings in hundreds of missionaries to battle Satan and hookup culture. Beach Reach has since evolved to offer a free van service, pancake dinners, and a Jesus-themed sand sculpture every year.
South Padre isn’t the only place you can find Christ next to a wet T-shirt contest. In 1998, the Baptist community in Panama City Beach, Florida—another den of collegiate sin—organized their own Beach Reach. Bill Roe, the organizer of the Panama City Beach group, told me that not only do they offer free rides and pancakes, they also erect a digital prayer wall. “A lot of those spring breakers have prayer needs that they ask us to pray for,” Bill said. “So you can text those into the prayer room and have students praying for those needs right then.”
According to the latest stats on Beach Reach’s website, in 2008 they attracted 375 missionaries and baptized 21 people in the Gulf of Mexico—proof of the organization’s growing success. “One of the amazing things about this kind of program is that these students are actually paying to come and be a part of it,” Bill said. “I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but ‘scary’ is maybe the word I would use. It is intimidating, sharing this message with people who have already decided they don’t want to hear it.” So why attempt to convert stubborn minds? Bill said it’s quite simple: “For us, Christ has changed our lives.”
More from our Spring Break issue: