It is a blessing, challenge, and a discovery to tell the story of what happens on the mission field. Of course, the full impact of the work that missionaries do cannot be found on this blog; it is the work of God through those who are willing to serve that goes beyond what we can even begin to put into words. This is what I love about Kingdom work! It’s beautiful when told and shared, but even more lovely as it grows. Stories are captivating and contagious. They are passed on because they relate more than just the facts, and they often have the power to convey an indescribable connection.
Last week, Ron and I sat down with Jenica Edwards to hear about the mission trip to South Padre Island, Texas.
Beach Reach Mission Trip
This was Jenica’s third year to travel down to Texas with the nine70 team. The purpose of the trip is simple: serve and love. But the mission trip itself was far from simple. During Spring Break week, the island of South Padre is overrun with college students ready to spend the entire week partying. The island population jumps to 40,000-50,000 during the week, and this year an extra celebration on the island garnered an additional 10,000 people. The overpopulation and younger crowd presents additional dangers, and even with reinforced police assistance, the safety of the partiers is still a huge concern.
Beach Reach (BR) is a national organization made up of churches mostly from Texas that bring in groups to serve and love the young, often confused crowd of college students. Jenica describes the chaos of the island at night: non-stop sirens, ambulances, and people everywhere. The teams pass out hotline cards for anyone to call to get free and safe transportation from one place to another. The BR teams use this time at night in van to talk to the partiers and try to build relationships. At midnight, they serve a pancake breakfast for the spring breakers.
Spring Break evangelism is a unique ministry, and Jenica told us why it is such an important ministry to her. She says that Beach Reach “stretches the mentality of missions, and you can serve in a very tangible way.” The people they serve in South Padre think they are getting a nice ride and free pancakes, but many of them need much more than that. Each year is different—the people they meet all have different stories—but Jenica says that prayer is one of the strongest tools they use.
Before the trip, the BR team meets and goes through a training to prepare for all parts of the trip. The group talks about ways to talk to the spring breakers in order to move into deeper connections rather than the typical surface conversations that normally take place when you first meet someone. They pray a lot also—for the people they will meet and for each other. Often exhaustion can be difficult to deal with—between sleep deprivation and the amount of people to talk to—and so the team constantly reminds each other that it is God doing the work, not them.
Jenica says that one of her favorite times during the week is the beach cleanup. Monday night was her team’s assigned time to pick up the beach. So, after spending all night giving rides, having conversations and prayers, and cooking pancakes, the group headed back to the beach to clean. Around 3 a.m. they began to pick up the trash, broken coolers, beer cans, flip flops, and clothes scattered all over the beach. After the beach is clean, the group gathered together to worship God as the sun comes up. Jenica says it is a reminder of what God does in our own lives: He cleans us up. The next day, the beach is filled with more parties and another mess. But each night, the beach is cleaned, just as He cleans us up—again and again. The team also uses the cleanup time to pray over the beach.
One story Jenica shared was about a connection she made with a football player, Sean, from Minnesota. Jenica’s van had picked him up with some friends to take them to a party, and she started talking to him. At first they talked about CSU, but then he said he didn’t think she could relate to anything he was going through. Then Jenica asked him why he came down to South Padre. He explained that he needed to get away from things back home. When she asked what was going on, Sean said that he was taking care of his nephew because of his sister’s drug addiction. Jenica couldn’t believe it—that was her same story. She told him that she could relate to him because that was her story. When he asked why she wasn’t partying, Jenica opened up to him about how God had won over her heart. She shared her Romans 8:37 bracelet with him—“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” She challenged him to see what that verse would mean in his nephew’s life. She told him how God plays that role in her own life—He is the Conqueror. In a surprising turn, Sean challenged her: he presented her with a bracelet that said, “Mothers-Sisters-Daughters-Friends.” He wanted her to be a support for the women in her life. Jenica was surprised, but accepted the bracelet and told him she would keep the promise. Today, Jenica still talks to Sean. She has told him about her upcoming trip to Africa and the mission work she will be doing there. Sean asks questions about church, and he knows that she is Christian. Most of the conversations about church come up on his terms, but Jenica keeps praying for him.
The BR team knew from the beginning that the ministry they would do on the island would only be possible if they let God do the work. They constantly reminded themselves that God doesn’t call the qualified, but he qualifies the called. Another important aspect of the each day was the debriefing time the team set aside to share with one another about how the previous night went. Jenica says that it is a spiritually intimate experience to lead someone to Lord, and sharing it with the team is powerful and encouraging. They were able to witness the Holy Spirit working, and it was something to rejoice in!
After the last night out, the team woke up early to pack the white vans and head to San Antonio to catch a flight back to Colorado. The nine70 Beach Reach team listened when God called them to serve and love the spring breakers in South Padre. Although they couldn’t predict the encounters and the people that would be there, they went. Each of them has their own stories to tell from the week. They prayed God would use them, and He did.