PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – Panama City Beach is a hot spot for undergrads looking to make the most of spring break, including some 100 Baptist college students from the Bluegrass.
Kentucky Baptist students from five state universities are participating in Beach Reach, a mission trip experience widely known for its “Free Rides, Free Pancakes” rallying cry.
The premise of the ministry is simple: Offer the Florida-or-bust crowd free transportation during spring break and a complimentary breakfast, which might open the door to a conversation about faith.
“Many of these college students have worked for weeks on their testimonies and how to share them. Beach Reach is just as much about growing their faith as it is introducing spring breakers to Christ,” said Brian Combs, the Kentucky Baptist Convention's collegiate evangelism strategist.
Baptist Campus Ministry students from Northern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University arrived in Panama City Beach March 5. Next week, Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky take their turn.
Combs said Beach Reach provides free rides for about 1,200 college students on an average night, many of whom are high or inebriated – or both. During the trip, BCM students try to spark conversations with their passengers, sometimes asking what they think about Jesus or heaven.
Volunteers from Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief, longtime partners of Beach Reach, made more than 27,000 pancakes last year.
When BCM students aren’t giving rides, they are walking the raucous Panama City Beach strip handing out business cards advertising the free rides and breakfast. Others are assigned to a large prayer room where overhead screens display texts sent from students out in the thick of it.
“Please pray for the amazing conversation that happened with Shawn in Subway,” one BCM student texted Tuesday night. “I was able to share the whole gospel with him. He is so hungry to know God and have a relationship with Him. Shawn will be at pancakes in the morning so we can keep talking. Please pray that this sinks in with him and he can come to know Jesus as his Savior.”
Another student wrote, “Prayers needed as two men are very firm in their non-beliefs and think that everything happens because of a scientific reason.”
Combs thanked Kentucky Baptist churches whose partnership with BCM through the Cooperative Program make it possible to build up a generation of strong, evangelistic minded believers. He also asked for Kentucky Baptists' prayers as BCM students continue to engage “our darkest demographic, in a dark and disillusioned place.”
Live prayer requests can be found at www.beachreachlive.com/prayer.