South Padre Island, Texas – Thousands of young adults are descending on South Padre Island for Spring Break this year, and while many go with plans to party, there’s also hundreds of college students who are there on a different mission.
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, goes the saying.
Just by looking at the crowd of people at Tuesday afternoon’s beach party on the south side of town, you wouldn't know there are many who are not looking to party.
“This is where we call our mission field,” said 20-year-old Lindsay Carnes from San Antonio.
It’s Carnes’ second Spring Break at the island.
“We’re here to spread the love of Jesus with everyone here,” she said.
There are around 700 people like Carnes from Texas, New Mexico and Colorado this week at the beach, offering some freebies to everyone they come across.
They begin by setting up a tent in the parking lot of the Island Baptist Church on Padre Boulevard, where they serve free pancakes from 8 a.m. to noon every day.
In addition to the pancakes, they deploy vans to offer free rides up and down the island all day long.
The pancake and free ride service continues from midnight to 3 a.m.
It’s all provided by the student ministries as part of their ‘beach reach’ effort, a mission started in 1981.
“It’s from donations," said Baptist member Natalie Hernandez. “By our church members who donated.”
Hernandez once came to South Padre to party when she was a junior in high school, before she found the ministry. She, like many others, paid approximately $350 out of her pocket to be here.
“We think we are part of the party,” Cory Shouse said.
Shouse is the director of the University of Texas chapter of the BSM. He leads a group from Austin and is one of 70 with a van offering free rides to strangers. So far, they’ve given 2,300 rides since the start of the week.
There must be a catch, right?
“There’s no catch at all,” Shouse assured. “We genuinely do it out of kindness. We’ve found the kindness of God and we want to share that kindness. Some are happy to hear it and welcome it, and some don’t want to hear it.”
“I ignored them,” Capherine Granados said.
Granados and her friend Kayla De Leon traveled from San Antonio to attend the beach party at South Padre, where musical acts including Steve Aoki and Migos were set to perform.
Having a conversation about God might be part of the deal, but not everybody minds it.
“It’s nice of them to do that. They don’t have to be here doing it,” said Granados.
“Most of the people that pass through they’ll talk to you couple of minutes,” said Wisconsin native Tyler Freyholtz. “So, that’s been cool.”
Carnes said she’s used to the rejection of some. That hasn’t kept her from coming back and trying again.
“We just hope that maybe a seed is planted and it’s something they can look into later.”