Another trip, another post. I am constantly amazed at what God does in preparation, during, and after this trip. That is exactly how I will be reflecting on my third year of going to Beach Reach in Panama City Beach , Florida.
While preparing for this trip God was weaving his way into all the details that went into just simply getting us down to Florida. For me, finances were an obstacle yet again. I had the money to pay for the trip, but I wouldn’t have much after the fact. Since I was banking on finding a part-time job to pay for my trip and I was not able to achieve that I was terrified of the finances staring me in the face. However, just like in years prior, God proved to be so much bigger than my problems. I had thought I would be able to pay all of my trip initially so I did not send any support letters out, however when I realized that I should have done so it was getting too close to the deadline to send any out, but that didn’t stop people from giving to my trip. When I first posted about the trip, just simply stating I was going down again, people who had supported me in years past stepped up and said they would be supporting me again even though I did not even ask for it. As the deadline approached and I was still a good $400 short of the total, other people in my life began stepping up as well. They knew from word of mouth that I was needing the financial support and gave so thoughtfully from the bottoms of their hearts. I was completely overwhelmed. While I didn’t raise the full amount, I only had to pay a minimal amount because God provided more than what I needed to be comfortable. I don’t know why I ever doubt because He proves His greatness in my life over and over again.
We left for Panama City Beach, FL at 11:00am on Friday, March 6th. From the moment we left Satan was attacking us. On our way down, we had to leave one of our leaders and student in Bowling Green, KY due to him getting sick. Our other leader had to go back to pick up those who were in the others van so the rest of us were told to continue on toward where we would be staying for the night in Alabama. After that as we were on our way, we ended up hitting traffic in Nashville. When we came up to what looked like a minor accident, we saw a stopped vehicle with a man laying on the ground in front of it, bloodied and dead. I can still see the image so clearly in my head as I type these words. Death, outside of older people dying, is something I have never really experienced. It definitely was not on my list of things I would experience while on Beach Reach, but nonetheless majority of our team witnessed the same sight I did. Since most of us were in shock and overwhelmed with emotion, we stopped to gather ourselves before going on. We pulled off in a random McDonald’s parking lot and came together as a team to talk about what we had just encountered. Even though it was a solemn time, I could feel God’s presence in that parking lot with us. I knew in that moment that even though it felt that Satan was winning, that he was doing the opposite. He was doing everything in his power to prevent us from getting there, but God kept us going forward. We took our time in the parking lot to pray and just to worship God for who He is and His goodness in our lives. It is amazing how something so terrible can bring out something so wonderful. I will forever hold that moment near to my heart and those people whom I shared it with.
We FINALLY made it to Laguna Beach later on Saturday afternoon. After unpacking, getting settled in, and eating dinner, our group decided to spend our free time gathered around the swimming pool right outside all of our rooms to worship God again. The amount of love our group has for the Lord was evident in every single part of that trip. This wasn’t the first time I saw these students give their free time ON A BEACH to God. Almost every morning I woke up to read and spend time alone with God, only I wasn’t the only one with that same idea. Every morning, even though we had very little hours of sleep, many other students got up to spend the first part of their day with their Lord. It was completely humbling to witness something so beautiful and inspiring. Even as the day went on, others would spend their time on the beach praying and in The Word. As someone looking to go on staff with h2o church I was completely inspired and proud of these students for wanting to take time out of their day and give it solely to God.
Our main mission down there was our nighttime ministry of van rides and street teams. From 9pm-2am our team would split into smaller teams and walk around on the streets of Panama sharing the gospel or giving free van rides and engaging with the passengers we picked up. This year, I spent most of my time navigating, which means I was in the passenger seat taking assignments and giving our driver directions on where to go. This position isn’t necessarily where a lot of talking happens so I was initially bummed because I would rather have been a rider in the back (which was another part of the van ministry) so that I could better engage with spring breakers. However, God used my position as navigator to begin stretching me in an area I was struggling in: prayer. I have always struggled with praying except when I was in need. While sitting in the passenger seat waiting to reach our drop-off location I was trying to think of what I could do with that down time and God pressed it on my heart to pray. That is exactly what I spent that time doing. Whether it be for those in my van or the street teams we would pass along the way, I was constantly in prayer. While I wanted so badly to be able to share the gospel with the spring breakers, God used me to pray for those that were having those conversations. One night, while we were doing vans and I was navigating, one of my BEST friends was a rider. We had picked up two girls that night and were going to take them out by where we were staying, which was a good 20 minutes away. Her conversation went immediately to the gospel and what it meant to live a Christ-centered life. At first I became envious, but then I was humbled and brought to tears. God told me to stop and listen, my BEST FRIEND was sharing the gospel with these girls and I should be overjoyed for her! So I prayed and I prayed hard. It was so awesome to see God answer those prayers IMMEDIATELY.
We also spent a few hours during night ministry throughout the week in the prayer room where we would see a live prayer feed coming from the vans and street teams as they texted in requests. As you can imagine, someone struggling with prayer, this was not something I was looking forward to, BUT God used that time in bigger ways than I could have ever imagined! BGSU students had the privilege of spending our week with 5 people from h2o Toledo. One of the nights we were in the prayer room, God used my testimony to speak into the life of one of the girls that went down there. While that wasn’t what the prayer room was intended for, He placed it on my heart to talk to her that night, and I PRAISE HIM for that direction! She has become such a blessing in my life and I am excited to walk through life with her and chase after God together!
Lastly, one of the biggest things I was struggling with before this trip was feeling God’s presence in my life. God used this trip to answer that prayer as well. I could not put into words how I felt the spirit alive in me while we were down there. And I know how cheesy this sounds, but being by the ocean I felt as though I could feel God’s arms stretched out to me. I felt like I was breathing Him in and like He was walking alongside the shoreline with me. It was like I fell in love with my Lord all over again. Even now, though it’s been almost a month since we went, I am still able to sit at the foot of the cross and feel God’s love pouring down on me. It is so much more than what I expected to take away. I am completely overjoyed and in awe of what God can do.
Thank you to those who were praying and who financially supported me. I am forever grateful for you!
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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