By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
OCEAN CITY, Md.—What do you get when you combine hundreds of international student workers, thousands of tourists, lifeguards, church mission teams and nearly 20 college and high school students?
A hectic CALM.
Far from its acrostic name, Central Atlantic Leisure Ministries (CALM) is a vibrant resort ministry in and around Ocean City, Md., where hundreds of thousands of vacationers flock each year.
The town supports a year-round population of about 8,000, but that number swells each summer as a large number of international college-age adults move to Ocean City to live and work—and if things go the way Lynn Davis hopes, to learn about Jesus.
Since 1985, Davis has served as resort minister for CALM, ministering to residents and guests of Maryland’s (and even Delaware’s) Eastern Shore in cooperation with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware, Eastern Association and Ocean City Church.
She is keenly aware that God brings “the world” to Ocean City through the international students, to whom she offers free weekly dinners, coffeehouse experiences, Bible studies and any necessary assistance to help them manage in their unfamiliar territory.
On any given day, Davis, NAMB-sponsored summer missionaries and church mission teams meet students at bus terminals, area businesses and on the beach and invite them to free dinners held on Monday evenings in the basement fellowship hall of Ocean City Church.
Located one block off the famous Ocean City Boardwalk entrance, the church fills quickly with constant lines forming outside. By the end of the summer, over 2,000 students, representing countries such as Bosnia, Turkey, Belarus, Ethiopia and China, attend the dinners.
As they register, each student receives a health kit, full of hygiene items donated from BCM/D churches.
It’s a great opportunity, says Mike Fillis, pastor of Fenwick Island Church.
“Instead of going to foreign countries on mission trips, the students come to our country, and we are able to do foreign missions right here in our own backyard,” he said.
On June 20, the third time for the Delaware church, 25 people provided the meals for nearly 300 students.
Last year, Fenwick Island Church members prepared enough meals for what they thought would be around 300 students, but because they served later in the summer, the numbers were bigger than they ever imagined.
“We had over 525 kids that we served,” Fillis said, explaining that they brought down about 700 pieces of chicken.
“When the meal was done, we had one piece of chicken left over and a few desserts. It was just amazing to watch how God provided, not only for the things we needed but He provided exactly what was needed that night.”
The lesson of God’s provision reinforced the church’s mission to reach the international students.
“As the Lord works in the hearts of kids from other countries, and they take the Gospel back with them, who knows what the Lord will do as He works through a changed heart or a seed that’s planted,” Fillis said. “He maybe can reach a country that we will never have the opportunity to see, talk to or even meet while we are here on this earth.”
Pastor James DeVaughn and members of First Church, Princess Anne, Md., has served in the international ministry the past five years.
“We find it not only a joy to work with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but with the international students,” he said. “We get a blessing of not only meeting someone and sharing Christ with them, but just to be able to feed them and encourage them. Not only are the kids blessed by this, but our workers have certainly been blessed.”
David Thornhill-Smith from England clearly remembers being blessed. He came to Ocean City four years ago as an international student, working at one of the nearby amusement parks. Now, he is a summer missionary for CALM.
“I was an international student and now I am here serving international students,” he said. “I think the work here is really great.”
Alec from Pochaiv, Ukraine, agreed, “I like to go to the international dinners because it is the best opportunity for me to improve my English, to meet new people… I like the Christian religion—it’s a cool religion.”
In addition to the international ministries, CALM leads Surf and Sand Clubs for children in four area campgrounds, Frontier Town, Castaways, Assateague State Park and Fort Whaley Campground. They also lead campground worship services, conduct recreational activities for youth and young adults, and do concerts, puppets and family nights.
Michelle Wade, a summer missionary from Mobile, Ala., said, “I really feel like God has blessed Ocean City with all these ministries, and I am just blessed to be a part of it.”
She shared about a little girl named Lori who attended one of the Surf and Sand Club ministry outreaches and was excited to hear about Joshua in the Old Testament. She poured through the Bible and kept asking, “Who is this? What is their story?”
“Just to see the curiosity and excitement of a child to learn about Jesus—it was so encouraging to me and reminded me of why I am here,” Wade said.
AMPLIFY YOUR IMPACT
To become a summer missionary or to sign up your church for an Ocean City mission trip, contact Davis at (410) 641-4348 or [email protected].