By Sharon Mager
PANAMA CITY, FL—Jessup Baptist Church Pastor Bill Jones has fond memories of spring break in Panama City—but not partying on the beach. Jones’ memories are doing ministry with his son.
Jones volunteered to help with Baptist Collegiate Ministry’s “Beach Reach” ministry in Panama City, Fla., during spring break, along with other collegiate ministry students and other leaders from Maryland and Delaware.
“Eighty-eight people came to know Christ. It was a great time,” Jones said.
Worship began at 7 p.m. each evening then the teams hit the streets at 9 p.m.
There were three teams every night. Some were in the prayer room, others were sharing the Gospel on the street or in the van and there were van drivers. Jones was a driver.
“The way it worked was, someone would call in and ask for a ride. We would pick them up and take them to the location they wanted to go. We would give them business cards with phone numbers for the van rides to call on the way home. On the back of the card was an invitation to a free breakfast the next morning.
“While I was driving, our collegiate students would engage the students we’d pick up—peer-to-peer conversation.”
Jones said students asked questions about college majors, future plans, and eventually about a faith background. Depending on the answer, the collegiate students would determine how to proceed to share the Gospel message.
The next day from morning to early afternoon, the students mingled as they ate breakfast/brunch, giving the collegiate students a chance to intermingle.
“Everything was bathed in prayer,” Jones said. When the van navigator got a text for a ride, he would announce to the team we are picking up “John.” The van team would begin praying for “John.” The team in a separate prayer area would also receive a message to pray for the passenger and friends.
As the students engaged “John” in conversation, they would ask for prayer requests, which would be passed to the prayer team. And when he left the van, he would once again be uplifted in prayer.
“It was a pretty moving experience to be part of all that,” Jones said.
“What surprised me and was most moving was seeing and hearing the students witnessing. It was as if it was natural and it was great to be a part of that. As pastors you tell people they have to tell others about Christ, but they clam up. They say at school it’s not allowed; at work it’s not allowed, but these young people were eager to talk about the Lord and to hear their conversations—man that’s great!” Jones said.
“After someone left they’d say, ‘Wow, I was so nervous,’ but it seemed so natural to discuss biblical concepts and teachings. And doing that at their age, just imagine what they’ll be doing when they’re in their 20s, 30s and 40s.”
There were people who asked, “Why are you down here?” Jones said. Folks were “dumbfounded” to find that their peers were using their spring break to give van rides and serve pancakes.
“People were surprised that we were there to serve them,” Jones said.
The trip was especially memorable for Jones because he got to minister alongside his son, Zach.
“That was one of the things I was excited about, but a little apprehensive. He’s a young man. It’s his environment. I didn’t want to step in as his dad, or as pastor… I wanted to enjoy my time as dad and see him working for the Lord.”
Interestingly, Zach most appreciated his dad being on hand for the tough questions.
“One of the coolest things I experienced was when we were trying to witness to someone we picked up in the middle of the night. We didn’t know how to answer some of his questions, but my dad was there and able to step in and help explain. He was keeping his distance but he was really able to help us when we needed it,” Zach said.
“If anyone has an opportunity to do something like that, jump at it,” Bill said. “It’s an amazing experience to be able to work across generations and see what Lord is doing with our young people.”