The conversation at breakfast begins casually, with small talk.
After all, it's been a long week of beaching by day and clubbing by
"Which school are you from?" asks Lee Brinkley, adjusting her
camouflage miniskirt as she sits down at the table. "What are you
studying?" "Do you go to church?"
Whoa, where did that come from? This is spring break, after all.
A time to cut loose, forget about real life, relax.
After a cool response from these Texas A&M University males, Ms.
Brinkley screws up her courage and continues, "Church is important.
You have to make time for it."
It may seem out of place, but for college students like Brinkley
who've made their way to South Padre Island this week, the climate
couldn't be better. They are participating in Beach Reach, a
Southern Baptist Convention program that sends hundreds of Christian
college students to spring-break hot spots to provide help - both
material and spiritual. It's part of a burgeoning movement in
Evangelical Christianity, called servant evangelism, which was
pioneered by a Cincinnati pastor in the mid-1980s. The idea is to
use kind deeds to show the love of God in action.
In the case of Beach Reach, that means providing free rides, free
pancake breakfasts, and free sunscreen and water to overextended
spring-breakers. And, yes, you may get a little free ministering in
For the most part, college students say they appreciate the
efforts of Beach Reach - even if it comes with a small side of
South Padre Island has long been considered one of the most
popular spring-break destinations in the country, and every year it
is overrun with college students out for a good time. This year,
100,000 students are expected to party here during the month of
March. Most return home safely, but there are alcohol-related deaths
nearly every year. One has already been reported this spring break.
Brothers, breakfast, and beliefs
Roupen Mouradian, a senior at the University of Southern
California, says his group hasn't gotten too out of control, "the
parts that I can remember anyway."
He and his fraternity brothers are taking advantage of free food -
the mantra of every college kid - at the morning pancake breakfast.
They learned about the daily breakfasts - one in the morning and one
at midnight - by Beach Reach members who were handing out cards
earlier in the week.
Mr. Mouradian says the idea that they may have to talk religion
doesn't keep them away. He says the group got into a long discussion
about their beliefs at a breakfast the day before.
"There was some conflict, but it wasn't like they were trying to
force anything on us," says Mouradian, wiping the remaining syrup
from his lips. "We just agreed to disagree on a few things."
The frat boys finish their pancakes and head to the beach to bury
a keg in the sand. There, artist Randy Hofman has just competed a
new sand sculpture, entitled "Jesus Is Alive. …