We all need relief from something, whether it be the metaphorical storm in our lives, a literal storm, or the storm of our overwhelming sin. About a month ago we sent roughly 45 students down to Panama City, Florida to send relief. One group down worked with the literal Send Relief foundation, helping locals recover from the disaster caused by hurricane Michael. We did everything from gutting a church, to helping put new walls up, to stuff as simple as yard work. No matter how simple a task was, the people we helped were beyond grateful. The other group we sent, went to the neighboring Panama City Beach, where they focused on the relief of the overwhelming weight of our sin with an organization called Beach Reach. The Beach Reach crew focused on all the college students on spring breaker who were there to party. Our students went out every night to share the gospel with the lost. Every morning they would serve them pancakes to love them and have another chance to share the gospel. Both trips are impactful, not just for the people we talk to, but for our students. I had two students share their experiences below. Lydia Ware went on the beach reach trip and Kayla Ferdelman went on the disaster relief trip, and they each were greatly impacted by God because of these trips.
"With the hopes of growing in obedience and boldness over the week, I went on H2O’s evangelism trip Beach Reach. This trip was very much out of my comfort zone and I was nervous about talking to strangers and trying to share Jesus with them, but even more than that, I was afraid that on the trip that fear was going to keep me from growing. However, God had plans other than growing me in boldness, instead he changed my view of what evangelism. I grew up going to church with my family, but I didn’t start pursuing a relationship with Jesus until my first year of college when I joined H2O. Throughout the past three years, God has shown me that evangelism is still an important part of Christianity and every Christian in called to go and make disciples. I had started to see that evangelism was an important part of faith because it was an act of obedience to God; going out to share the Gospel because He told us to. While this still is true, God revealed to me through my experience at Beach Reach that evangelism is about something bigger than that; it’s about loving God and loving others which are two sides of the same coin. When we love others, we love God because they bear His image, and when we love God, we love others because He loves them. Telling other people about Jesus is loving towards them because you are telling them about the one way they can be saved. Telling other people about Jesus is loving towards God, because when you love someone you talk about them and want other people to know Him. God also reminded me recently after Beach Reach that love is more than just a feeling, it is an action. After Beach Reach, I was not feeling much motivation or conviction through my emotions to change and love my non-Christian classmates. Yet, God reminded me that feeling more loving towards my classmates wasn’t the important part, acting more loving towards them is. Overall, my Beach Reach experience was tough and not what I had expected, but I learned a lot from the trip and am continuing to pray the God would teach me how to love Him and love the people around me more." --Lydia Ware
"The Florida Trip was an opportunity to see God in action. It was a week of witnessing His love infiltrate into storms to shine light on His goodness in the midst of hardship. There was a lot of hardship in Panama City. We ourselves had to step back and take in the physical damage this storm left behind in disbelief that God had let it surge so strongly, take lives, and impact people. Yet a huge takeway from this trip was God's goodness. You could see his Good in the people helping each other out. It was in the praise the locals sang at church to Him. You could hear of his Good in the stories the survivors told as well. They, despite it all, spoke adamantly of their trust and hope in Him. What a lesson to learn, seeing people who have lost everything TRUST that God is still Good. I learned an incredible amount from them- from the pastor whose church was destroyed to the family trying to care for a loving mother and wife while working through the loss of their home. Their faith was so powerful. And man, when God wasn't revealing Himself in those we had the chance to serve, He was revealing Himself to us as individuals. What a joy it was to recenter and find peace in God's love again, even in the midst of our own storms." -- Kayla Ferdleman