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Barefoot Believers sow seeds of gospel on coastcomment (0)

August 27, 2009

By Doug Rogers

Jennifer White’s plans called for an extended amount of time at the beach this summer. And while that might sound typical for a college student, White’s goal wasn’t soaking up the sun but leading people to the Son.

“To be able to take bottles of water out on the beach and share the love of Christ with people and introduce to them the One who made the beach, well, words cannot express how amazing a feeling that is,” she said.

White, a member of First Baptist Church, Snow Road, in Semmes, was one of about a dozen high school and college students who volunteered their summer doing missions in the Gulf Shores area through Barefoot Believers, the resort ministry of Baldwin Baptist Association.

“It’s an exciting place to serve,” said Nate Diehl, who, along with his wife, Alicia, directs the resort ministry. “We get the opportunity to both reach people for Christ and also to encourage believers.”

This summer’s team was made up of several summer missionaries, four Innovators (a position that allows a student to work full time and provide assistance to other missionaries), two Sojourners (high school students), a US/C2 missionary (which requires a two-year commitment) and one additional volunteer.

Often church youth groups on missions trips joined in to help. The ministry couldn’t function without those volunteer teams and the summer missionaries, Diehl said.

A typical week brings a lot of variety for the team. Team members might find themselves leading a worship service at a condo, handing out water on the beach, scooping up snow cones for a family night at an RV park or making salvation bracelets with children at one of the ministry’s six day camps.

Face painting and hair wrap skills are helpful but not required. What’s needed most is a desire to reach people with the gospel. “When we hand out water and do hair wraps and face paint, everything is free,” White said.

“To the world, that makes no sense. I love to explain why it’s free — because of the love of Christ.”

What may seem like a dream job is also hard work, Diehl said, noting that “when we’re on the beach, which is the place to be in the heat, we’re not playing in the water or lying on the sand. The team is out and about with a purpose, and that purpose is to reach people for Christ. The opportunity to do that is huge.”

It is huge indeed. An estimated half a million people from across the Southeast visit the Alabama Gulf Coast every summer, making it an ideal location for sowing seeds of the gospel. “We were on the beach on the Fourth of July for 10 hours, reaching out and talking to people,” Diehl said. During that time, the team gave out more than 700 water bottles with Scripture, painted hundreds of faces and distributed a multitude of salvation bracelets. 

“Anytime you try to build a relationship with someone and they see you want to take the time to get to know them and share something with them, then they’re willing to listen, and that opens the door for you to be able to tell them what Christ has done in your life and how He can change theirs miraculously,” Alicia Diehl said.

One of the RV parks where the Barefoot Believers hold day camps and family activities is Anchors Aweigh RV Resort in Foley. Anne Stephens, who serves as one of the managers of the RV park, said, “It has been a wonderful blessing here. We are a family-oriented park, and some of the children have never experienced any kind of church activities whatsoever, and this is an opportunity for them to, so that has made a wonderful impact.”

While much work occurs during summer, ministry happens year-round, including during spring break, the National Shrimp Festival in October and winter as snowbirds flock to the area. Volunteers are always welcome.

The ministry is coordinated through Baldwin Association and supported by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and the North American Mission Board. Several Baldwin Association churches are actively involved in the ministry, assisting with worship services or providing resources.

Resort ministry is an integral part of Baldwin Association’s strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. Interim Director of Missions Rick Barnhart noted that as a result of the day camps in just one of the RV parks this summer, four young people came to know Christ. “If it were not for our Cooperative Program gifts throughout the state, we would not be able to accomplish these things,” he said.

Vacationers aren’t the only ones impacted by the ministry. It affects the missionaries also. “This is a mission experience that has changed my life forever. I will forever see people differently,” White said. “When I go back home, I need to keep that fire and keep sharing the Word like I’ve been doing here.”

For more information, visit www.barefootbelievers.com.

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