DISCOVER Panama City Beach
by Mark Jent, Director of Missions Outreach
Panama City Beach and spring break are words that are synonymous with the same sights, sounds and smells for anyone that has ever heard about the insanity and chaos that takes place in Florida each year. Whether your familiarity with Panama City is an annual summer family vacation or simply as a channel surfer during spring break, most people are aware of the darkness that surrounds this quaint coastal town of 12,000. Since 2006, Lipscomb Missions has seen that same darkness in a different light. As opposed to seeing nothing more than inebriated college students, we see friends who are lost. As opposed to seeing young adults making regrettable decisions, we see it as an opportunity to be the hands of Jesus in a way that not everyone finds easy or comfortable.
Over the past seven years, Lipscomb has regularly sent an all-guys mission team to the beaches of Panama City to seek, to serve and to listen. “I really sensed God calling me to start a trip that was to teach our students how to live missional, evangelistic lives among their peers,“ says Dave Clayton (’04), trip founder and former Campus Minister. “For the guys on the mission team, it was so valuable for them to learn how to share the gospel with their peers in unlikely situations. For the people we were allowed to serve - they encountered the love of Jesus through people who were speaking their language.”
The most intensive trip preparation-wise for Lipscomb Missions is not for the faint of heart or for those students whose schedules don’t allow for a full commitment - both spiritually and physically. A rigorous application/interview process is followed by the team selection that is covered in prayer by the team leaders. Once the team begins meeting on a weekly basis, trip preparation consists of readings, journaling, accountability partners and trips to local clubs in Nashville that will give the team a glimpse of what to expect once on the ground in Panama City. “The trip was a year long commitment that carried the weight and responsibility of a 5 hour credit course each semester. I was blown away by the dedication of the guys on our trip,” says Clayton.
To maximize the effectiveness for ministry, most days for the guys on the team do not begin until late afternoon and extend until nearly sunrise - by the pool, on the beach, and in the clubs. It is not a bullhorn-type ministry where the love of Jesus is shouted from a soapbox. It is a mission built on relationships, some of which you least expect to form. “God was constantly amazing me at how He would change hearts in the most unlikely of places. We often noticed that God had already done all of the prep for the people we would encounter,” says Clayton. “Our presence was often just a confirmation for those we were serving that God indeed was good and had been pursuing them.”
During the DISCOVER event on November 4, you will have the opportunity to experience the same sights, smells and sounds of Panama City. Although spring break 2014 will be nearly five months and 500 miles away, you will enter the clubs and walk the beaches right here on Lipscomb’s campus. Join us. Click here to RSVP.