Many students like to escape the cold of Wisconsin
during spring break for a warmer place in the country to relax, tan and party.
A group of students at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, went south
this spring break for another reason: to participate in a Christian conference
and share their faith with other students at Panama City Beach, Florida.
The conference was called Big Break and was sponsored
by the Campus Crusade for Christ, an international Christian organization.
Aaron Messier, a senior at UWSP, went on Big Break. He
explained that the purpose of the event was to teach young Christians how to
spread their faith and to initiate spiritual conversations with others, then
give them an opportunity to share with other people on the beach.
The event sees many students returning year after year.
Rebecca Sutherland, an English major at UWSP, has been three times.
“I went my first time at the encouragement of my friend
Whitney Carlson, and I had such a great time that I’ve gone back every year,”
Sutherland said. “It’s a totally different sort of atmosphere than usual CRU or
church. It’s both personal and unifying.”
Students are taught not to talk about their own beliefs
but to listen to others.
“The real purpose was just to listen and understand the
individual’s perspective on what spirituality, faith, and religion all meant to
them. If they were interested, I’d share my perspective, but the real goal was
to listen and understand where they were coming from and where they were at
spiritually,” Sutherland said. “It’s amazing what you can learn about a person
when you stop talking and really listen.”
While talking about a subject like religion can be
difficult with others, Sutherland enjoyed this aspect of the event.
“My favorite part of Big Break was actually going out
on the beach and talking with people. I love listening to others’ stories and
sharing if the opportunity arises. Meeting new people and gaining new
perspectives is a real passion of mine,” Sutherland said.
These students understand that their decision to go
south not to party but to talk to strangers might sound odd to other students.
“Personally, I’m not really sure what non-CRU students
would think of Big Break,” Messier said. “To be honest, I can see them as
thinking it’s a little odd just for the fact that we are going to an area that
is well known for partying and ‘fun,’ and we are refraining from drinking and
instead are talking to people and not partying ourselves.”
Sutherland understands that talking about religion can
bring awkwardness, but she thought it was enjoyable.
“Well, I suppose it might feel a little awkward for
some students as religion and faith are some of the ‘taboo’ topics of our
culture,” Sutherland said. “But hopefully Big Break would open up the
opportunity for students to see that it is possible to talk about such issues
without it being weird or tense.”
While some Campus Crusade for Christ students may not
have attended a typical spring break, they still love to enjoy the sun and
warmer climate of the south.
“It’s all done in sunny Florida on a sandy beach,”
Sutherland said. “Sounds like a win to me.”