During Bible & Beach, Southeast Christian Church’s student conference June 19-24 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, double red flags flew all week warning that the ocean was closed to the public due to dangerous currents.

That is except for the final day, when conditions changed to a single red flag and 88 high school students were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was such a special ending,” said Jonathan Joseph, a Southwest Campus volunteer. “We couldn’t get into the ocean the entire time. They moved the baptisms from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on that last day. Had they not, we wouldn’t have been able to get in the ocean. We saw them take that red flag down, and pandemonium broke out because everyone was so excited to get out in the water.”

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Joseph baptized a high school sophomore last year who baptized another student at Bible & Beach this year.

“It’s just cool to see ministry keep working through students,” Joseph added. “To see students baptizing students. It’s one at a time. That’s literally what it is.”

Bible & Beach, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, brought together more than 1,000 students and volunteer leaders from all Southeast campuses.

Crestwood Campus Student Pastor Associate Kenny Ott said there were 19 first-time baptisms from his campus.

“I think because there wasn’t a Bible & Beach last year, this year was really hard on students, so there was a ton more fruit,” he said. “They haven’t had this type of moment for a long time to really process what was going on through the lens of Jesus. It was really neat.”

Ott said two of his students connected over the shared experience of having a dad who is a drug addict. One student baptized the other.

“It was just things like that that only God can do,” Ott added. “We also had a student who lives in Indianapolis right now, but his family is moving to Crestwood. He came to Bible & Beach not knowing anyone. He got really connected in my group and his grandma told us that he started crying because he said he found his community.”

The Bible & Beach theme was about different stories in the Book of John.

Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman opened the conference by speaking on John 1.

“I was grateful to spend the week in Fort Walton with more than 1,000 students and leaders from Southeast for Bible & Beach, but nothing is better than ending the week watching so many make decisions to follow Jesus,” Idleman said.

Associate Pastor Matt Reagan spoke about which doors we walk through.

Many high school students walked through a new door, whether committing their life to Christ, getting baptized or deciding to be rebaptized.

Emma Morton, 16, a member of the Blankenbaker Campus, brought four friends, and she is planning to baptize two of those friends who were previously unconnected to church.

“It was the best week of my year,” Morton said. “I had a great time. It was so engaging. I really got a lot closer to God in that short span of time through the community. It’s such a safe place to talk about how you’re feeling.”

Paige Andres, 16, brought her best friend, Lily, whom she recently baptized.

“I think this week had an impact on everyone, especially because all the campuses came together to worship as one large group,” Andres said. “I loved the worship.”

The Shelby County Campus had 34 students and 10 leaders, many of whom came for the first time.

“It was a really awesome experience,” said Lukas Allison, a Shelby County Campus volunteer. “I absolutely love how they handled the worship sessions and small group times. They did a really good job packaging it for high school students. The amount that my small group opened up in that week was huge compared to how much they opened up at our C-group throughout the year. One student in particular said, ‘Here I actually want to share and participate because of the bond and the relationships. At first, I wasn’t sure, but I realized throughout the week I could trust you guys.’”

Shelby County Campus volunteer Michele Andriot enjoyed getting to know her group of 10 freshman girls.

“They were very timid and shy. Some of them had never been away from home,” Andriot said. “By the time we left, they didn’t want to come home and that was their new family. It was amazing that the girls that didn’t even know each other’s names became sisters. It was life-changing, and God worked in their hearts. They realized they’re not alone, that they can be real and not pretend they’re OK.”