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Her ‘diva’ role undergirds BeachReach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (BP)–If Angel Ellis were to hold a political office, perhaps it would be mayor of a small city, except that “diva” might be an appropriate title for her role.

Ellis is coordinator of BeachReach for LifeWay Christian Resources. BeachReach is a ministry that hosts hundreds of college students (more than 800 this year) over three weeks who minister to thousands of other collegians (100,000-plus) who descend on Panama City Beach, Fla., for one reason: to party … hard.

The logistics to pull off such an outreach are mind-boggling and require the coordination of lots of different resources scattered across the country. The appearance is much like the mayor coordinating the various facets of a small town’s operation to keep things running. When the idea is mentioned to Ellis, she chuckles and says, “I’ve never thought of it that way, but I guess you could say that. Another way to express it is the way my staff does. They call me the ‘BRD,’ short for ‘BeachReach Diva.'”

The term “diva” originally was used to describe a woman of rare, outstanding talent. It derives from the Italian word divina. Considering the administrative talent necessary to pull off the myriad of relationships that must be navigated, “diva” may be more on target than “mayor.”

“It is amazing when you think about what goes into making BeachReach a successful event,” said Mark Mangrem, pastor of Connect Church in Arlington, Texas, and the worship speaker for the third and final week of the March 1-21 BeachReach ’08. “Angel does an incredible job and keeps the focus on ministry to the students who’ve come down here to party.”

Ellis would be the first to say success is a gift of God, beginning with a staff of volunteers from across the country and even from Canada who work for the entire three weeks of BeachReach. Next come partnerships with First Baptist Church Panama City, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and Stone Mountain (Ga.) Baptist Association’s disaster relief feeding unit which serves meals each night to BeachReachers then prepares the pancake breakfasts each morning that feed thousands.

Ellis also coordinates corporate involvement with companies that donate cell phones for use in dispatching the vans, food for feeding BeachReachers, pancake mix, the location for the pancake breakfast and other items.

Finally, nothing is done without coordinating with local law enforcement.

“Just alone in the eight miles [along Front Beach Road] we cover there are three different law enforcement jurisdictions,” she said. “Because of the relationships with law enforcement, we are not here to be in their way, but we’re here to help and they’ve repeatedly stated that we make their jobs so much easier because of the safety we’re providing.”

Ellis said she already has begun planning for BeachReach ’09 and looks forward to many more years of productive ministry.

“If anyone thinks this is a lost generation,” Ellis said, “then how I wish they could have seen the 800 leaders and students from across this country and Canada sharing their faith and serving the streets of Panama City Beach, Fla., this past spring. It would move anyone into repentance and then into action.”
Chris Turner is media relations manager for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.