Bold at Big Break 2009

Jess Fong
Photo by Jess Fong

The college student's spit hit him below his eye.

Chris Houghtaling, a freshman at West Virginia University, had gone out to talk to people on the beach. He approached a student and offered to go through the Would You Like to Know God Personally? booklet.

As he began to sit down, the guy spat in his face.

Instead of starting a punching fight, adding one more story for the news along with all the other drunk college sidebars from Panama City Beach, Chris said, "That's all right. I love you, and so does God."

He walked down to the ocean and washed off his face, though shaking with anger. The student was still yelling at him from up the beach. Fighting was at the front of Chris' mind.

Everyone's been shooting me down all week. Discouraged, he headed back to the hotel.

Another student from Big Break stopped him, encouraging Chris not to give up.

Big Break is Cru's spring break mission trip for college students. Every year, thousands of students migrate to the beach to tell others about Christ's love.

After evangelism training, students spend all afternoon applying their faith, talking on the beach with people about Jesus before returning for a nightly session. This year's conference focused on "Becoming a Warrior for God."

Over the month of Big Break, 1,288 beach goers indicated decisions for Christ through students and staff members.

After talking with the fellow Christian, Chris headed back to the beach, determined again. Nearby the student who had spat on him, Chris sat down and talked to two parents. He says they didn't seem like they wanted to listen, but something clicked as Chris spoke to them.

They both eagerly agreed to pray with Chris to accept Christ. He stayed with them for over an hour, listening as they talked about their children.

"It was a quick thought," Chris said after, "but I knew if I hit the kid, then go over and try to talk to these, they'd go, 'You just punched a kid! You're not a man of God! How can you talk to me?'"

But Chris is a man of God, a new one of just 2 months.

He struggled through years of problems with alcohol, drugs, and a difficult family background. He remembers sitting on a chair when he was 3, watching his uncle and cousin smoke crack.

Late this past winter, Chris accepted Christ in a bowling alley after hearing about God's love for the first time.

"I finally found love," he says. "It's God's love and I feel it. I want others to feel it too."

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