Bible comes with breakfast on sunny South Padre Island, Texas’s hottest spring-break resort.

It does, that is, for the students who can’t find a seat at one of the two restaurants in town that offer a 99-cent breakfast. So instead, they head over to Island Baptist Church to gobble down pancakes, Spam, orange juice, and French toast—for free. By 9:30 A.M. one especially balmy spring morning in this coastal resort town, 250 college students have dropped by.

“I was just driving down the road and saw their sign, so I thought they wanted me,” said Southwest Texas State University student Tom Fawcette. That morning, he got to listen to the contemporary Christian rock group Petra wailing over the loudspeakers. He also was handed a card with the plan of salvation on one side and a hotline number on the other.

He is one of at least 100,000 students from colleges and universities in the Midwest, Texas, and Canada who descend on this five-mile-long island each March. The island’s eastern edge, only a few blocks wide, abruptly ends with a line of hotels that overlook the whitest beaches in Texas. The hotels, boarding houses, and cottages, along with a glitzy mall constructed with tourists in mind, make the beach a popular destination amid south Texas’s drab terrain. In recent years, South Padre has rivaled Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach in Florida for fun, sun, and sin.

Waiting for the student hordes with open arms is Island Baptist. Each spring break, many of its 107 members, along with volunteers from around the state, put together one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s more offbeat outreaches. This particular morning, a contingent from the Texas Baptist Men disaster unit (no joke) was flipping pancakes at the grill. Helping out ...

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