Many college students head to the beaches for spring break in search of worldly distraction, getting excited about beer and wet t-shirt contests. In contrast to such intemperance, about 230 students from five schools in southern California spent their spring breaks at Campus By the Sea (CBS), an InterVarsity Training Camp, for Mark by the Sea, a concentrated inductive Bible study of Mark.
Thirty-nine students from Sac State’s (California State University – Sacramento) InterVarsity chapter road-tripped to CBS’s Mark by the Sea for the fourth year in a row. In 2003, Heather Haight took the position of staff worker for the Sac State InterVarsity chapter. God’s Word and discipleship to Christ were important to the chapter, and Heather desired to foster those commitments.
But for a commuter school, they had committed themselves to too much – Bible studies, leadership meetings, and on top of that a Mark manuscript study. Heather helped the chapter refocus their efforts, and instead of filling their already busy schedule with a manuscript study, she took the chapter to Mark by the Sea for spring break.
The four other schools that attended Mark by the Sea in addition to Sac State devoted themselves to one of a various number of manuscript studies. Most of the first time students studied the book of Mark, but returning students had the opportunity to study various other books, including 1 Corinthians and Amos.
Most of the Sac State chapter spent the week in one of two Mark studies – even though several of the students had been through Mark in the previous years. Heather attributes the returning students studying Mark to the desire to spend time with one another. The fellowship loves being together.
Usually spring break is spent relaxing, taking a break from study and stress. But at Mark by the Sea, students get up early and go to bed late with a full day of studying the Bible in between. Because the Bible study was intense, it was hard for students at the beginning of the week to focus.
In the Mark II study that Heather led, students were tired and distracted. After it became noticeable how tired students were, Heather said that “a student asked to pray for our group and asked for the distractions to cease and for focus. That became a habit throughout the week…we would literally stop mid-session to pray if the group was dragging.”
And God answered their prayers by giving renewal, energy, patience, and focus to the group; and he also taught them, through the Bible study itself, the need to depend on Jesus for the energy and strength to follow him.
Heather talks enthusiastically about one student who took away much from what he learned during the week studying Mark. Kenny, a graduating senior, is a new believer and only recently started participating in InterVarsity. At the beginning of the week at Mark by the Sea, Kenny was frustrated trying to figure out the manuscript method. But he poured himself into it nonetheless, once even staying up all night to read and absorb all he was learning.
Heather, who was teaching a different session, still had many discussions with Kenny, trying to answer his questions and help him to go deeper with the lessons in Mark. He became increasingly eager and enthusiastic to delve into the Bible. “I’ve gone to Mark lots of years,” she said, “but the kind of intensity, passion, and transformation that came as Kenny studied Mark is almost unparalleled with other students I’ve seen.”
Students at Campus by the Sea learned so much during their week studying Mark. Because the camp held more people than its capacity that week, students learned to build community in very close quarters. Because the students were surrounded by creation, they learned to soak in God’s glory. Because of the late nights and intense Bible study, they learned perseverance and concentration. And while thousands of students flooded the beaches and gave into all kinds of temptation, students at Campus by the Sea learned through the book of Mark the importance of prayer, seeking after God, denying oneself, and living a life of service to others.