The Boardwalk Chapel: “Etched in Our Hearts”
by Enrique Huezo, member at Shiloh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC
Beyond the breaking of the waves, over the old planks of the boardwalk, amidst the loud noises of a carnival and the smells of a fair lies a small chapel, preaching Christ to anyone who would listen. This herald of the gospel is the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey. It was established less than a decade after the founding of the OPC and has continued ever since. Its building is neither flashy nor new, but its message is timeless. My wife and I experienced this firsthand when we visited the chapel this Summer.
The chapel is no beach resort; there, comfort, rest, and even personal space are rare commodities. But these circumstances proved to bring our group closer by making us work together as a team and, in a small way, teaching us to be like Christ and live for others. Being deprived of comfort and ease forced us to adapt and appreciate what we had, and work to make it better. For example, our group consisted of 19 people, and yet we ate meals on a table probably made for 8. Though originally a discomfort, it honestly became one of our favorite places to be. Scarcity was more rewarding than plenty, because by the end of the trip we were all sad to go.
Aside from daily devotionals, cleaning, and spending time together, the mornings were spent in evangelism training given by Pastors Byrd and Zorraro, who did a phenomenal job in preparing us for the task of evangelism. But it's in the evening when evangelism began. After the sun went down, the neon lights came on and the boardwalk became full of noise with music played through the speakers, the sound of carnival games, and people walking by and talking ceaselessly. It's at this time that the chapel began their services, with hymns and Psalms sung by our group and by the staff, skits skillfully performed, and the gospel message preached to every passerby. All of this took place with the chapel door open wide, allowing anybody walking by to hear the gospel. At the end of each service, we were divided into groups alongside the staff and sent out. Considering how closed or hostile most people can be when it comes to having a gospel conversation, the Boardwalk Chapel presents a unique opportunity to do evangelism. People from all walks of life and all parts of the world were there, and a surprisingly high number of them were willing to talk. From teenagers looking to party, to families spending time at the shore, to Muslims working there for the summer, the boardwalk was crowded with sinners in need of Jesus Christ. Unsurprisingly, hecklers did appear and mocked us and the gospel, but we saw how God used this to strengthen the faith of our young people who had not faced such opposition before. And while some conversations went better than others, we rested on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring life to the dead.
Leaving the Boardwalk Chapel was bittersweet. In the space of a week, we had grown closer as a group, faced challenges that tested our faith, and shared the message of Christ with many people. Even now, months later, the memories of the chapel and the unique environment it fosters remain etched in our hearts. The Boardwalk Chapel taught us that even the most timid among us can find the courage to speak about Jesus with complete strangers in just a few days. As we reflect on our time at the Boardwalk Chapel, we're not only grateful for the experiences we had but we are also inspired to carry its lessons forward here at home. We're challenged to think creatively and find unconventional ways to spread the message of Christ without falling into the trap of revivalism. The Boardwalk Chapel is more than a place; it's a reminder that the light of Christ can shine brightly even in the midst of a busy boardwalk, offering hope to a world in need.