Strolling past art vendors on the Boardwalk, he pays no notice to girls in bikinis, instead eyeing sunbathers and resting cyclists. Dave Schrock is cruising for lost souls.

Schrock is one of 75 college and university students who have elected to spend the summer in a budget motel, working at entry-level jobs, and witnessing for God through the program Campus Crusade for Christ.

Schrock, 21, spots a man sitting alone on a bench and takes a seat beside him. Adjusting his shades, Schrock politely probes the man about his beliefs.

When the man turns the questions back on him, Schrock is ready to share.

"What do I think of Jesus Christ?" Schrock asks. "He's the bomb."

At the end of their conversation, the man agrees to bicycle by the motel and pick up a free book about Jesus. Then Schrock disappears into the crowd on the Boardwalk, searching for other souls.

The abundance of people at the Beach has made the city the perfect place for students to evangelize for at least the past 15 years, said project director Roger L. Hershey.

About 2,000 students in the program are stationed all over the country this summer--from the beaches of Santa Cruz, Calif., to the Missouri Ozarks and the city streets of New York.

For the past 10 years, the Virginia Beach project has made the Cherry Motel on Arctic Avenue its temporary summertime headquarters. In the winter, low-income families, senior citizens and transients lived in the motel. These days, it resembles a college dormitory with students and 22 staff members constantly coming and going, swimming in the pool, playing Christian music on guitars or horsing around with neighborhood kids.

Last week, the students set personal witnessing goals, some as high as 20, 30 or even 40 people. Schrock had a more modest ambition of having seven meaningful, in-depth conversations, and said he met that number.

The students kept track of their progress with yellow pieces of paper taped outside their doors. Next to the day of the week, students marked down how many people they had shared with. In a column next to that, they marked how many had received Christ. On every door, scratches in the first column heavily outnumber those in the second.

But that doesn't discourage them, the students say. The process of getting closer to God can take a while.

Once in a while, a student will meet a stranger at the moment they are ready to accept Christ. Godwin Sathianathan experienced such a moment at a miniature golf course a week ago. The engineering and English major at the University of Michigan had shared the good news with about 35 people last week, but it was his mini-golf moment that stands out. After getting off work at a grocery store, Sathianathan went with some other crusaders to a miniature golf course on Atlantic Avenue, where he met a high school student from New Hampshire. They started talking about Jesus, and soon the two were praying right there between miniature golf holes.

"People are here to vacation," Sathianathan said. "It's a time to relax, and that opens up conversation."

The students said they try to approach people with respect and compassion and don't badger people who don't want to talk. Several said they were aware that some people view religious Christians as fanatics or intolerant, and they make an extra effort to dispel that stereotype.

Students "witness" to others by sharing their stories of how they came to accept Jesus and how it has affected their lives. A simple conversation about spirituality is a good start, they say.

"I approach people with sensitivity," said Char Barwin, 19. She said she tries to avoid the scare tactics she has seen other evangelists use back at Michigan State University. She has shared with about 20 people so far this week. The students have about another two months to hone their style.

While God has emboldened him to share with strangers, Sathianathan said, the message has to be told with love.

"The truth is no good," he said, "unless it's heard and received."

His motel roommate, Schrock, said his experiences at Albion College, in Michigan, have prepared him for people who may not be receptive to his message. Just as school is a struggle sometimes, so is trying to evangelize in the party atmosphere of the Oceanfront.

"But there's a sense of purpose as well," he said.

Walking down 29th Street toward the ocean with another crusader, Schrock looked as if he were just another college student out for a night of fun.

Anyone within earshot, however, would hear him and his friend praying out loud, asking God to bless their witnessing efforts on the Boardwalk.
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