ENGLEWOOD — The poem “Footprints in the Sand” has inspired many with its message of faith and its interpretation of walking on a beach with the Lord. Englewood residents Terry Matis and Maria Medina decided the beach would be a great place to start a ministry, and they’re talking about their faith to anyone who will listen on Englewood Beach.
Since April, Matis and Medina have organized walks at 8 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays on the beach.
“We pray and minister to anybody who needs help,” said Matis, a retired teacher who attends Englewood Bible Church.
“We’ve seen a lot of people hurt,” said Medina, a retired nurse who attends Suncoast Worship Center. “We want to invite others to pray with us as long as they want. We see people out there and we see these New Age influences don’t always fulfill (them). Our mission is not just spirituality, but physically as well.”
The beach ministry allows walkers the freedom to walk as fast or slow as they want.
“The waves represents our ups and downs, but through prayer, we recognize the Lord carries us through our trials,” Medina said. “He is always with us.”
When Matis and Medina walk on the beach, they say people approach them and open up about their issues. The number of people who walk with them fluctuates from five to 20. Walks are usually four miles long, and average one to three hours.
Matis and Medina usually start their walks at the Tom Adams Bridge fishing pier at 1400 Beach Road in Englewood, before proceeding to Englewood Beach. They pick up walkers along the way and others join them at the beach.
“We do a quick prayer then walk,” Medina said. “Some (walkers) drive to meet us at the boardwalk (at Englewood Beach). We pray over anything and anyone along the way. We can be spiritual on the beach, because there are no walls. The beach gives us the freedom to be who God created us to be.”
“The Lord opened this door for us,” Matis said.
Chris Bowersox, an Englewood sculptor and woodcarver, knows Matis and Medina through Englewood Bible Church.
“They were with me after my wife passed,” he said. “They have tons of charisma. I can’t walk as far as them, but I try to keep up.”
Bowersox said praying at the beach and at church are distinct experiences.
“There are four walls at the church, but you don’t have that with the beach,” he said. “You’re surrounded by water. You have music at a church, but it’s quieter at the beach, plus you’re exercising. It’s constricting in a church, but each facility serves its purpose.”
For Al Bernick, a retired handyman and 34-year Englewood resident, it seemed natural to join Matis and Medina on the walks.
“I’m always ready to do the Lord’s work,” Bernick said. “I’ve done sports and am always outside. I go where the Holy Spirit takes me.”
Medina encourages others to join the beach walks.
“Walk in it,” she said. “Get healthy physically and spiritually.” Matis said she’s working on a website for the beach ministry. For more information, call 239-292-0638 or 941-270-7033.