March 6, 2019
East Texas Baptist University hosted a Congreso Experience on Saturday, March 2 in partnership with Texas Baptists (BGCT). Themed “Alive,” based on Galatians 2:20, the free event encouraged more than 70 local students from six churches in their education and spiritual walk.
“The purpose of Congreso is to share the message of the Gospel in a way that can be understood by this young generation so they can fulfill their purpose and calling from the Lord,” Texas Baptists Congreso Representative Paco Silva explained. “The Congreso Experiences are a way to provide quality and accessible opportunities in students’ regions while enhancing the partnership with Texas Baptists’ affiliated institutions. Personally, I am grateful for all the love and input ETBU showed the Congreso nation. I look forward to growing our relationship and building the Kingdom together.”
Texas Baptists is a fellowship of diverse churches, institutions, and organizations working together to continue Jesus’ ministry of sharing the Gospel and meeting human needs. Each year, Texas Baptists hosts Congreso, a three-day conference specifically designed for Hispanic youth. Hosted by affiliated organizations, Congreso Experiences are one-day events held regionally. The ETBU Congreso Experience consisted of corporate worship, workshops, and group activities.
“The workshop topics were intentionally selected by considering the struggles current teenagers face, the questions we hear from the Hispanic community, and the number of first-generation Hispanic college students,” ETBU Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Jeremy Johnston said. “I hope the students and their parents were equipped with practical lessons that they can use to prepare for college and begin making an impact in the world today.”
Taught by ETBU faculty, staff, and students, small group workshops informed students and their families on topics such as “Using Sports to Impact the World for Christ,” “Parenting Godly Teenagers in a Secular World,” and “College: Why should I Go and How Do I Get Ready?” During sessions, First Baptist Church en Español led corporate worship.
“As I led worship in Spanish, it was meaningful to allow a connection with our first language,” ETBU Freshman Admissions Counselor Ana Asencio commented. “Our goal was to bridge the language barrier with parents, who did not speak English. As worship is an opportunity to encounter our Savior, the experience should be accessible to all. During my workshop session, I spoke with parents and youth leaders. I hope families left with a sense of belonging, knowing they have the opportunities and resources to fulfill their purpose.” Asencio continued, “I also enjoyed the simplicity and impact of Chandler James’ sermon. It was a reminder to obedience for all believers. Overall, the event empowered Latino students in their potential and affirmed the importance of diversity.”
As a featured guest for the ETBU Congreso Experience, New Hope Church-Houston Student Ministries Assistant Director Chandler James presented during the closing session. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from ETBU in 2016. Teaching from Genesis 12:1-4, James focused on following God into the unknown.
“When God called Abraham to the unknown, he willingly followed. I challenged students to understand that small steps of obedience initiate big moves of God,” James shared. “The most rewarding aspect of attending the event was seeing the next generation of leaders seek God’s calling on their lives. I could tell students were there to learn. I enjoyed watching them willingly serve the community.”
Participants served at the First Baptist Church-Marshall Block Party to connect Hispanic families in the community with the Spanish-speaking church plant launching in April. In addition to the block party, the church asked volunteers to help tear down a ceiling in an area of the church that is being remodeled. The mission project enabled students to practice living out what they learned during the ETBU Congreso Experience sessions and workshops.
“We started the day by seeking God first through worship,” Virginia Mendoza from Primera Iglesia Bautista in Longview shared. “We moved on to sessions focusing on how teens can excel in school and follow God, especially in college. We also participated in mission work, which showed us to invest in our community to show the love that Jesus has given to us. I appreciate how the ETBU Congreso Experience helped me grow as a person and build my faith. I enjoyed the conference because we were together as Christians, pursuing the Lord and caring for our community.”