June 4, 2019
East Texas Baptist University held its annual Hilltop University on Wednesday, May 29 through Friday, May 31. The three-day spiritual retreat offered more than 170 boomers and senior adults the opportunity to experience life as an ETBU student on campus through the study of God’s Word, corporate worship, joyful entertainment, and fellowship with friends.
“I am thankful for the faithful generations of graduates and supporters that have made ETBU what it is today,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “As you consistently exhibit faithfulness in your families, communities, churches, and careers, we are encouraged to follow your example of glorifying God. We are honored to host such spiritual leaders, whose legacy inspires others to focus on the Lord. I hope you experience the Christ-centered environment and transformational community of ETBU during Hilltop U. I pray your time on the Hill leaves you encouraged and equipped to continue living faithfully to Jesus.”
During the conference, LifeWay Christian Resources President Emeritus Jimmy Draper served as the keynote speaker while New Life Baptist Church-Longview Interim Pastor John Hatch taught the Bible study sessions. Dr. Draper was the President and C.E.O. at LifeWay for 15 years and still actively preaches today. A 1967 graduate of ETBU, Dr. Hatch has served in ministry for over 50 years. In their sessions, both speakers urged attendees to rely on the hope and strength of Christ.
“Following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, He commanded the disciples to preach the Gospel to all the earth,” Dr. Draper commented. “Christ did not ask us to figure out how to do it on our own. He explained how He was going to lead us to accomplish this Great Commission. The Christian life is difficult, but God sealed us with the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Let God use you because He wants to walk every step of your journey with you.”
During the opening Bible study session, Dr. Hatch shared, “I first stepped on campus 56 years ago, and I unapologetically love ETBU. I met my wife, Alice, and all three of our daughters met their husbands on the Hill. Nine of my family members graduated from this institution. I am honored to be here and share in this Bible study time with you.” Dr. Hatch continued, “I wonder how many of us have experienced change-ups in life. You made plans, but something happened unexpectedly that changed everything. It may have left you disappointed and in despair. However, 1 Peter 1 says that God caused us to be born again in a Living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hope is with us through thick and thin as the anchor of our souls. He has a plan with every change-up.”
From Bible studies and breakout sessions to dessert fellowships and entertainment, the retreat challenged and encouraged participants in their walk with Christ. The Foto Sisters, a classically trained sibling trio, led worship during each session. The conference also featured a concert with Legacy Five, a four-part harmony Southern Gospel quintet. Filled with alumni, former faculty and staff, and friends of the University, Hilltop U reminded the campus community of what it means to be a part of the Tiger Family.
“I began working at ETBU in 1950 and taught here for 37 years. I met my wife on campus and the president at the time, Dr. H.D. Bruce, married us in Earl Bruce Hall. Two of our children graduated from ETBU. The Hill was our home, and I come back every chance I get,” Dr. Ben Condray shared. “My wife and I helped start Hilltop University. At one of the first conferences, we were official greeters. I enjoy being on campus, seeing how it has grown and developed. There is a spirit on this campus, a fellowship among the administration, faculty, and students. I still keep up with my students; one of them was at this conference! People love this University.”
For more ways to stay connected with ETBU, visit www.etbu.edu/alumni.