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ETBU hosts annual Hilltop University conference

May 25, 2023

East Texas Baptist University held its annual Hilltop University on Monday, May 22, through Wednesday, May 24. Nearly 200 participants, comprised of individuals, couples, groups of friends, and church groups, experienced life on the University campus at ETBU through worship, biblical teaching, fellowship, and entertainment. Some attended for the first time, while others have made it a tradition to travel to Marshall for the annual conference.

"This is our sixth time to come to Hilltop U," attendee Cheryl Tatum said. "We always love the special music, the food, the fellowship, and the Bible study. We enjoy not having to rush, and there are so many choices and a variety of things to do. We lived in Marshall as missionaries in residence at ETBU, so we've remained connected with a few people from those days, and it got us involved with this event."

From breakout sessions and dessert fellowships to corporate worship and Bible studies, the three-day event allowed participants to gather on ETBU's campus and meet other alumni and friends of the University. Throughout the conference, Pastor for First Baptist Church-Sherman, Mike Lawson (' 84), served as the keynote speaker.

"It's humbling to come back to the place that had such influence in the formation of my spiritual development and ministerial directions," Lawson said. "The investments they made in my life were phenomenal. I can't even put it into words. In the next few days, it's my goal, my prayer, that these hours together will count for His glory."

The conference also included opportunities for attendees to enjoy musical talents. On Monday night, The Purple Hulls, a three-piece band including identical twins Katy Lou and Penny Lea Clark, performed a concert in Baker Chapel of the Rogers Spiritual Life Center, followed by five-time Grammy® award winner Sandi Patty on Tuesday night. More than 350 people from Hilltop U and area church groups attended the Sandi Patty concert.

“The Spirit of Jesus graced us with an outpouring of His presence in this sacred space tonight with Sandi Patty’s vocal talents,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “Oh, how God gifted her voice to praise Him and lead others to worship our Lord!”

"There are many of these people that have served our country and served our churches well," attendee and Pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, David English said. "I think it's neat to see a lot of them come together and enjoy great food and fellowship. The staff has been excellent, and they go above and beyond to make us feel at home. I think it's a great way to serve these good people."

Participants attended breakout sessions led by Dr. John Hatch, Pastor of Forest Hill Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, Dr. Laurie Smith, Dean of ETBU's School of Natural and Social Sciences, and Bil Barkley, Minister of Education and Senior Adults for First Baptist Church-Mount Pleasant, Texas. The sessions covered topics relevant to campers aimed to challenge them in their walk with Christ. The conference choir was directed by Associate Pastor and Minister of Music for Ebenezer Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas, Dr. Don Parks.

"Hilltop U is a wonderful event as we welcome guests to campus from Arkansas, Louisiana, and throughout Texas. Participants enjoy vibrant worship, enriching Bible studies, and sweet times of fellowship on the beautiful ETBU campus," ETBU Vice President for Advancement Scott Bryant said. "Our students encounter God while they are at ETBU, and that is our hope and prayer for our Hilltop U campers as well."

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