BELTON—Nearly 3,000 teens and young adults gathered on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor campus Easter weekend, setting record attendance for Congreso, a gathering of Hispanic Texas Baptists.
“This is the biggest Congreso we have ever had,” said Angie Tello, Baptist General Convention of Texas Hispanic evangelism events coordinator. “I’m a little surprised that so many teenagers spent their Easter vacation here, but it shows just how dedicated today’s youth are to the Lord.”
They came on charter buses, passenger vans, and caravans of trucks and cars, packing the university’s Mayborn Campus Center. During the three-day event, every breakout session was filled to capacity. At one point, 300 students from 22 congregations committed to an afternoon of missions projects in the area.
For BGCT Hispanic Evangelism Director Frank Palos, it was evident from the start this would be a Congreso for the record books.
“On the first night, we ran out of decision cards,” Palos said. “The hallways were filled, and I couldn’t even get into the building.”
More than 200 spiritual decisions
By the end of the weekend, more than 200 students made spiritual decisions, including at least 48 young people who made first-time professions of faith in Christ. Many of those who made spiritual decisions described a need for healing in their lives and families. They spoke of craving God.
“I think we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening among our youth,” Palos said. “In the schools—that is where God is moving.”
Many students present had to raise funds to attend the event, Palos noted, pointing out the average Hispanic Texas Baptist church has 50 members with 15 to 20 young people in attendance.
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“Those small churches don’t have the funds to send all their kids to Congreso. The best many of them can do is provide a van or some sort of transportation,” he said.
Even so, it didn’t hold the youth back from giving when the offering baskets were passed. During the event, nearly $6,000 was raised for scholarships.
“Students are very generous,” Palos said. “I’m not surprised that they gave so willingly. They look at other students at Congreso and in their community as family. And we help family when they need it.”
Bands, including Obtain Paradise, Blind 1:11, The Grace Project, The Cockrell Hill Band and Sand Stone, provided the event with a ready-made soundtrack, pumping up the crowd for the 45 seminars geared toward teens from seventh grade and beyond. All were combined to drive home the message of this year’s Congreso—to live an elevated existence.
To the next level
“This year, we were challenged as a staff to move to the next level, and that is what we wanted to pass along to the students,” Palos said. “We want them to live a higher life for Christ.”
Dallas evangelist Cesar Oviedo drove home that message. On the last day, he reminded the teens to walk differently than when they first arrived.
“You will always be surrounded by people, but we as Christians have to be different,” he said. “When you leave this place, you will be walking at a higher level than you have ever walked before. That’s powerful.”
At one point, Wayne Shuffield, director of the BGCT Missions, Evangelism and Ministry Team, urged participants to walk with power in Jesus.
“Let’s go show people who Jesus is by the way we talk, live and act,” he said. “Every day is filled with choices. Make the choice to be one of God’s soldiers.”