From Staff Reports

MARSHALL — With a challenge to embrace God’s call to transform their communities, more than 100 Hispanic students from area churches gathered recently at East Texas Baptist University for Congreso Experience 2020.

In partnership with Texas Baptists for a second year, the event’s theme was “Witness,” and focused on Acts 1:8. It encouraged students in sixth grade and older in their pursuit of God’s calling on their lives.

“You have to work toward what God is calling you to do,” ETBU Admissions Counselor and Worship Panelist Ana Asencio told students in one session. “It is so easy to get discouraged. The more you are devoted to worship, the more you work on it, and the more you develop it. Your calling will hold more value if it is something that you practice often.”

Worship was led by Greenville Church, and the day’s message was delivered by ETBU alumnus and Buckner International Director of Expansion and Development Sergio Ramos, who told the Bible story of Mary and Martha to illustrate how easy it is to get distracted from following God.

“What we do becomes the center of everything,” Ramos told the students. “Jesus wants to be the center of your life, but if you are distracted, the first thing that goes away is your time with God. You’re not going to hear His voice unless you are listening for it. I cannot make you follow Jesus Christ or witness to the people at your school, but I challenge you to make the decision to follow him despite all the obstacles and distractions.”

Small group workshops led by ETBU faculty and staff dealt with topics that teenagers often face, such as maintaining relationships in a digital age, while breakout sessions led by Congreso staff focused on pastoring and working with youth.

Hosted once a year by affiliated organizations, Congreso Experiences are one-day events held regionally that provide a taste of the annual three-day Congreso conference specifically designed for Hispanic youth. The Congreso Hispanic Conference is the largest annual gathering of Hispanic Baptist youth in North America. More than 3,000 students meet each year for worship, preaching, and small group training in evangelism and discipleship.

“The purpose for Congreso is to provide a regional experience for Hispanic students who are in middle and high school to help strengthen their faith, and to share the Gospel,” Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Jeremy Johnston said. “At ETBU, we believe in transforming our community. We start with the people on our campus, and we equip them to go and make a difference.”

Texas Baptists is a fellowship of diverse churches, institutions and organizations working together to continue Jesus’s ministry of sharing the Gospel and transforming communities.

“The students and families attending Congreso represent the Hispanic Christian leaders of the next generation,” said presenter and Admissions Specialist Jayme Perez. “Our hope, as presenters, was for these future leaders to walk away with practical knowledge to put in to practice as Christian youth growing up in a secular world.”

Students experienced the importance of serving and helping the community through volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Marshall and Dayspring Therapeutic Equestrian Center. These volunteer efforts contributed to the partnerships that ETBU has built with community organizations throughout Marshall.

“My favorite part of Congreso was the service project because we got to help so many kids.” Congreso attendee Eliud Martinez said. “I was really happy because they were happy to be around us. I shared with a little boy who asked me about the Bible. I started talking to him, and he was very happy and said that he was glad he got to meet me. I’ve been to Congreso the past two years and I plan on coming back next year.”