April 19th, 2012 at 9:14 am
WACO –A throng of thousands singing about the power of God’s love over them, young people stepped away from their chairs and walked down the aisles toward the front of the Ferrell Center here at Baylor University.
Whether it was by a feeling, a tug at their heart or something more indescribable, young people were moved during Texas Baptists’ evangelistic Congreso for Hispanic youth and singles. The walk forward was more than a change of location; it was a change of life.
“We continue seeing kids moved by the Spirit,” said Frank Palos, director of Texas Baptists Hispanic evangelism efforts. “That’s what it’s all about.”
About 900 students made recorded decisions for Christ during the event, which is made possible in part by gifts to missions through the Texas Baptist Cooperative Program. Roughly 300 of those decisions were people embracing the hope of Christ for the first time, and 90 people felt called to vocational ministry.
At the front of the arena, students prayed with youth group leaders. Tears flowed down the faces of some of those whose lives were changing as well as those who had spiritually nurtured them. Youth circled their friends who made spiritual decisions to pray over them.
This scene is precisely why God brought students to Congreso, said Tiny Dominguez, pastor of Community Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock. God is calling people to have a relationship with Him. For many young people, Congreso was where that relationship began.
“It was God’s plan for you to be here because his desire is for you to know He loves you,” Dominguez said during a worship session. “I don’t care what you look like, I don’t care how the world treats you, I don’t care what sins you brought to this place, Jesus loves you. And His love will never fail.”
By turning to Jesus, teenagers can find the answer to three basic questions they are asking, according to Juan Contreras, youth director at Primera Iglesia Bautista in McAllen. Those questions are: Who am I? Where am I going? Where do I belong?
Seeking answers for those questions led Contreras initially down a life of alcohol abuse late in his teen years and into his 20s. He got into fights. He indulged sexually. He was committed to never let anyone hurt him.
“I served my flesh, my desires, my lust,” he said.
Then he embraced Christ as Lord. “That decision ultimately changed my life – not only the outside, but the inside too,” he said.
Contreras urged young people to commit their lives to God and follow Him “exclusively.” He offered an invitation to do just that, and young people flooded forward, filling the stage and spilling onto the arena floor.
“Life in Him is the best life,” Contreras said.
The scene of multitudes of young people deciding to follow Christ thrilled Christina Gaona, Baylor event manager who previously had attended Congreso as a student.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to have lots of students on our campus. It’s a good ministry and partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”
Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, said his congregation brought a group of 30 students. During Congreso, one of them made a profession of faith, several of them volunteered for leadership positions within the youth group and several more asked to be baptized. Calvary young people made decisions for Christ much like Guarneri felt the call to ministry during Congreso years ago.
“I think Congreso has the potential of igniting a flame in a generation of young people who can really make a difference in our state and around the world,” Guarneri said. “It can turn into a movement of students who are on mission.”
Palos praised God for young people confessing Christ as their savior. He believes what happened at Congreso is part of a revival happening among Hispanic young people that will affect people globally as these young people take their faith wherever they go.
Among the first places students took their faith was to 10 Waco mission projects where they could share the hope of Christ. Students also gave more than $10,000 during an offering taken during Congreso – more than $7,000 for college scholarships and more than $3,800 for a Congreso summer missions team.
“Congreso is not an event,” he said. “It’s an experience. What happens at Congreso doesn’t stay at Congreso. It’s my heart prayer that Congreso impacts the local church – whether it’s by encouraging a pastor who sees students serving the Lord, students who serve in their local church or a student who shares the gospel with their friends at school.”