WACO - Congreso is an experience thousands have encountered over the past 50 years. What began in 1964 as a ministry to Hispanic Baptist students has continued to impact thousands of lives across the state.
This year, from Apr. 17-19, more than 4,000 youth and college students gathered in Baylor University's Ferrell Center for the weekend focused on "Everlasting." Students worshiped with abandon, with 127 coming forward to give their lives to Christ, 51 rededications and 32 feeling called to ministry.
"I am glad to be here because I know I am talking to the future," said Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, California. "Everything God wants to do that will be beautiful and wonderful and extraordinary will happen through people like you."
Drawing from Acts 7, McManus talked about the story of Moses, as recounted by Stephen. "Moses did not live an ordinary life," he said. "There has never been an ordinary child born on this planet. When you were born you looked just as ordinary as Moses. You were born created in the likeness of God. You were no ordinary child."
"There is a God you can trust with your brokenness, your shame, your darkness," McManus said. "If you will simply let him see you, trust him with your life. He will cover that shame, take it away and make you new."
More than 200 churches from across Texas brought their youth groups to attend the three-day event. Speakers included McManus, Julio Guarneri, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, and Tiny Dominguez, pastor of Community Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock. Worship was led by Gabriel de la Garza as well as special performances by Francesca Battistelli and Tedashii.
Known as "Mr. Congreso," Frank Palos, Texas Baptist director of Hispanic evangelism, has organized 15 Congresso events and has faithfully served the BGCT for the past 30 years. He announced his retirement this year.
"Congreso has served as an experience worthy of being called a stepping stone towards the growth of my youth, myself, and all the attendees, not only of faith but of spiritual knowledge of our savior Jesus Christ," said Paco Silva, youth minister at Iglesia Bautista Filipenses 4:19 in Nevada, Texas.
In addition to worship, students were also involved in 17 service projects across the city of Waco, allowing them to put into practice the principles of servanthood and ministry they learned about throughout Congreso.
An offering was also taken during the weekend, totaling $10,317 to be used towards the construction of a new home for a Hispanic family in the colonias in the Rio Grande Valley, to assist the WMU Change Bus Ministry that provides help to victims of human trafficking, and to provide college scholarships.
Through an emphasis on education and missions over the past several years, Congreso has had the blessing of being a springboard for ministry leaders, pastors, evangelists, and other professionals, according to Palos.
In its 50th year, Congreso continues to be an extraordinary event, bringing together Hispanic students for a time of worship, growth and reflection on God.