60th Congreso asks ‘¿Quien Soy Yo?’, challenges students to find identity in Christ

by Bonnie Hirschfeld on April 8, 2024 in News

“Congreso, I came to tell you that your identity is in Christ. You are loved, you are forgiven and you are called,” Texas Baptists Executive Director Julio Guarneri told the crowd on the final day of Congreso 2024.

More than 1,500 students and leaders from across the state and beyond attended the three-day conference organized by the Texas Baptists evangelism team and held at Waco’s Extraco Events Center.

Long billed as one of the largest Hispanic youth evangelism conferences in the U.S., Congreso 2024 marked 60 years of training and equipping students through worship, fellowship and ministry.

With an emphasis on biblical teaching, discerning God’s call and the importance of higher education, the three-day weekend saw 49 students give their lives to Christ and 28 respond to the call to ministry.

‘Who you are’ is loved by the Father

Drawing from 1 Timothy 1:15-16, the theme for this year’s event was “¿Quien Soy Yo?” (Who Am I?). Guarneri delivered three messages telling students they are loved, forgiven and called by God.

In his Friday evening message, “I Am Loved,” Guarneri told students they are not defined by their sin or religious performance but by God’s unconditional love for them.

“Often the world teaches that we are either our successes or our failures,” he said.

“Today, I want to tell you that you are not your failures or your accomplishments. You are not the things that the world wants to measure you by. I came tonight to tell you that you are loved by the Father. That’s who you are,” Guarneri said.

Guarneri’s Saturday night message, “I Am Forgiven,” addressed Christ’s perfect work on the cross and the freedom available to students because of it.

His third message, delivered on Palm Sunday, was entitled “I Am Called” and encouraged students that they are not only saved from something but saved for something, God’s eternal purpose of redeeming the world to himself.

Guarneri, who himself surrendered to ministry at Congreso 42 years prior, urged attendees to pray and seek out the purpose God has for their lives, reminding them that God’s plan does not end at salvation but goes beyond it.

“God’s purpose doesn’t end with Him forgiving us and giving us a new identity. God’s purpose for us extends beyond ourselves so that others can experience God’s love and forgiveness,” he said.

He closed by encouraging students to take what they learned at Congreso and go out into their communities.

“Whatever happens here is not just going to stay here; it’s going to make a difference in our communities and into eternity,” he said.

Each session ended with an invitation for students to accept Christ into their lives, rededicate their lives to the Lord or answer a call to ministry. Chris Benites & Co. from Freedom Church in Fort Worth, TX led session worship.

Gonzalez: ‘Never too young’ to be called

As David Gonzalez, current Congreso coordinator, concluded the event, he called his wife and 15-month-old son onstage. Reflecting on his own time at Congreso as a teenager, he challenged students to think about how they would be spiritual leaders in the future, saying that he had no idea as a student that he would one day be leading the event.

“No matter what age God has called you, you’re never too young,” Gonzalez said. “You’re going to be the spiritual leaders who are going to lead my son one day.”

Gonzalez, joined by Texas Baptists en Español Director Rolando Rodriguez, recognized former Congreso coordinators who were instrumental in supporting the event throughout its 60-year history.

Frank Palos, Gus Reyes and Gabriel Cortes were introduced, and gifts of appreciation were presented for their service. Guarneri prayed over the honorees whose ministry represented 30 years of Congreso leadership.

Higher education emphasized

In addition to the main sessions, students attended Saturday morning workshops on topics including apologetics, mental health and sharing your testimony. Age-specific guidance including a “Pathways to College” course was offered to older students.

As part of their emphasis on higher education, Congreso organizers gave away 20 scholarships to students who demonstrated outstanding academic performance with a highway GPA and application that showcased their exceptional achievements, ambitions and contributions.

An additional offering was taken to further fund the scholarships.

More information about Congreso can be found at txb.org/congreso. Follow Congreso on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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