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BAXLEY, Ga. —Signs of spiritual renewal swept across Georgia in 2023, producing thousands of new believers in the Bible Belt state. Church leaders reported a widespread “spiritual hunger in communities large and small” that they said generated a huge spike in numbers of commitments to Christ. Evidence of that was on full display in Baxley in October when some 10,000 people attended a four-night evangelistic crusade in the local football stadium. Some 1,600 of them responded to the gospel.

ATLANTA — Inside the Capitol rotunda, a towering Christmas tree shines with thousands of lights. Red poinsettias line the staircases. Long strands of garland hang from railings. And a children’s choir sings about the birth of Christ. That was the scene when Gov. Brian Kemp and his family kicked off the Christmas season in Georgia earlier this month with the lighting of the state Christmas tree, a clear signal that it’s still politically correct to celebrate Christmas as a Christian holy day in the Bible Belt.

DALTON, Ga. — A Georgia man’s chance meeting with country music star Chris McDaniel in a Delaware store led to a life-changing encounter with someone far more famous. McDaniel, a founding member of the multi-platinum-selling band Confederate Railroad, had stopped at the store for a soft drink as he prepared to drive back to Georgia. When he walked to the counter to pay for it, a man he came to know simply as Pablo was there with a basket of groceries and no way to pay for them because he had left his wallet at home.

THOMSON, Ga. — Some have been miserable for days because of aching teeth. Others have cavities in need of immediate attention. But Ron Belcher is convinced the people gathered for appointments at a mobile dental clinic parked outside Washington Heights Baptist Church have an even greater need, a spiritual need. So the deacon tells them about Jesus as they wait their turns with one of the volunteer dentists who help to care for Georgia’s 1.3 million uninsured residents.

This photo essay captures scenes from the final day of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s three-day 201st annual meeting at Church on Main in Snellville, Ga. At the Tuesday session, participants heard messages from GBC leaders, elected new officers and voted on resolutions.

This photo essay captures scenes from the second day of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s three-day annual meeting at Church on Main in Snellville, Ga. At the Monday sessions, among other events, participants gathered for a preaching conference, an Executive Committee meeting, and the first session of the GBC's annual meeting.

This photo essay captures scenes from the first day of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s three-day annual meeting at Church on Main in Snellville, Ga. Some 1,200 Georgia Baptist church leaders had preregistered as messengers for the meeting that runs through Tuesday.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Roy Oliver McClain didn’t talk much about his experiences in World War II, but, on occasion, he did divulge some poignant details of life as an Army chaplain. It was in a sermon that the longtime Georgia pastor described the intense moments aboard a ship filled with troops who were preparing to invade Okinawa before sunrise on Easter Sunday morning in 1945. “I asked hundreds of men to bow their heads in prayer before we hit the beaches,” he said in the 1954 sermon. “In the pale glow of that tensive moment with all heads bowed, they seemed to be as one

DUBLIN, Ga. — Just how many tunes Helen Hobbs has played over nearly 75 years is anyone’s guess. The soon-to-be 90-year-old has been providing musical accompaniment for the singing at Marie Baptist Church since she was a teenager, showing her congregation and her community a picture of true faithfulness.

ROME, Ga. — Pastors and church staff gathered last Thursday to enjoy a day away from the office and compete with their peers at a disc golf tournament. Nearly 30 participants teed off on the course around Shorter University, competing individually and in pairs.

POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Peter Abungu and his ministry helpers in Nairobi, Kenya, have seen nearly 20,000 people surrender their lives to Christ in the past 10 years. That’s an average of 2,000 people a year, and the number is growing daily. That level of effectiveness convinced Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs to help Abungu and the Swahiba Networks Ministries he founded to spread the gospel in one of the poorest places on earth.

DALTON, Ga. — Families at Salem Baptist Church have seen firsthand the positive impacts that fostercare and adoption have had on the lives of vulnerable children. “It changes lives not just in eternity but in the here and now,” said Pastor Darey Kittle, whose congregation includes a dozen families who have opened their homes to hurting children.

SUCHES, Ga. — Standing on a mountainside in north Georgia, Bud Braddock surveys a forest that’s beginning to take on the fiery colors of fall. For 84 years, the retired U.S. Forest Service staffer has been watching the seasons come and go. It’s a makeover he never tires of seeing. “It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it,” he said, feigning hard luck as he stood beneath towering oaks just a mile or so as the crow flies from the Appalachian Trail.

TOCCOA, Ga. — As Paul Garrison looks back over a half century of ministry, he sees how the Lord has fulfilled all of his childhood ambitions. With a smile, the Toccoa pastor explains that when he was a toddler, he wanted to be a garbage collector, just like those men he would watch from his window each week. In time, his ambition changed to being a firefighter and later a heart surgeon.

McDONOUGH, Ga. —  Five people surrendered their lives to ministry at a missions conference for Georgia college students last weekend, and five others made salvation decisions. They were among about 650 co-eds who attended Baptist Collegiate Ministries’ annual Confluence conference at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church. The focus of this year's conference was evangelism.

STATESBORO, Ga. — Christians who truly want to make a difference in the world always put the needs of others first, do whatever it takes to point people to Christ, and commit to a spirit of cooperation. Those are three characteristics common among difference-makers, said Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., the keynote speaker Saturday at the final of a series of church equipping conferences held across the state over the past month.

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. — Steve Edwards has built a successful women’s basketball program at Brewton-Parker College. He has been coach of the year in the Southern States Athletic Conference. He has coached in three national tournaments. But, for Edwards, who doubles as campus pastor, all those accolades pale in comparison to the spiritual victories his teams have celebrated over his eight years as head coach.

SWAINSBORO, Ga. — The plan was a simple one: post volunteers at two roadside locations in Swainsboro for a drive-thru prayer initiative. The result was amazing: 30 people surrendered their lives to  Christ in a single day.

McDONOUGH, Ga. — Beaming smiles. Hands raised in praise. Happy tears streaming down radiant faces. Those are moments Mary Catherine Conner looks for when new believers come up from the baptismal waters. With the click of a camera, the Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church communications director captures instances of euphoria. Tiny rivulets cascading off ears and elbows are frozen in time. So are those toothy grins that just can’t be held back.

DALLAS, Ga. – The Sons of Jubal brought their robust worship and singing to First Baptist Church in Dallas on Thursday. The Sons of Jubal are part of Jubal Ministries, which also includes the Jubalheirs women’s chorus, Jubal Symphony, and the Jubal Brass orchestra. The Sons of Jubal and Jubalheirs, each with more than 200 members plus instrumental accompanists, combine their voices a few times each year to form the Jubal Chorus.

CLAYTON, Ga. — In the cool of the morning, Kevin McDade steers a golf cart along the main thoroughfare at the Pinnacle Retreat Center, discussing his first impressions of the Appalachian getaway where he now works. “When you drive through the gate, the anxiety of the world kind of leaves you,” McDade said. “It’s a peaceful feeling that you’re entering a special place, a place of rest. You can leave the stress of the world behind you when you come in.”

MOULTRIE, Ga. — Scott Sullivan challenged church leaders Saturday to develop strategies to grow strong disciples who can unleash the power of the gospel in their communities and around the world. “My opinion is that the greatest gospel force on the planet is not in the pulpits; it’s in the pews,” said Sullivan, the discipleship catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board who preached in the first of a series of SPARK conferences scheduled across the state over the next month.

ATLANTA — Austin Reaves is convinced that Georgia State University can play a key role in getting the gospel around the globe. Georgia State is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses in the U.S. with students from 177 nations, and that, Reaves said, perfectly positions the school for worldwide evangelism.

CENTRALHATCHEE, Ga. — Mark Williams has a simple explanation for why 120 people have become followers of Christ in this small Georgia community over the past two months. “God has just been moving,” said Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Centralhatchee, population 400.

More than 1,000 children and teens spent time this summer at Georgia Baptist camps that mix outdoor fun with Bible teaching.  Camp Pinnacle in the mountains of north Georgia hosted 546 students of whom 10 came to faith in Christ. Camp Kaleo had 346 overnight campers and nearly 450 day campers of whom 39 made salvation decisions.

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