Top stories

Upcoming evangelism conferences to begin on high note with reports of significant increase in baptisms

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. – Georgia Baptist churches are reporting a significant increase in the number of new believers baptized over the past year, a jolt of good news as pastors, evangelists and others prepare for a pair of upcoming evangelism conferences. A partial count shows 14,333 baptism in 2022, up from 12,865 the previous year.  The latest numbers account for slightly more than half of the state’s 3,400 churches, so the total number of baptisms could be far higher.
Ministering to ministers: Retired homebuilder Gary Thrash is ‘that kind of friend’ to pastors
SUMNER, Ga. – Gary Thrash knows the burdens pastors carry as they minister to the sick and hurting, cry alongside grieving families, and deal with the sometimes unrealistic expectations of church members, all while trying to make ends meet at home on meager salaries. That’s why the south Georgia deacon feels compelled to minister to the state’s ministers.
Rescuers scramble in Turkey, Syria after quake kills 4,000
ADANA, Turkey (AP) — Rescuers in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria searched through the frigid night into Tuesday, hoping to pull more survivors from the rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 4,000 people and toppled thousands of buildings across a wide region. Authorities feared the death toll from Monday's pre-dawn earthquake and aftershocks would keep climbing as rescuers looked for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
Revival continues in Georgia; 41 people surrender to Christ at outdoorsmen's event in Omega
OMEGA, Ga. – Forty-one people surrendered to Christ on Friday evening in a rural Georgia community, the latest to experience a revival movement that’s been sweeping across the Deep South state. This time it happened in a fellowship hall at Bethel Baptist Church in Omega where some 400 men had gathered for what was billed as a Beast Feast, a dinner that included a variety of wild game, including deer, hog and quail.
Pastors need friends to stand with them, Hammond tells associational missionaries
FORSYTH, Ga. – Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr. is reminding associational missionaries of the need to stand with pastors who are facing the hardships that come with life in ministry. “These days are difficult,” Hammond told associational missionaries gathered at Maynard Baptist Church in Forsyth on Tuesday. “We need each other like never before.”
Blackshear First Baptist sees 19 salvations, 28 rededications at venison supper
BLACKSHEAR, Ga. – Spontaneous revivals that sparked salvation decisions across Georgia in 2022 have carried over into the new year with 19 people making professions of faith at a venison supper in Blackshear. Another 28 people recommitted their lives to Christ at the event, said Justin Gambrell, pastor at First Baptist Church in Blackshear.
Baptist Life

Georgia BCMs to get new facilities on 5 university campuses

SUWANEE, Ga. – The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has entered into a “revolutionary” ground lease deal with private investors to construct new facilities for Baptist Collegiate Ministries at five state universities with the possibility of expanding to additional campuses in the future.
ATLANTA – Georgia Baptists will gather at the Capitol on Thursday with other pro-life organizations for a rally celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Georgia Life Alliance, the state affiliate to the National Right to Life Committee, is organizing the event dubbed Together for Life.
I'll never forget what a seasoned fundraising consultant said to me soon after I took a job in the development office at a small Baptist college in the late 1980’s. "Son, always remember, inside of every college president is a scared little boy."
NEW ORLEANS - The voices of 1200 women from 15 states and 250 churches—a sold-out crowd—filled the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as they gathered to praise, learn, and fellowship at the Abide Women’s Conference last weekend. Kelly Minter, Lifeway author, Bible teacher, and podcaster, headlined the third annual event that came days before the launch of her latest book, the 90-day devotional The Blessed Life.
DALLAS - Registration is open for the annual Employee Benefits Summit, slated for March 26–28 at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center. Early bird registration is available for $200 and closes on February 24. Regular registration is $249 and closes on March 13. Information is available at GuideStone.org/EBS. Continuing education credits are available for CPA, CPE, CCA, SHRM and HRCI holders.
Georgia

Georgia senators vote to bar COVID-19 vaccine requirements

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia senators voted Tuesday to permanently block schools and most state and local government agencies from requiring people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Senate voted 31-21 in favor of the bill, which would make permanent what had been a one-year ban enacted in 2022. Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Republican from Cumming who is sponsoring the measure, said that when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine at least, the government shouldn't be able to force anyone to get it, or refuse services to people who are unvaccinated.

Vote to block Georgia spaceport upheld by state's high court

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's highest court Tuesday upheld an election in which coastal residents voted overwhelmingly last year to block their county government from building a launchpad for blasting commercial rockets into space. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected a legal challenge by Camden County commissioners who sought to have the referendum last March declared invalid. The officials argued Georgia's state constitution doesn’t allow citizens to veto decisions of county governments.

Raffensperger touts bill protecting Georgia seniors from financial exploitation

ATLANTA – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged the General Assembly Monday to pass legislation aimed at preventing the financial exploitation of Georgia seniors. Senate Bill 84, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, would authorize financial advisors to delay transactions involving their elderly or disabled clients if they suspect fraud. Financial exploitation of seniors has been on the rise since the pandemic struck nearly three years ago, Raffensperger said Monday during a news conference at the state Capitol.

Georgia politicians condemn antisemitic flyers found in suburban Atlanta driveways

ATLANTA – Georgia political leaders including Gov. Brian Kemp Monday condemned a weekend outbreak of antisemitism in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Residents of neighborhoods in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody awakened Sunday morning to find antisemitic flyers in their driveways. Kemp offered the aid of the state’s law enforcement resources to help the Sandy Springs and Dunwoody police departments investigate the incident if requested.
Nation

As jets closed in on China balloon, hobbyists were listening

WASHINGTON (AP) — The extraordinary scene of U.S. fighter jets getting ready to strike a Chinese balloon had many people along the Carolina coast straining their necks and pointing their smartphones to the sky to capture the moment of impact. But a group of aviation enthusiasts was, instead, intently scanning radio frequencies for the exchanges between the pilots who would follow as Huntress, NORAD’s eastern air defense sector controller, tracked the exact distance as two Air Force F-22 fighter jets closed in on the target.

Night to Shine will crown thousands of special needs individuals as kings and queens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thousands of honored guests with special needs from all over the world will be crowned Kings and Queens of the prom at the 9th Annual Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Over 40 countries and over 600 churches worldwide will be participating in this unforgettable prom night experience centered on God's love on the evening of Friday, February 10, 2023. For those without a host church nearby or who prefer to celebrate from home, the Night to Shine Virtual Celebration will go live online to watch from anywhere on the same night. 

Toxic gases connected to Ohio train derailment cause concern

Days after crews released and burned toxic chemicals transported by a wrecked train in Ohio, residents remain concerned about the toxic substances that could be lingering in their evacuated neighborhoods. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday in East Palestine, according to rail operator Norfolk Southern and the National Transportation Safety Board. Vinyl chloride was slowly released into the air Monday from five of those cars before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke.

Memphis officer took, shared photos of bloodied Tyre Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Documents released Tuesday provided a scathing account of what authorities called the “blatantly unprofessional” conduct of five officers involved in the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop last month — including new revelations about how one officer took and shared pictures of the bloodied victim. The officer, Demetrius Haley, stood over Nichols as he lay propped against a police car and took photographs, which Haley sent to other officers and a female acquaintance, according to documents released by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.
World

Day care in Canada struck by city bus; 2 children dead

MONTREAL - A city bus crashed into a day care center north of Montreal on Wednesday, killing two children and injuring six, authorities said. The driver was arrested and charged with homicide and careless driving. A neighbor who ran to the center in Laval, Quebec, said she saw children screaming and crying and watched a mother collapse. Other panicked parents were diverted to a nearby elementary school as dozens of police and emergency vehicles swarmed the area.

Hope fading as deaths in Turkey, Syria quake near 12,000

GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AP) — With hope of finding survivors fading, stretched rescue teams in Turkey and Syria searched Wednesday for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade. The confirmed death toll approached 12,000. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the especially hard-hit Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people died and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Residents there have criticized the government's response, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.

Zelenskyy tells UK ‘freedom will win,’ pushes for warplanes

LONDON (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed for fighter jets to ensure his country's victory over Russia in a dramatic speech before the U.K. Parliament, where he also thanked the British people for their support since “Day One” of Moscow's invasion. The embattled leader's daring to visit Britain in a bid for more advanced weapons comes as Ukraine braces for an expected Russian offensive and hatches its own plans to retake land held by Moscow's forces. Support from Western allies thus far has been key to Ukraine surprisingly stiff defense — and now the two sides are engaged in grinding battles.

Race to find survivors as quake aid pours into Turkey, Syria

NURDAG, Turkey (AP) — Search teams and emergency aid from around the world poured into Turkey and Syria on Tuesday as rescuers working in freezing temperatures dug — sometimes with their bare hands — through the remains of buildings flattened by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. The death toll soared above 5,000 and was still expected to rise. But with the damage spread over a wide area, the massive relief operation often struggled to reach devastated towns, and voices that had been crying out from the rubble fell silent.
Perspectives
I was inspired to ask and answer this question when I could not perform a wedding for a relative who is marrying a young lady that has yet to believe in Jesus Christ.  How do we help such a person believe in Christ? 
Effective leaders consistently prepare for the future, and that includes providing quality spaces for ministry. One Lifeway article highlights the importance of having a plan that renovates the space without wrecking your ministry. Is it possible to create more space and still have money for ministry? Can we find better ways to utilize the space we already have without spending excessive amounts of money (which can be about as hard to find as a dad serving in childcare on Sunday)?
On February 1st, new gambling legislation was introduced in the Georgia Senate. Senator Billy Hickman authored Senate Bill 57 to legalize sports betting and horse racing through the Georgia Lottery. This bill is not a constitutional amendment, but rather a legislative bill that will only require a majority vote in the Senate to pass.
My favorite major league baseball team since childhood has been the Cincinnati Reds. One reason is because Cincinnati is located along the same river I grew up near in Western Kentucky – the Ohio. Another reason is that they were a great team. In the 1970’s, the Big Red Machine won six division titles, four National League pennants and back-to back World Championships (1975-76). One of the key players in that run was Pete Rose, who once said, “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” And play he did.
My dad did the grocery shopping for our family. For him, it was a social thing. He loved running into friends and visiting in the aisles. He must have influenced me. I do most of our grocery shopping and still go inside the store. No outside pickup for me. I do some of my best ministry inside when I run into church members, prospective members, and other friends.
Business

CVS buying spree continues with $10.6B Oak Street deal

CVS Health is plunging deeper into primary care services, buying primary care provider Oak Street Health for approximately $10.6 billion. The drugstore chain said Wednesday it would pay $39 per share in cash for each share of Oak Street in a deal expected to close this year. Oak Street runs care centers mostly for lower-to-middle income people with Medicare Advantage plans. Those are privately run versions of the federal government’s program for people aged 65 and older.

Delta is raising pay as airlines cope with travel rebound

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines said Tuesday it will raise pay for its non-union employees by 5% on April 1 and increase a pool used for merit raises. Among those getting the increases will be flight attendants, who have been the target of several close organizing campaigns by unions.

Fed's Powell: Strong hiring could force further rate hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that if the job market further strengthens in the coming months or inflation readings accelerate, the Fed might have to raise its benchmark interest rate higher than it now projects. Powell's remarks followed the government's blockbuster report last week that employers added 517,000 jobs in January, almost double the previous month's total. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 53 years, 3.4%.

US adds a surprisingly strong 517,000 jobs despite Fed hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers added a robust 517,000 jobs in January, a surprisingly strong gain in the face of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive drive to slow growth and tame inflation with higher interest rates. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.4%, a new half-century low.

Federal Reserve lifts rate by quarter-point and signals more hikes ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve extended its fight against high inflation Wednesday by raising its key interest rate by a quarter-point, its eighth hike since March. And the Fed signaled that even though inflation is easing, it remains high enough to require further rate hikes. Though smaller than its previous hike — and even larger rate increases before that — the Fed's latest move will likely further raise the costs of many consumer and business loans.
Sports

Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis signs with Atlanta United

ATLANTA (AP) — After cutting ties with Josef Martinez, Atlanta United bolstered its front line Wednesday with the signing of Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis. The 28-year-old Giakoumakis comes to Major League Soccer from Celtic FC, where he led the Scottish Premiership in goals and helped the team win both the league title and Scottish Cup. He has some big shoes to fill in Atlanta.

LeBron sets NBA career scoring mark in Lakers' loss to Oklahoma City

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James became the NBA's career scoring leader on a step-back jumper late in the third quarter, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record during his 38-point performance in the Los Angeles Lakers' 133-130 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. James surpassed the mark held since April 1984 by Abdul-Jabbar, who watched the game from a baseline seat near the Lakers' bench. Abdul-Jabbar then joined a clearly emotional James and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the court after the historic basket.

Hawks end road trip on losing note as Pelicans win 116-107

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 30 points, CJ McCollum added 21 and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Atlanta Hawks 116-107 on Tuesday night for their third straight victory. Jonas Valanciunas, returning from a one-game absence because of a sore right quadriceps muscle, had 16 points and 14 rebounds for New Orleans. The Pelicans led 111-95 when Trey Murphy III hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 3:24 to go.

Former Chelsea forward Atsu rescued after Turkey earthquake

Former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Christian Atsu was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building following the deadly earthquake that struck Turkey, the Ghana Football Association said in a Twitter post Tuesday. The Ghana international plays for Turkish club Hatayspor. A club spokesman on Monday told Turkish media that Atsu was thought to be in a building that was brought down by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks that struck southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria and has killed more than 5,000 people.