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Year in review: Evangelist Rick Gage rocks the Bible Belt with series of crusades in 2023

Evangelist Rick Gage, shown here preaching at a crusade in Georgia, has seen thousands of people make commitments to Christ in 2023. (Index/Roger Alford)
BAXLEY, Ga. — Georgia-based evangelist Rick Gage rocked the Bible Belt in 2023 with his powerful brand of preaching in a series of crusades attended by tens of thousands. In his final crusade of the year, some 17,000 people packed into an open-air amphitheater just outside Jackson, Miss., for four nights of preaching. More than 2,000 people made decisions for Christ.
Gratis members and guests worship at Walker Park Elementary School. (Photo/Gratis Church)
Index Magazine: Pastor Mike Peavy and Gratis Church joyfully look to their future home
MONROE, Ga. — Pastors are sometimes depressed, distressed, discouraged, despondent, dejected, disconsolate, disheartened, even doleful. However, that is not true of Mike Peavy, pastor of Gratis Church in Monroe, Ga. At least a recent visit with him gave every evidence that he is a joyful, compassionate, dedicated pastor who always seems to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Robbie Lane, the starting shortstop on the East Georgia State College baseball team and an aspiring minister, baptizes one of his teammates on Friday, December 1, in Swainsboro, Ga.
Teenage preacher Robbie Lane baptizes 11 new believers at East Georgia State College
SWAINSBORO, Ga. — Robbie Lane, the starting shortstop on the East Georgia State College baseball team, has hit a grand slam of a different sort in an at bat as an aspiring minister. The 19-year-old baptized 11 of his teammates last week in a shiny aluminum watering trough set up on the baseball field.
A monument sits atop a ridge where the Battle of Gettysburg took place July 1-3, 1863. Robert Benjamin Headden, who would later become a preacher in Georgia, was critically wounded in that battle and went on to preach the sermon that pricked the heart of famed Southern Baptist missionary Lottie Moon.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Index Magazine: Georgia pastor survived critical injuries at Gettysburg to preach sermon that moved famed missionary Lottie Moon to action
Few Southern Baptists would know the name Robert Benjamin Headden, the late Georgia pastor under whose ministry famed international missionary Lottie Moon would be called to China some 150 years ago. By 1873, Headden, pastor of the Cartersville Baptist Church, had earned the reputation of a beloved pastor, dynamic preacher, denominational leader, and ardent supporter of missions, all of which would have been inconceivable 10 years earlier as he lay critically wounded for two days in Gettysburg.
Children line up to get backpacks filled with Christmas goodies in Dawson, Ga., on Saturday, December 2, 2023. (Index/Roger Alford)
Dawson churches join forces with Mission Georgia to put focus of Christmas back on Jesus
DAWSON, Ga. — Christians in this small southern Georgia town are putting the spotlight back on Jesus this Christmas season, shifting the focus away from Santa who, for generations of Americans, has been the face of the holidays. That shift was on full display at a Christmas party for nearly 1,000 children on Saturday. The jolly old elf wasn’t there, nor were his reindeer, nor elves, nor any other commercialized yuletide decorations.
Margaret McMullen spearheaded the drive to send thousands of Christmas boxes to children around the world. (Photo/Macland Baptist Church)
Powder Springs church prepares more than 5,000 Christmas boxes for children overseas
POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — More than 200 years ago the Brothers Grimm published a collection of fairy tales about a poor shoemaker who was almost out of food to eat and leather to make shoes. However, during the night, little elves slipped into the shoemaker’s home and worked furiously to make incredibly beautiful and serviceable shoes that permitted the shoemaker to prosper. It is a beautiful Christmas story of goodness and grace.
Baptist Life

Confederate Railroad founding member Chris McDaniel now working for the Lord, leads 2,700 people to Jesus so far this year

Chris McDaniel, a founding member of the country music band Confederate Railroad, poses with an elk mount he displays when he preaches at church-sponsored wild game dinners. McDaniel has introduced some 2,700 people to Christ through his ministry so far this year. (Photo/Chris McDaniel Ministries)
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.
RICHMOND, Va. — As new International Mission Board missionaries gathered for a special commissioning service near Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, six representatives of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA fellowship traveled from Maryland. They were on-site to support one couple who represents a historic milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention.  
Following his recent diagnosis of kidney cancer, Steve Gaines shared in a video update Dec. 7 that his doctors said the cancer has spread to his lungs. Gaines, former Southern Baptist Convention president and a Tennessee Baptist pastor, appeared in the video with his wife, Donna. Gaines first announced his cancer diagnosis Nov. 19 to Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, which is one of the largest congregations in both the SBC and the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
It was just a normal meeting of some Zambian pastors and a few workers from Christian organizations. When Randy Windham stood up and handed a sign-up sheet to the person next to him, they had no idea that ministry as they knew it was about to change. “I’ve been to a training on how to plant churches,” the International Mission Board missionary told them. “I’d love to share this knowledge. If you are interested, just sign up and we’ll set a time for training.” 
MANSFIELD, Texas — From meeting each other in the classroom at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007, to serving in a church 20 minutes from the campus, Spencer (’07, ’13) and Shelley (’08) Plumlee have been following God’s will to make the biggest Kingdom impact possible. Through discipleship and remembering where they came from, they help show Christ’s love in the Mansfield, Texas, community and beyond.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home which is operated by the National Park Service in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Woman charged with attempted arson of Martin Luther King Jr. birthplace in Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta police have arrested a woman who's accused of trying to burn down the birth home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. Officers arrested the 26-year-old woman around 5:45 p.m. Thursday after responding to a report of vandalism in process at the two-story home in the historic Auburn Avenue Historic District, according to a police statement.

General Assembly passes new court-mandated congressional map

ATLANTA – The Georgia House gave final passage to a new congressional map for the state Thursday, the final act in a weeklong special legislative session called after a federal judge declared the current map violates the Voting Rights Act. The Republican-controlled House approved the map 98-71, voting along party lines, sending the map to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

US Soccer Federation to build training center in Fayetteville, Georgia, outside Atlanta

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. Soccer Federation's new training center will be built in Fayetteville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta about a 30-mile drive from downtown Atlanta. The USSF announced the specific site adjacent to Trilith Studios on Thursday after saying on Sept. 15 it intended to construct a complex in the Atlanta area. Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank is contributing $50 million for the project. The complex will be more than 200 acres.

New legislative maps gain final passage in General Assembly

ATLANTA – The General Assembly’s Republican majorities gave final passage to new legislative district maps Tuesday over objections from minority Democrats that the state House and Senate maps violate the Voting Rights Act. Voting along party lines, the Georgia House of Representatives adopted a new state Senate map senators had passed late last week.
Sean Hathcock, right, kisses Michelle Ashley after the two left candles for victims of a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

UNLV gunman had list of targets at the university and 150 rounds of ammunition, police say

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The 67-year-old gunman who killed three faculty members and wounded a fourth in a roughly 10-minute rampage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, had a list of targets at the school and more than 150 rounds of ammunition, police said Thursday.

Centenarian survivors of Pearl Harbor attack are returning to honor those who perished 82 years ago

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — Ira “Ike” Schab had just showered, put on a clean sailor's uniform and closed his locker aboard the USS Dobbin when he heard a call for a fire rescue party. He went topside to see the USS Utah capsizing and Japanese planes in the air. He scurried back below deck to grab boxes of ammunition and joined a daisy chain of sailors feeding shells to an anti-aircraft gun up above. He remembers being only 140 pounds as a 21-year-old, but somehow finding the strength to lift boxes weighing almost twice that.

US military grounds entire fleet of Osprey aircraft following a deadly crash off the coast of Japan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The military announced late Wednesday it was grounding all of its Osprey V-22 helicopters, one week after eight Air Force Special Operations Command service members died in a crash off the coast of Japan. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps took the extraordinary step of grounding hundreds of aircraft after a preliminary investigation of last week's crash indicated that a materiel failure — that something went wrong with the aircraft — and not a mistake by the crew led to the deaths.

Police say 3 dead, fourth wounded and shooter also dead in University of Nevada, Las Vegas attack

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Three people were shot to death and a fourth critically wounded Wednesday in an attack at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The suspected shooter also was found dead. The attack at about 11:45 a.m. sent police swarming onto the campus while students and professors barricaded themselves inside classrooms and dorm rooms.
Israeli soldiers are seen near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Israel continues strikes on Gaza as conflict enters third month

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — As the Israel-Hamas war entered its third month Friday, the Israeli army said that over the past day its forces had struck about 450 targets in the Gaza Strip. Israel also dropped leaflets over parts of Gaza with a biblical warning to Hamas leaders that it would take “a life for a life, an eye for an eye.” A day after troops rounded up hundreds of Palestinians for questioning about suspected ties to Hamas, an Israeli government spokesman suggested that practice would continue.

A rocket attack targets the US Embassy in Baghdad, causing minor damage but no casualties

BAGHDAD (AP) — A rocket attack on the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad caused minor damage but no casualties Friday morning, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The attack is the first on the embassy located in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Iraq's capital to be confirmed since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. The Green Zone houses Iraqi government buildings and embassies on the west bank of the Tigris River.

Putin will seek another presidential term in Russia, aiming to extend his rule of over two decades

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin on Friday moved to prolong his repressive and unyielding grip on Russia for at least another six years, announcing his candidacy in the presidential election next March that he is all but certain to win. Putin still commands wide support after nearly a quarter-century in power, despite starting an immensely costly war in Ukraine that has taken thousands of his countrymen’s lives, provoked repeated attacks inside Russia — including one on the Kremlin itself — and corroded its aura of invincibility.

Human rights groups documenting 'widespread' sexual crimes by Hamas

JERUSALEM (AP) — Accounts given to The Associated Press, along with first assessments by an Israeli rights group, show that sexual assault was part of an atrocities-filled rampage by Hamas and other Gaza militants who killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took more than 240 hostages that day.
Christmas is a joyful season but always has some challenges. The place of Christmas is often a question. Mary and Joseph ended up in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. They had gone there to pay taxes. Paying taxes is never fun but something we have to do. The place they ended up when Jesus was born was probably not their desired location to bear their first child but they made the most of the location. 
The Christmas rush is in full throttle and the pressure is on to get it all done before December 25. I admire those wise folks who make Christmas purchases all year long. Of course, if I was smart enough to purchase gifts ahead of time, I’d probably forget where I hid them.
Giving Tuesday isn't about giving, it's about supporting ministry efforts like Camp Pinnacle, that witness to young women around the state, by improving the quality of their facilities. By giving, you can help provide a new bunk bed for someone to experience rest and hear the Gospel during camps and retreats.
PLAINS, Ga. – While I have had the privilege of meeting several presidents and attending the inauguration of one president, I only met one first lady, Rosalynn Smith Carter. I met Jimmy Carter when he was governor of Georgia. In fact, I brought a church group to Atlanta from North Carolina in 1971, and he was coming down the steps in the rotunda of the state Capitol as our group was ascending the stairs. I introduced myself and told him that we had 45 senior adults visiting Atlanta and the surrounding area on a three-day excursion. He stopped and spoke to our group for at least 5 minutes and told us about his Baptist background.
As we enter into the holiday season, I’d like to share with you a story. I can hardly believe it myself, but every bit of it is true, “so help me God.” Admittedly, I’m no Charles Dickens and the prisoner next to me is not exactly Tiny Tim but I’ll try my best to tell it. His name is Milton and he walks with a permanent limp now because of an exchange of bullets he had with someone in the streets.
Mechanic David Stoliaruk works on the engine of a car at IC Auto in Philadelphia, May 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

US employers add a solid 199,000 jobs and unemployment falls, signaling a still-sturdy labor market

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s employers added a solid 199,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell. Friday’s report from the Labor Department showed that the unemployment rate dropped from 3.9% to 3.7%, not far above a five-decade low of 3.4% in April.

Big bank CEOs warn that new regulations could harm the economy

NEW YORK (AP) — The heads of Wall Street's biggest banks used an appearance on Capitol Hill to plead with senators to stop the Biden administration's proposed changes to how banks are regulated, warning that the proposals could negatively impact the economy at a time of geopolitical turmoil and inflation.

Europe's world-leading artificial intelligence rules are facing a do-or-die moment

LONDON (AP) — Hailed as a world first, European Union artificial intelligence rules are facing a make-or-break moment as negotiators try to hammer out the final details this week — talks complicated by the sudden rise of generative AI that produces human-like work.

OxyContin maker's bankruptcy deal goes before the Supreme Court, with billions of dollars at stake

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday is hearing arguments over a nationwide settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma that would shield members of the Sackler family who own the company from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids. The agreement hammered out with state and local governments and victims would provide billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic.

Alaska Air to buy Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal with debt

SEATTLE (AP) — Alaska Air Group said Sunday it agreed to buy Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal including debt. The combined company would keep both airlines' brands, rooted in the nation's 49th and 50th states. Alaska will pay $18 in cash for each share of Hawaiian, whose stock closed Friday at $4.86. The deal also includes $900 million in Hawaiian debt, which the airlines said brings the acquisition's total value to $1.9 billion.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes against the New York Jets during the first quarter Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

First-place Falcons go for third straight win with the playoffs in sight as they host Bucs

ATLANTA (AP) — If the Atlanta Falcons can string together their first three-game winning streak since 2019, they'd take a huge step toward breaking an even longer drought. The first-place Falcons (6-6) lead the NFC South despite their so-so record heading into the final month of the season.

Noah Thomasson and Justin Hill combine for 30 points as Georgia beats rival Georgia Tech 76-62

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Noah Thomasson scored 16 points, Justin Hill added 14 points and Georgia beat rival Georgia Tech 76-62 on Tuesday night. Georgia (6-3) jumped out to a led 28-14 in the first half as Georgia Tech started the game making just 6 of 27 shots. The Yellow Jackets missed 10 straight field goals over a five-minute span.

Adekokoya's 22 lead Kennesaw State past UNC Asheville 79-76 in OT as Cottle hits 3 at the buzzer

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Simeon Cottle drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing as time ran out, Quincy Adekokoya scored 22 points and Kennesaw State beat UNC Asheville 79-76 in overtime on Tuesday night. Jamel King blocked Drew Pember's layup attempt from behind as time ran out in regulation to give the Owls a chance to win in overtime.

Turner scores 19, Georgia State downs Middle Georgia State 89-57

ATLANTA (AP) — Jay'Den Turner had 19 points in Georgia State's 89-57 win against Middle Georgia State on Monday night. Turner also contributed six rebounds for the Panthers (4-4). Toneari Lane scored 15 points while going 5 of 13 (3 for 11 from 3-point range). Julian Mackey had 14 points and shot 4 for 10 (2 for 5 from 3-point range) and 4 of 5 from the free throw line.