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Baptism count in Georgia churches surpasses 20,000 for first time since 2017

Pastor Josh Price baptizes a new believer at Fortified Hills Baptist Church in Dallas, Ga., on Sept. 3, 2023. (Index/Henry Durand)
SUWANEE, Ga. — An annual count of baptisms in Georgia Baptist churches has surpassed 20,000 for the first time since 2017. Steve Foster, a Georgia Baptist Mission Board evangelism consultant, said the total as of Friday morning reached 20,280, just 13 short of the 20,293 reported six years ago. The numbers are expected to continue to grow as more congregations complete what's known as the "Annual Church Profile," an annual census of Southern Baptist churches.
Donald Voyles stands in front of Mt. Tabor Community Baptist Church in Dallas, Ga., on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Index/Roger Alford)
Nation’s oldest church planter? Age no deterrent for 89-year-old Donald Voyles in starting one of Georgia’s newest congregations
DALLAS, Ga. — In a classy blue suit, striped tie, and starched white shirt, Donald Voyles has the look of a man who has just stepped out of the board room of a Fortune 500 company. He’s every whit the professional, from his freshly trimmed white hair to his newly polished back shoes. At 89, Voyles may not fit the stereotypical mold of the modern church planter, but the Adrian Rogers-look is paying dividends for a congregation birthed from a back-porch Bible study at his home in suburban Atlanta four years ago.
Willie Thomas Edmondson
Obituary: Georgia pastor Willie Edmondson remembered as legend, warrior, trailblazer
LaGRANGE, Ga. — Georgia pastor Willie Thomas Edmondson is being remembered as a “legend" and a “warrior” as well as a “trailblazer” who served people not only from his church but also from city hall. Edmonson died Friday. In addition to being pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in West Point, Edmondson also served as mayor of LaGrange.
Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow speaks during last year's annual meeting at the Church on Main in Snellville, Ga. (Index/Henry Durand)
Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow: 'Evangelism is the most talked about and least practiced discipline'
CONYERS, Ga. — Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow is hoping for a big turnout for a pair of evangelism conferences, the first of which begins on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Conyers. “The evangelism conferences help us to grow, to be equipped and to be inspired,” Saefkow said. “A big part of these conferences is to be inspired to go and tell others about Jesus.” Georgia Baptists are going into this year’s conferences with an obvious zeal for sharing the gospel. They’re reporting a 30% increase in baptisms over the past year and a more than 92% increase since 2020.
The sun rises over the Shorter University campus on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Photo/Donald Dowless)
Sunrise over Shorter University
Shorter University President Donald Dowless captured the beauty of a late-winter sunrise  on Tuesday.  Shorter University, founded in 1873, is a Southern Baptist school in Rome, Ga.
The rendering of the proposed new worship center for Prince Avenue.
Prince Avenue Baptist Church’s growth calls for a new, larger worship center
BOGART, Ga., — When Josh Smith became pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart six years ago after 11 years at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, he succeeded Pastor Bill Ricketts, who had served the church for 43 years. Ricketts had relocated the church from downtown Athens to Bogart, a growing community approximately seven miles west of Athens. The church was poised for growth, but it would take the right kind of pastor to lead the church to its greatest destiny.
Baptist Life

Jimmy Blanton to retire as Columbus Baptist Association missionary

Jimmy Blanton smiles during a celebration honoring his 25 years leading the Columbus Baptist Association. (Photo/CBA)
COLUMBUS, Ga. – In January, Jimmy Blanton announced his retirement as the missionary of the Columbus Baptist Association by saying, “I realize that the association does not need a new mission, but it does need a new voice, a new vision, and a new missionary.”
It’s February, and summer seems far away. But with how quickly the new year has already flown by, summer will be here before we know it. If your students are attending camp this summer, have you, as the pastor, made plans to attend with them? If not, here are some reasons you should get those dates on your calendar and make plans to go away to camp with your students.
CRESTVIEW, Fla. — Military servicemembers face the brokenness of the world in a way few others do, says Noah Clifton, who is planting Pillar Church of Crestview alongside Alex Chatman in Crestview, Florida. On top of that, the number of deployments, exercises, operations and trainings that call a member out of the home puts families in what Marine and church planter Alex Chatman calls “a pressure cooker.”
ALPHARETTA, Ga. — In a statement posted on Wednesday, Send Relief leaders reaffirmed the relief organization’s commitment, announced in June 2022, to provide up to $3 million in funds for the Southern Baptist Convention’s efforts in sexual abuse prevention and response and compassionate care for survivors, but clarified the funds would not be used to fund an organization outside the SBC.
When the box of Kleenex’s fell behind the dryer, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Knowing that it would be a fire hazard to leave it, I shimmied up on the dryer as best as a 61-year-old woman could to retrieve it.  My arms were not long enough.  “I will get it,” my beloved called from the other room.  But I didn’t want him to. I wanted to do it myself.  I always have to have help.  Surely, I could just do this alone.
Athens-Clarke County police block traffic and investigate at the UGA intramural Fields after the body of a women was found in the woods around Lake Herrick in Athens, Ga., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

Police have no suspect in the death of nursing student on University of Georgia campus

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — A woman found dead on the University of Georgia campus was a student at a nearby nursing school, said authorities, who were checking security cameras and advising students to travel in groups and avoid the wooded area where her body was found. Police do not have a suspect, University of Georgia Police Chief Jeff Clark said at a news conference late Thursday.

University of Georgia cancels classes after woman found dead on campus

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — A woman was found dead Thursday on the campus of the University of Georgia after a friend told police she had not returned from a morning run, authorities said. The woman was not a student at the university, the school's police chief said. Police Chief Jeff Clark did not provide details on how the woman died, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jimmy Carter becomes first living ex-president with official White House Christmas ornament

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter has another distinction to his name. The 99-year-old is the first U.S. president to be honored with an official White House Christmas ornament while still living. The ornament was unveiled Wednesday and is the latest in an annual series that the nonprofit White House Historical Association began issuing in 1981, the year Carter left office.

Attorneys for Georgia slave descendants urge judge not to throw out their lawsuit over island zoning

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Attorneys suing a Georgia county over zoning changes that they say threaten one of the South's last Gullah-Geechee communities of Black slave descendants asked a judge Tuesday to let them correct technical problems with their civil complaint to avoid having it dismissed.
This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander over the near side of the moon following lunar orbit insertion on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (Intuitive Machines via AP)

Private lander makes first US moon landing in more than 50 years, but signal weak

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private lander on Thursday made the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in more than 50 years, but managed just a weak signal back as flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact. Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed. There was no immediate word from the company on the condition — or even the exact location — of the lander. The company ended its live webcast soon after confirming a touchdown.

4 men captured during operation in which 2 SEALs died are charged in transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Four foreign nationals were arrested and charged Thursday with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons on a vessel intercepted by U.S. naval forces in the Arabian Sea last month. Two Navy SEALs died during the mission.

China plans to send San Diego Zoo more pandas this year, reintroducing panda diplomacy

SAN DIEGO (AP) — China plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its longstanding gesture of friendship toward the United States after a recalling nearly all the iconic bears on loan to U.S. zoos as relations soured between the two nations.

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private U.S. lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface. A smooth touchdown would put the U.S. back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.
People board a truck as they leave Khartoum, Sudan, on June 19, 2023. (AP Photo, File)

From the mission field: Rape and sexual violence in Sudan's ongoing conflict may amount to war crimes, a new UN report says

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights office said in a new report Friday that scores of people, including children, have been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence in the ongoinng conflict in Sudan, assaults that may amount to war crimes.

Relatives of hostages in Gaza endure a nightmare, but dream their loved ones will be freed

KIBBUTZ BE'ERI, Israel (AP) — Gillian and Pete Brisley are picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. They are cleaning up the house where their daughter and granddaughters were killed by Hamas on Oct. 7 in hopes that their son-in-law — believed to be held captive in Gaza — may have something to come home to. The broken glass from the militants’ break-in has been cleaned up. Their dead relatives’ clothes still need to be packed away.

Rescuers search for 14 people missing after apartment block fire kills at least 4 in eastern Spain

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — As firefighters and scientific police Friday began inspecting the interior of two residential towers that were destroyed by fire in the eastern Spanish city of Valencia, killing four people, questions abounded as to how the fire spread so rapidly. Authorities said 14 people were still missing following the blaze at the complex Thursday.

Thousands of Ukrainians live in agony and uncertainty as they search for their missing loved ones

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Iryna Reva stares at her phone, replaying the last video her 25-year-old son Vladyslav sent her from the front line before the volunteer soldier disappeared 19 months ago in a battle with Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. Reva is one of the thousands of Ukrainians desperately seeking news of loved ones who have disappeared in the two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion began. According to Ukraine’s National Police, more than 30,000 people have been reported missing in the last 24 months.
On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 22, SB 180, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6 to 3 vote. It now goes to the Rules Committee to be considered for a vote by Thursday, Feb. 29, on Crossover Day.   
​George Barnard Shaw said, “There are two sources of unhappiness in life. One is not getting what you want; the other is getting it.” America is obsessed with success. We work hard to get what we want. From the early days of our youth, competing is encouraged to reach number one, whether it’s winning the spelling bee or ranking at the top of our class. Setting our minds on a goal and pressing until we reach that goal makes us a success, we think. Success is a destination.
What do Baptists consider to be an appropriate age for baptism? The answer to the question varies and will surprise those who assume that there is a prescribed tradition, set in stone, carefully and meticulously passed down from generation to generation. Two hundred years ago it was rare for anyone to be baptized who was not considered an “adult.”
We are about to examine what James Montgomery Boice and many other Biblical scholars declare is “the most difficult portion of the entire Bible,” recorded in Romans 9:13 (quoting Malachi 1:2-3) where God emphatically says:  “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau!”
My very first date with my husband was on Valentine’s Day in 1974. We were both in the 10th grade at the same high school. He was a basketball player and I was a cheerleader. I won’t say I fell in love with him on the first date, which by the way was at the circus, but I did enjoy his company and considered that there might be potential for a relationship there. He, on the other hand, told me he was going to marry me on our first date!
Rows of old and newer telephones along with office switchboards are displayed in a museum operated by members of the Parkersburg Council of the Telecomm Pioneers in Parkersburg, W.Va. (Jeffery Saulton/News and Sentinel via AP)

This week's cellphone outage makes it clear that in the United States, landlines are languishing

NEW YORK (AP) — When her cellphone's service went down this week because of an AT&T network outage, Bernice Hudson didn't panic. She just called the people she wanted to talk to the old-fashioned way — on her landline telephone, the kind she grew up with and refuses to get rid of even though she has a mobile phone.

AT&T says the outage to its US cellphone network was not caused by a cyberattack

AT&T said the hourslong outage to its U.S. cellphone network Thursday appeared to be the result of a technical error, not a malicious attack. The outage knocked out cellphone service for thousands of its users across the U.S. starting early Thursday before it was restored. AT&T blamed the incident on an error in coding, without elaborating.

Americans reporting nationwide cellular outages from AT&T, Cricket Wireless and other providers

A number of Americans are dealing with cellular outages on AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile and other service providers, according to data from Downdetector. AT&T had more than 64,000 outages this morning, in locations including Houston, Atlanta and Chicago.

Boeing ousts head of 737 jetliner program weeks after panel blowout on a flight over Oregon

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing said Wednesday that the head of its 737 jetliner program is leaving the company in an executive shake-up weeks after a door panel blew out on a flight over Oregon, renewing questions about safety at the company. Boeing announced that Ed Clark, who had been with the company for nearly 18 years and led the 737 program since early 2021, was leaving immediately.

Robots and happy workers: Productivity surge helps explain US economy's surprising resilience

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trying to keep up with customer demand, Batesville Tool & Die began seeking 70 people to hire last year. It wasn't easy. Attracting factory workers to a community of 7,300 in the Indiana countryside was a tough sell, especially having to compete with big-name manufacturers nearby like Honda and Cummins Engine.

Georgia Southern secures 84-76 victory against Texas State

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Tyren Moore had 21 points in Georgia Southern's 84-76 victory over Texas State on Thursday night. Moore added five rebounds and five assists for the Eagles (6-22, 6-9 Sun Belt Conference).

Sherman's 21 help Kennesaw State knock off Florida Gulf Coast 74-67

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Frankquon Sherman had 21 points in Kennesaw State's 74-67 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night. Sherman also had 10 rebounds for the Owls (15-13, 6-8 Atlantic Sun Conference).

Truett McConnell beats St. Andrews 94-75 on senior day

CLEVELAND, Ga. — On Wednesday, the Truett McConnell University men's basketball team hosted St. Andrews University for an Appalachian Athletic Conference match-up, where the Bears recorded a big win over the Knights, 94-75. TMU rises to an overall score of 11-16, 9-14 AAC, while SAU falls to a record of 5-20, 3-20 AAC.

Thomasson scores 17 in Georgia's strong start, Bulldogs topple Vanderbilt 76-64

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Noah Thomasson scored 17 points, all in the first half, Jabri Abdur-Rahim added 13 points and Georgia rolled past Vanderbilt 76-64 on Wednesday night. Georgia's 16-point halftime lead was trimmed to 11 before Justin Hill scored five points and Blue Cain hit a 3-pointer in a 12-0 run that put the Bulldogs up 63-40 near the 11-minute mark.