Georgia's Centralhatchee First Baptist Church sees 120 people come to Christ in past 2 months


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.

Some 50 people had made salvation decisions at the church in the past two months. But that number was dwarfed by a single-day total of 72 people who made professions of faith at the church’s back-to-school backpack giveaway last Tuesday.

Other Georgia locations also have been reporting high numbers of salvation decisions in recent days. In Columbus, 54 people made professions of faith at a back-to-school festival sponsored by the Columbus Baptist Association on Saturday. At McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, 42 people made salvation decisions in a worship service on Sunday morning.

All across Georgia, congregations have been seeing a higher-than-usual number of people turning to Christ since the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.

Williams said churches seem to be spiritually energized to reach their communities with the gospel.

Centralhatchee First Baptist built its latest evangelistic initiative around backpacks after seeing how well they had been used in other places, particularly the Appalachian region.

The church, with help from the Carrollton Baptist Association, amassed 240 backpacks filled with school supplies to be given to all of Centralhatchee’s elementary-age children.

“The backpack ministry definitely works,” Williams said. “It meets a need for our kids, plus it affords us an opportunity to share the old, old story, the greatest story ever told. The kids could come by and pick up a backpack, and we just shared the gospel with them right there on the spot.”

Georgia Baptists have seen salvation totals rise in every part of the state, resulting in a 47% increase in baptisms over the past two years.

In Swainsboro last week, volunteers from The Emanuel Baptist Association managed two prayer stations, one in the downtown area and another at a housing development. Some 30 people surrendered their lives to Christ as a result.

“In our area, we have seen a hunger for God,” said Joe Bedgood, pastor of Dellwood Baptist Church and evangelism director in the Emanuel Baptist Association. “Most of the people who came through had something major going on in their lives. They knew they needed prayer, that God was the only One who could help them.”

Jenni Carter, kids ministry consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said thousands of children made salvation decisions during the summer break at Vacation Bible Schools held at churches across the state.

Carter said churches of every size and in every region of the state reported not only the highest attendance in years at Vacation Bible School but also large numbers of children committing their lives to Christ.

At Fayetteville’s New Hope Baptist Church, 86 children responded to the gospel during Vacation Bible School attended by more than 630 children on the congregation's two campuses in June.

More than 30 migrant workers who came to southwest Georgia to harvest watermelons prayed to receive Christ at dinner at First Baptist Church of Rochelle in July.

At the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s IMPACT camp on the Shorter University campus, 73 students made salvation decisions and 31 others said they felt that God was calling them into ministry.

A Simons Island youth retreat hosted by the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches of Georgia resulted in 15 students making salvation decisions.

At least 27 students in Stephens, Banks and Franklin counties have made professions of faith during the school year that just ended through Christian learning centers that provide students a place to study the Bible and pray together.

Center Baptist Church in Robertstown recorded 37 salvation decisions at a trout tournament on the Chattahoochee River that drew more than 400 people to the Chattahoochee River.

In the first quarter of this year, 119 college and university students made salvation decisions through Baptist Collegiate Ministries, said Beverly Skinner, collegiate ministry catalyst for the Mission Board.

“We’re definitely seeing a move of God in Georgia like we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” said Villa Rica Pastor Kevin Williams where 53 people surrendered to Christ at a Passion play attended by more than 4,000 people leading up to Easter.

In some instances, several churches in a single community have joined together for evangelistic outreaches, as was the case with Love Loud Bowden, where 32 people made professions of faith.

Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta had seen 43 baptisms as of March and 67 since Christmas. Others that have seen big numbers of salvation decisions include Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church in Silver Creek where 21 people made salvation decisions at a sportsmen’s banquet, at Dudley Baptist Church where 42 people made salvation decisions, and at Hopeful Baptist Church in Camillia where 30 people made salvation decisions.

In February, 41 people surrendered to Christ at a wild game dinner in the fellowship hall at Bethel Baptist Church in the tiny community of Omega where some 400 men had gathered.

In January, First Baptist Church in Blackshear reported 19 professions of faith at a venison supper. Another 28 people recommitted their lives to Christ at that event.