SWAINSBORO, Ga. — Lured by a few simple handwritten signs and some orange traffic cones, long lines of people showed up for a drive-through prayer initiative in Swainsboro on Saturday.
And in yet another sign of spiritual revival in Georgia, some 30 of them surrendered their lives to Christ.
“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.”
Bedgood said about 50 volunteers from six churches in the Emanuel Baptist Association set up drive-through prayer stations on a street in downtown Swainsboro and at a nearby housing development.
“I didn’t know what to expect when we decided to do this,” he said. “At one point, we had an entire one-way street filled with cars. I saw tears in every vehicle I went to.”
Thousands of people have been turning to Christ all across Georgia since the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.
Annual church reports submitted to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board show baptisms have risen by an eye-catching 47% in the past two years. They rose from 10,243 reported in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the state to 15,071 last year.
The upward trend appears to be continuing this year.
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. And at the 1025 Church in Monroe and Statham, some 500 children gathered for Vacation Bible School in June. Of those, 45 made professions of faith.
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 earlier this month.
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.