The remnants of Hurricane Ida moved over the Atlanta area Tuesday, dropping four inches of rain and limiting the massive scope of ministry through LoveLoud planned for the afternoon. Local meteorologists said the day made this the single wettest November on record.
Against that soggy background, many of the 1,125 volunteers fanned out to 87 ministry sites -- some decked out in rain ponchos to rake leaves -- to spread the Good News. By the time the event came to a close, an unofficial 22 professions of faith were recorded.
"God's hand was on the whole project," Doug Couch, who oversees the Georgia Baptist Convention's youth ministries, said, adding that he was "very pleased with the cheerful servant attitudes of the volunteers. You would never have known it was raining. We are extremely appreciative to everyone who participated."
Preliminary reports indicate that during the afternoon nearly a thousand volunteers made 1,144 contacts including 190 Gospel presentations. They ministered to 830 senior citizens and helped distribute 2,400 boxes of food to 785 homes from three semi-trucks.
Steve Parr, the convention's vice president for evangelism, served on a team that saw six people accept Christ. He said it was "refreshing, in the midst of the business and the annual reporting session, that everyone experienced worship and service in the name of Jesus."
"The experience this year, however, was highlighted by the fact that lives were changed as several people trusted Christ as Lord and Savior," Parr said. "It is fitting that a gathering focused on missions and partnership in the proclamation of the Gospel had immediate results as many were obedient in responding to the Good News during the course of Tuesday's 'Light it Up' ministry projects."
During the business sessions, the 1,289 registered messengers overwhelmingly approved a new five-year partnership with Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, two of the world's largest cities where the evangelical population is less than 1 percent. The partnership pairs Georgia Baptist volunteers with four International Mission Board workers who call Georgia home -- a couple from Snellville and another couple from Eastman.
After signing the partnership agreement, Eastman native Buck Burch, now a missionary in Russia, asked messengers to pray immediately that proposed Russian legislation would be defeated. New restrictions would include requiring children to have written permission to enter a church. This would severely limit ministry in Russia, Burch said.
Messengers also approved a significant reduction in the 2010 budget, which included reducing staff positions by 13.37 percent, cutting 27 positions since January. The budget was set at $45,500,000, down 8.2 percent or $4.1 million from 2009. Georgia Baptists will continue to allocate roughly 41 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.
Other newly elected officers include Tim Burnham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, first vice president; Wilburn Hill, pastor of Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge, second vice president; Stuart Sims, pastor of Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens, third vice president; and John Pennington, pastor of First Baptist Church in Douglasville, fourth vice president. There were no other nominees for the various offices.
The two-day meeting was cut short to allow for an afternoon of ministry. With a little advance planning it wasn't difficult to make the adjustment, Bucky Kennedy, the outgoing president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, said.
"We moved the state missions report to Tuesday evening and condensed a lot of the reports into video reports, which gave us the afternoon," Kennedy said. "It was worth it. We had more than a thousand people doing ministry in a downpour with nearly two dozen people saved. It was a great day."
Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 15-16 at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany.
Sherri Brown and Joe Westbury write for The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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