ROCHELLE, Ga. — More than 30 migrant workers who came to southwest Georgia to harvest watermelons will leave with much more than a paycheck.
That’s because they prayed to receive Christ at First Baptist Church of Rochelle, where they gathered Thursday for dinner and a gospel presentation by Georgia Baptist Mission Board missions consultant Samuel Ayala.
“I was completely blown away by what God did tonight,” said Pastor Richard Compton. “God had put this on my heart to do. I didn’t know what to expect, but this was beyond my expectations.”
One of Compton’s deacons, Don Wood, is a watermelon grower who depends on migrant workers to harvest his crop each year. And each year, when the harvest is coming to an end, he holds a dinner to show his appreciation.
Compton invited Ayala, who works closely with southwest Georgia churches, to present the gospel after the meal.
“It was amazing,” Ayala said of the men who committed their lives to Christ. “I told them, ‘You came here without Jesus, but you’re going back to your homes with Jesus.’”
Some 60 workers who have been braving 90-plus-degree temperatures to pick and load watermelons on the Wood farm attended the dinner.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Ayala said, “because God is still in the business of saving folks.”
Georgia is seeing intermittent revivals across the state with large numbers of people making professions of faith in a range of gatherings. At the Mission Board’s IMPACT camp last month on the Shorter University campus, 73 students made salvation decisions and 31 others said they felt that God was calling them into ministry.
“God is clearly doing something in this next generation,” said Chris Trent, Next Gen catalyst for the state Mission Board.
At a Simons Island youth retreat hosted by the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches of Georgia, 15 students made salvation decisions.
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.
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.
When the tournament ended, Stacy Dyer, a mission strategist in Blue Ridge and former host of the Extreme Christian Outdoors television program, shared the gospel with participants.
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.
In the first quarter of 2023, 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 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.