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Georgia Baptists welcome a new era of ministry and missions

Convention offices officially move into new Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center


Kelly Durham/Index

A crane swings into place the 55-foot tall cross that will welcome visitors to the new Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center off Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth. Convention employees spent their first day on the job at the new building May 22 and heard stories of salvation among movers in the transition. The building will be formally dedicated in November during the annual state meeting.

DULUTH — Just hours before Georgia Baptist staff occupied their new headquarters building in Gwinnett County in late May, the purpose of the structure was already being fulfilled.

During the four-day move from the old Baptist Center to the new Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center at Sugarloaf Parkway, staff were not only concerned if they would get their offices up and running in record time; they were also concerned about the spiritual well-being of those making the move possible. With that commitment to eternal values, two employees with Graebel Movers were led to Christ before the move was completed.

Patrick Crawford and Mark Sterling each lead an individual to faith as the opportunities presented themselves. Crawford, who is employed in Support Services, and Sterling, consultant in Evangelism Ministries, shared their witnessing encounters with staff during an informal gathering in the chapel on May 22 – the first day in the new structure.

Joe Westbury/Index

Landscaping crews continue work on the grounds of the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center. The 42 million dollar project will be formally dedicated during the upcoming state convention meeting held across Sugarloaf Parkway at the Gwinnett Civic Center.

Crawford was able to share his testimony throughout the day with James, who first initiated the conversation by asking what business was headquartered in the building. Sterling found an opportunity to share the Gospel with Robert and his coworkers as they sat on the loading dock taking an afternoon break. Both encounters bore fruit as the individuals trusted Christ with their lives.

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White expressed his gratitude to both employees in the agency’s first staff meeting on May 22 following their sharing the experience with coworkers. White said he was grateful that staff were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and were not so caught up in the pressure of the move that they could not be sensitive to the spiritual needs of those around them.

White said such commitment epitomizes part of the reason the building was constructed – to equip staff to be more effective in their ministries, personal and professional, as they enable churches to do the same.

The 43-acre tract in the heart of Gwinnett County is easily distinguishable by passersby due to a 55-foot-tall cross rising from a small lake in front of the building. The symbol of Christ’s undying love will be easily visible day and night on the busy stretch of Sugarloaf Parkway, directly across from the heavily trafficked Gwinnett Civic Center.

Joe Westbury/Index

Damon Lowder of Support Services removes the sign facing Flowers Road welcoming visitors to the Baptist Building. After 31 years of residence, the Georgia Baptist Convention bid farewell to the building for its new home 12 miles up Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County.

The five-story building is state-of-the art and will allow convention business to be conducted in a more cost-efficient manner. Utilities are already several thousands of dollars cheaper per month due to technology which saves on heating and cooling costs.

The $42-million project – $23 million for the building, $10 million for the land, and $9 million for technological innovations – will be formally dedicated during the upcoming state convention meeting in November. Convention sessions will be held across the street at the Gwinnett Civic Center and messengers will attend an open house where the structure will be showcased.

Visitors – whether they are churched or not – will have no problem quickly grasping the goal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Upon entering they will walk into the Old Testament lobby where a ceiling mural on the rotunda displays the creation of the world. Through a short walkway they will enter the New Testament lobby, where a marble statue of Jesus and two children – a boy on his lap, a girl at his side – will be prominently displayed. And just beyond them in the lake will be the five-story cross with its story of eternal love and redemption.

The mailing and street address for the new headquarters is 6405 Sugarloaf Parkway; Duluth, GA 30097-4092. All phone numbers remain the same.

Joe Westbury/Index

Mercer University is preparing to take up residence in the Baptist Building on Flowers Road in Atlanta. GBC employees’ last day in the building was May 16.

Joe Westbury/Index

Kent Jackson, middle, Dana Bailey, right, and Mary Margaret Willis, background, conduct business in the Music and Worship Ministries Department. Cost-efficient measures in the new Missions and Ministry Center are expected to save thousands of dollars per month in heating and cooling costs.

Joe Westbury/Index

Patrick Crawford of Support Services tells of his witnessing experience with a member of Graebel Movers named James. Mark Sterling, consultant with Evangelism Ministries, also told of his opportunity to pray with a mover who accepted Christ.

Joe Westbury/Index

GBC employees gather for lunch on the fourth-floor break room, which includes an area for vending machines, a microwave and refrigerator.

Joe Westbury/Index

Frank Murphy, campus minister at Berry College in Rome, paints the ceiling mural of the creation that will greet visitors.

Elizabeth Pantana/Index

Scott Barkley, production editor of The Christian Index, and Kelly Durham, Index design editor, meet with Scott Kindig, consultant with GBC Youth Ministries, to discuss ideas regarding an upcoming story on youth and Internet security. Large dry-erase boards in meeting areas throughout the building promote departments working together for greater convention efficiency.

Joe Westbury/Index

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White addresses employees May 22 in the chapel of the Missions and Ministry Center. Employees came together to celebrate the moving in to the new building, for which construction started two years ago.

Joe Westbury/Index

Keith Hamilton of GBC Church Financial Services, left, Executive Director J. Robert White, center, and Dionnie Ruiz of the Georgia Baptist Foundation participate in an impromptu Bible Drill.

Joe Westbury/Index

White and his wife, Janice, celebrate his 60th birthday with grandson Jake Millage. White’s children and grandchildren joined employees in the festivities.