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FIRST-PERSON: A dirty man comes clean

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Each year the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting in a different host city somewhere in the United States, traditionally during the month of June. During that time, a special emphasis called Crossover is placed on evangelism in the host city of the convention.

In 1997 Southern Baptists descended on Dallas. As many met to discuss Baptist life and share ministry tools on the floor of the air-conditioned convention center, many also were dispatched around the city, to share the Gospel with the lost, some in less than desirable areas. One such man, William W. “Wes” Smith, carried the message of Christ to a stranger’s house in East Dallas.

As a Dallas police officer, Wes was summoned to a house on the east side of the city to intercede in a dispute between a young man and his neighbor. When the officer arrived, he noticed that the young man had a pistol tucked loosely into the inseam of his pants. He also noticed that the aggravated young man was rather pale and thin, giving suspicions of potential drug abuse.

The officer calmly expressed to this longhaired ragamuffin that it would make him feel more comfortable if he were to place the gun inside his home while the two of them talked. The young man complied, and when he returned to Officer Smith’s squad car the officer invited him to sit in the front seat and discuss the situation. It was not long before the conversation was pointed toward the cross. After the two talked for an hour and a half about the plan of salvation, Officer Smith invited his new friend to church the following Sunday.

The young man was reluctant to attend the service because he had always had a particularly profound aversion to organized religion. But then, he had never really cared much for Dallas cops either. This one turned out to be pretty cool. “Maybe,” he thought, “this church will be different. Maybe there will be something there that can help me.”

So on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon in June of 1997 at Mimosa Lane Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, the young drug abuser’s life was changed forever. The young man to whom the Dallas police officer witnessed was Philip Barber and the guest speaker at Mimosa Lane that afternoon was Ted Stone.

As a result of the faithful witness of Officer William W. “Wes” Smith, Philip is now involved full-time in ministry with Stone and is also a full-time student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

We recently had an opportunity to honor Wes with a plaque which reads, “In deep appreciation to William W. “Wes” Smith for his faithful witness to Philip D. Barber during Crossover Dallas 1997 and for the continuing Kingdom implications inspired by this act of love.”

Southern Baptists recently completed another Crossover event in conjunction with their annual meeting in Phoenix. This time, Crossover was extended to the entire state of Arizona. Those who participated in the evangelistic effort may have returned home unaware of the impact their acts of love had on people like the longhaired ragamuffin, but their efforts may have been just what God used to bring another life into His service.
Ted G. Stone and Philip Barber are coauthors of two books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Ted Stone and Philip Barber