DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–As I prepare for the impending fourth walk across America, I have reflected on the 29 years of ministry entrusted to me by our Lord.
I take the personal liberty to write this one column myself so that I can make some personal comments regarding my co-author and “son in the ministry,” Philip Barber, and others whose lives have impacted this mission.
Even though I first met Philip when he came to hear me speak during Crossover Dallas in 1997, it was September 2000 before Philip met Jesus face-to-face, and his life was changed forever. As he has so aptly told many audiences, “At the last moment, when everything seemed hopeless as I stood at the gates of hell, Jesus came down and snatched me out of the devil’s pocket!” I, and many others who have come to know this Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student, have proudly watched as this young man has grown in the faith.
Only recently I flew out to Fort Worth, Texas, to witness him receive the annual Oscar Thompson Evangelism award. Our dear Christian brother, Roy Fish, who recommended Philip for the special award, also was present for the occasion. Certainly, much of my ministry partner’s burden for lost people was birthed under the teaching and constant encouragement of this evangelism icon.
One year from next month, Philip is due to receive a master of arts in theology degree from the school on whose board of trustees I have been privileged to serve for nine years. He will graduate at the same time I complete my duties at the school.
Two years ago Philip and Jennifer were united in marriage at the Naylor Center on the seminary campus. The officiating ministers included her pastor and, of course, Dr. Fish. I had always told Philip that if he would be patient, God would send him a faithful Christian lady to serve with him in ministry. And God certainly looked after him. This July, the couple will be blessed with their first son, an event that will bring me a “grandson,” as Philip so adequately describes the special day.
Many of you already have read of my upcoming walk across America. I must confess that there are some, including those nearest to me, who feel that three such endeavors ought to be enough for anyone. But I truly feel that God is calling me to meet this challenge again. The purposes are clear: to evangelize the lost, rescue the broken and hurting, and inspire the faithful to take an active role in delivering our society from the tentacles of drug addiction into the hands of our Savior, who is the ultimate answer to every problem on this earth.
Philip will fly out to the route to share his testimony once or twice — if the expected “bundle of joy” does not arrive early. On this trip I will be blessed to be accompanied by another “son in the ministry,” Sean Reece, a student at Southeastern College at Wake Forest, N.C. Philip and I first met Sean when we spoke at a Jacksonville, Fla., church two years ago. Back then he was a struggling young Christian, rescued from the streets by a church with an open heart for broken people.
I was impressed by the sincerity of this young man the first day I met him, and after he wrote me a letter thanking me for the impact of my testimony on his life, we continued an almost daily contact by telephone. He eventually surrendered his life to the call of the Master. Sean has been assuming a much more active role in this ministry in recent months, and often accompanies me when I speak, as Philip has so many times, sharing his compelling testimony with our listeners.
Throughout the 1,100 mile trek, as I walk 20-25 miles a day, Sean will handle the day-to-day logistics of the journey and drive the escort car. We both will witness to strangers about Jesus every day. There will be speaking engagements in churches all along the way, and before I preach, Sean will share his story. He truly will bless all who hear him. He has that same ability to connect with listeners so many have seen in Philip.
My grandson, Chris Doll, a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, also will accompany us for two weeks of the nine-week journey, offering his testimony in churches where we minister. Chris is a dedicated Christian who makes his grandfather proud.
We are willing to speak wherever the opportunity arises on this trip, at churches of every size, small or large. Everywhere we stop, we will seek to honor our Lord and serve the people well. If you see me on the highway carrying Old Glory and the Christian flag, honk your horn, and if you have time, stop and pray with us.
Beginning June 18, the route will wind from Chicago to Springfield, Ill., St. Louis, Mo., Hopkinsville, Ky., Nashville, Tenn., Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, Ala., and eventually to Pensacola, Fla., by Aug. 20.
We will proclaim the theme of this walk, “Reaching Broken People for Jesus,” by speaking at the Conference of Associational Directors of Missions’ on Sunday, June 11, in Greensboro, N.C., just prior to the SBC annual meeting.
We are truly blessed!
Ted Stone is a Southern Baptist minister who provides leadership to churches and individuals seeking avenues of hope for those involved in drug abuse. Churches interested in getting Stone to speak along his walk across American should contact him at Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C. 27702, or telephone 919-477-1581.