HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Ted Stone died of undetermined causes July 16 at the end of the fourth week of his fourth “Walk across America” to spread awareness of the hope that substance abusers can find in Christ. He was 72.
Stone, an evangelist from Durham, N.C., spent 29 years proclaiming freedom in Christ after serving four years in prison in the 1970s as the result of drug addictions.
The founder of Ted Stone Ministries, he often repeated the mantra, “I used to be a drug addict, but I am no longer a drug addict. I am recovered forever by the grace of God, and that same hope can belong to you or anyone you love.”
Though a battle with colon cancer in 2002 took a toll on his body, Stone so fervently believed in the cause of ministering to substance abusers that he pressed on to start a fourth walk across the nation, starting in Chicago June 19 with an expected end in Pensacola, Fla.
“Most programs use something to substitute for the abuser’s addiction,” Stone said before the trip. “Some even refer to a higher power. But my message is that by putting your dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ, you can break your dependence on chemical substances.”
During his trek, Stone spoke at various churches along the route. He and his ministry partner, collegian Sean Reece, were driving to speak at the evening service at College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., just north of Nashville, July 16 when Stone became unconscious and later was pronounced dead.
“Few people ever in their lives have a friend as loyal and selfless as Ted Stone,” Philip Barber, one of Stone’s ‘sons in the ministry,’” said. “I am grateful that, for nine years, God allowed me the privilege and the honor to call Ted Stone my friend.”
Among Stone’s final speaking engagements was an address to a group of directors of mission preceding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., in June. There he implored Southern Baptists to stop regarding broken and hurting people as ‘second-class citizens in the family of God.’”
Stone’s previous three walks across America included a 3,650-mile trek in 1996 from the Capitol steps in Washington southward to Jacksonville, Fla., and westward to Los Angeles; a 3,550-mile trek in 1998 from the mayor’s office in San Francisco eastward to Virginia Beach, Va.; and a 1,700-mile, south to north trek in 2000 that began in Nueva Laredo, Mexico, and ended in Detroit at the Ambassador Bridge leading into Canada.
His discipleship of Barber, Reece and others like them was a hallmark of Stone’s ministry, mentoring them through their recovery from drug addiction.
Now Barber is a student at Southwestern Seminary and Reece is preparing for the ministry at Southeastern College at Wake Forest in North Carolina.
Since April 2001, Stone and Barber co-wrote a regular column for Baptist Press, continually keeping Southern Baptists’ attention on the millions of Americans suffering from substance addictions.
In addition to his Baptist Press columns, Stone often was featured in Southern Baptist publications and was the author or co-author of four books. He wrote an autobiography called Somebody Special, detailing his journey from drugs to prison to a passion for helping people, and The Drug Tragedy, a general survey of the drug problem in America, followed by proposed solutions.
In 2005, Stone launched HIS Way, a treatment and recovery program designed for implementation in the local church to prevent recovering drug abusers from relapsing into old lifestyles after they express an interest in following Jesus.
Stone was a longtime member of the board of visitors at Southeastern Seminary and was a trustee at Southwestern Seminary, where he was instrumental in establishing the school of evangelism and missions.
He is survived by his wife, Anne Fuller Stone; three daughters, Ellen Sichina of Shelby, N.C.; Carole Doll and Lisa Hilliard, both of Apex, N.C.; and five grandchildren.