John Meador experienced “a grief, a heartbreak” followed by “soul-searching, and a time of prayer and fasting” when he learned about a woman who had no one to help her after an apartment fire.
The church Meador leads, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, was emerging from millions of dollars in debt and was focused on missions ventures worldwide. Though the church had begun exploring what they could do to help their local community, news of an apartment fire at a complex adjoining the church campus hit close to home.
“It became apparent that we really needed to pay more attention to our Jerusalem,” said Scott Sheppard, on church staff at the time. Meador, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in 2016, tasked Sheppard with finding a way to help the woman who had lost everything.
What emerged from that challenge was a ministry called 6 Stones which has merged the nonprofit, public and private sectors to transform parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Since it began in 2008, 6 Stones has repaired more than 500 homes, donated school supplies to more than 26,000 students, provided Christmas gifts for more than 22,000 children, logged nearly 270,000 volunteer hours and invested $9 million in local communities, according to a 2016 year-end report.
Sheppard, executive director of 6 Stones — a name based on the church’s retirement of a $6 million-plus debt over 28 months prior to launching its community outreach — recounted how eager First, Euless, was to start the ministry.
“They were so moved, so excited about the possibility of investing in their Jerusalem that we went from realizing the need to the church voting and launching a nonprofit in less than 120 days,” he said.
Dallas-Fort Worth is among the top destinations for relocation in the world, Sheppard said, noting that people from other countries arrive in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago and realize there are no jobs, and then they turn to Texas, which he said has produced twice as many jobs in the past decade as the rest of the United States combined.
Federal housing grants
One of the ways 6 Stones got involved was to partner with the city of Euless — with the help of federal housing grants — to revitalize deteriorating homes.
Gary McKamie, a former Euless city manager, described the initiative at a Catalyst of Hope forum in February in nearby Bedford, when a panel explained how churches can replicate the 6 Stones model.
“It was kind of unusual for us to be approached at the city by someone asking, ‘What can we do for you?’” McKamie said. “At the time property values were falling. We had all sorts of needs.”
Gene Buinger, a former superintendent of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, said more than 50 percent of children in the area today come from homes at the federal poverty level or below, and more than 70 languages of the world are spoken in homes throughout the district.
When 6 Stones asked Buinger how they could help the school system, he had “a whole laundry list of things that they could do with us.”
Among those projects have been Operation Back 2 School, providing students with school supplies, and Night of Hope, a Christmas experience for those in need.
Sheppard said the city transformation movement is growing as churches across the nation are realizing they must engage with their local communities, but 6 Stones is unique because they’ve “been able to bridge the gap to the other sectors, whether it’s the city, school district, corporate or even collaborating with other nonprofits.”
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.