Graham ministry aims to transform Ferguson through Adopt-a-Block

by Vicki Stamps, Guest Reporter |
A group of demonstrators in support of the police hold U.S. flags and signs as they gather in front of the Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court in Ferguson, Missouri, March 15, 2015. Members of the community will begin to go block to block to offer a stress-relief break. | REUTERS/Kate Munsch

FERGUSON, Mo. (Christian Examiner) -- Changing the streets of unrest in Ferguson to streets of love and ministry is the ultimate goal of Adopt a Block, a plan sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. A recent workshop for training was held at First Baptist Church in Ferguson.

"It is a good, simple plan," Stoney Shaw, pastor of FBC Ferguson, said. "We are concerned about the people around our church. We want to join with other churches and minister. Walking the streets and praying is a simple, yet powerful, plan."

Jose Aguayo, a local Billy Graham Evangelistic Association chaplain, led the training for Adopt a Block. "This is a point of connection with the community and a way to show love. We want to establish a relationship with the people in the neighborhood."

Aguayo has seen this program successful with other churches. "The church accepts the responsibility of 'pastoring' one block with a commitment of six months," he said.

Aguayo said the "pastoring" would include a weekly visit, preferably on a Saturday. "In the beginning," he said, "the visitation will be just an introduction and a hello with prayer progressing to a small gift of flowers/candy, or just helping with yard work."

Shaw said it will be good for Christians to reach out to neighbors. "Prayer walking and talking with people is so important," Shaw said. "They need to see our faces in the community."

"As relationships develop," Aguayo said, "discipleship will follow. Eventually sports teams, community outings and study assistance for children and adults will take place."

The Adopt a Block plan will rely on a central location for monitoring the progress of the churches. By setting a place for weekly reports and follow-ups, it will reduce duplication and confusion. This common location would also provide for networking and resource information and distribution.

"We've identified some leaders at our church," Shaw said, "and we hope to get training for more of our people."

Shaw said several resources were supplied by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the training. "We were given a 30 day discipleship workbook, Billy Graham's Peace with God on becoming a Christian and the Gospel of John."

"It is important to show love to the community," Aguayo said. "When we knock at the door, we are showing love. When a single mom or a senior opens the door, we can do a needs assessment by just talking. We are able to see if they need any assistance in the way of mowing or resource referral.

This article first appeard in "The Pathway," the official newspaper of the Missouri Baptist Convention and is used with permission.