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Longview couple funds school in Ethiopia

By Chelsea Quackenbush

Tom and Margaret Ann “Mac” Stone remember sitting in a Buckner meeting several years ago, their hearts breaking for children in Ethiopia but not knowing what to do about it at the time.

The Buckner trustee emeritus and his wife were captivated by a report about a school in Bantu and water well drilling.

Tom Stone was active on the Buckner board of trustees for 29 years. He and Mac had been on numerous mission trips with Buckner, including Peru, Latvia and a tour of 15 Russian orphanages. They went on the first Shoes for Orphan Souls trip nearly 15 years ago.

They saw Buckner ministries firsthand, so when the time came, there was no question about where to give.

“The Lord blessed us with some money and we felt like we needed to give it back as a thank you,” Tom Stone said. “We didn’t need it … I tell people that we’re ordinary people but God used us as a pipeline to help.”

The Stones traveled to Ethiopia for the school ribbon-cutting in October 2011. They attended a large meal where 2,500 people in the surrounding community were fed. They loved seeing the children excited about their new school and dressed in their new uniforms. Children gave them flowers and government officials applauded their gift.

The school currently has prekindergarten and kindergarten and hopes to grow each year. The students range from 6- to 12-years-old. This is the first time the majority of the children have been to school.

“By having 400 children in school, you’re affecting 400 families,” Mac Stone said. “People aren’t living over there – they’re existing. They have nothing financially but they’re happier than we are.”

The impact of their gift is significant and will affect future generations, program director Randy Daniels said. The school also hosts vocational training for parents and adults in the community, which will have an immediate effect. But as the impoverished community becomes more educated, more people will be willing to invest in it.

More than just money

“The day we dedicated the school, which was an extraordinary event, we heard Tom talk about his modest upbringing and how God had chosen to bless him,” Buckner CEO Ken Hall said. “He said he didn’t understand why God had given him resources but he did and it was his job to use those resources to be a blessing to the world … It was one of the most profound spiritual experiences I’ve ever had, just his desire to use his resources to do something that’s eternal in nature.”

The school in Debre Zeit is not the first gift the Stones have made to Buckner. Their commitment began when Buckner first started in Longview almost 20 years ago. They sold their house and the proceeds eventually gave root to the foster care and adoption programs in East Texas, the largest of all Buckner foster care programs.

“Their commitment to Buckner is extraordinary,” Hall said. “I know of no two more generous people, not only with the resources, but their time, their energy and their influence. It reminds me of the Matthew 6 passage … Jesus said that when you do something for others, you don’t stand in the street and blow the trumpets. You do it in secret. And it’s been my privilege to see the way their secrets have affected individuals.”

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