Walk across America: Evangelist driven by substance abuse ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Ted Stone, who completed his third walk across America in 2000, will attempt his fourth crossing in June.

Stone, an evangelist from Durham, N.C., will use the walk to advance his ministry of hope to those trapped in substance abuse and to challenge churches to engage in helping others overcome addictions by having an open heart for broken people.

In June 2002, Stone announced his fourth trek would start in August of that year, crossing America east to west, setting out from Atlantic Beach, N.C. However, doctors diagnosed colon cancer a few weeks later, causing cancellation of the walk; Stone subsequently survived two surgeries. According to the revised plan, Stone will begin in Chicago June 18, ending his walk nine weeks later in Pensacola, Fla.

Stone completed his first three walks while in his 60s; if successful, he will complete his fourth walk at age 72, having spanned a distance of 10,000 miles combined.

Age and a bout with cancer might deter some from undertaking such a God-sized task, but Stone trusts that God will supply Him with the strength to complete it.

“It is true that my legs may not be what they once were,” Stone told Baptist Press, “but the grace of God remains every bit as sufficient as it has ever been, and I am confident that our Lord will see me successfully through the journey.”

On his previous treks, Stone carried the American flag, but this time he intends to carry both Old Glory and the Christian flag -- the one to celebrate the freedoms he enjoys as an American and the other to underscore his message of hope that with God, there is freedom from the bonds of addiction.

“Most programs use something to substitute for the abuser’s addiction,” he said. “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.”

While getting into physical condition for the walk, Stone is scheduling speaking engagements. Stone believes that the Christian church holds the ultimate answer to the world’s drug abuse dilemma and he hopes to secure a host congregation at each stop along his journey so he can make a direct appeal to members that they make their church part of the solution to America’s drug problem.

“We are in the business of changing the hearts of men and women,” Stone told BP. “We represent Jesus here on the face of this earth, and broken people depend on us.”

Stone intends to offer his newly launched “HIS Way” ministry as a model for a church-based outreach to recovering substance abusers. HIS Way emphasizes the training of Christian mentors to pair with enrollees with the ultimate aim of not only achieving permanent recovery, but involving them in a new way of life through Christ’s church. Stone launched this ministry emphasis in 2005.

The nearly 1,100-mile route will wind from the starting point through Springfield, Ill.; St. Louis, Mo.; Hopkinsville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, Ala.; and conclude in Pensacola, Fla.

Sean Reece, a student at Southeastern College at Wake Forest, N.C., will drive an escort car, handle day-to-day logistics and share his testimony when Stone speaks. Philip Barber, a student in the Master of Arts in Theology program at Southwestern Seminary and co-author with Stone of a monthly national column, and Chris Doll, a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, alternately will join the walk at various points along the way. Each will assist Reece and also share their testimonies when Stone speaks. Stone described Reece and Barber as his “sons in the ministry.” Doll is Stone’s grandson.

Stone’s previous walks:

-- 1996: a 3,650-mile effort from the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., southward to Jacksonville, Fla. and westward to Los Angeles, Calif.

-- 1998: a 3,550-mile trek from the mayor’s office in San Francisco, Calif., eastward to Virginia Beach, Va.

-- 2000: a 1,700-mile, south to north trek that began in Nueva Laredo, Mexico and ended in Detroit, Mich. at the Ambassador Bridge leading into Canada.

Stone also is excited about the evangelism opportunities he expects God to send his way.

“On each walk, God has allowed me to help change a person’s life with the simple message of the Gospel,” Stone said. “He knows when I am tired and worn, that such a blessing sustains me like food, water and rest cannot.”


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