Change Makers

New journey for former pastor after run across America

Former pastor Steve Spear now works with World Vision since completing his run across America to raise money for water for children in Africa. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

A new journey is beginning for a former pastor from Illinois who completed his run across America to raise money for water in Africa.

Steve Spear, 50, finished his cross-country run on Sept. 6 at New York’s Battery Park, overlooking the Statue of Liberty. He started on April 8 in Santa Monica, California.

I still feel called to devote myself to running and how running changes lives.—Steve Spear

For five months, he wrestled with the daunting physical, spiritual, and logistical challenges of running 3,081 miles as they collided with the weighty implications of his goal to raise $1.5 million to provide clean water for 30,000 people in Kenya.

“In one sense, this run was my greatest trusted friend, hated rival, and constant companion,” says Steve. He insists he still does not love to run.

From lonely, soul-searching hours on the road, to getting the flu, to treating blisters on his feet, and questioning his original motive for the cross-country run, life on the road almost got the best of him.

“One day, I got to the point … I was just kind of going, ‘This is utter nuttiness,’” Steve says. “I told my wife, ‘I think I’m done, I think I’m done.’”

He wasn’t done. He finished.

A breakdown of Steve’s run across America by the numbers:

  • Completed 3,081 miles across 14 states
  • Ran the equivalent of 118 marathons
  • Recorded 6.8 million steps
  • Burned through 10 pairs of running shoes
  • Consumed 5,000 calories per day
  • Gobbled up 1,000 sandwiches (mostly PB&J)
  • Climbed 7,500 feet in Arizona for his highest sustained elevation gain
  • Recorded 32,000 feet as the greatest aggregate elevation change over 175 miles in one week through Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains
  • Endured 185 miles in seven days for his toughest week through southern Illinois (five days with a heat index of 115 degrees or hotter)
  • Chased by six dogs in western Oklahoma (scariest moment)
  • Raised $425,000 for his goal of $1.5 million for clean water

The journey brought new perspective and increased his resolve to run a few miles so Winnie, his family’s sponsored child in Kenya, wouldn’t have to walk as far for water, he says.

“I feel like one of the most privileged people on the planet to do this,” Steve says. “It was unspeakably difficult. But for me, it’s a gift. Now I feel like I’m supposed to steward that gift well. I still feel committed to raising a million and half for water. I still feel called to devote myself to running and how running changes lives.”

His run reminds him of God’s purpose for all this: obedience to a calling to change lives.

“About 90% of the time I turn on the faucet, I say, ‘This is a gift,’” Steve says. “The visceral feel of water on my hands is saying, ‘You’re not done yet; you’re not off the hook. There’s still so much more.’”

Now, Steve has accepted a job at World Vision to help bring clean water to rural communities worldwide. He works with churches and individuals to run races and raise money with Team World Vision to provide clean water around the world.

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