ST. LOUIS (BP)–Only two years removed from his last walk across America, Ted Stone will soon be on the road again.
Stone, a Durham, N.C.,-based drug abuse speaker and writer — announced in a news conference during the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference June 10 that he will begin a fourth trek across the United States to bring attention to the ever-prevalent drug problem in America.
What would make a man in his 60s want to walk almost 12,000 miles in six years? For the former drug addict and convict, the driving force behind his journeys is a passion to see America wake up to the drug crisis that once was his own nightmare.
“God gave me a second chance,” Stone said. “And that second chance that God afforded me … lit a fire in my heart — a fire to see this problem go away. I realized that the Christian church for many years abdicated its role of leadership in solving this problem.”
Stone will begin his cross-country venture Aug. 12 at a beach in North Carolina. Averaging some 25 to 30 miles a day, he will make stops to speak in churches and schools on his way to California.
Stone also will be making a plea during his walk to what he believes to be some of the major facilitators of the drug abuse problem — the pharmaceutical companies. As in 2000 when he petitioned Anheuser Busch to become more responsible in their advertising, Stone will be making a similar plea to the pharmaceutical industry.
“I realized then like I realize today that the drug problem is more than the illegal substances like cocaine or heroine or methamphetamines,” Stone said. “It’s about the legal drug problem that we have. And the biggest drug problem we have in America as I said in written form to the Anheuser Busch Company is the alcohol problem.
“And we have another problem too, and it’s blossoming because of the TV commercials that enlist so many people. It’s the abuse of prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.”
Stone said he would carry both the American and Christian flags on his proposed four-month journey. But he will also carry a crucial message of hope and deliverance from drugs and alcohol — a freedom that is only available in Jesus.
“The hope for the solution of the drug problem lies in Jesus Christ,” Stone said. “I’m convinced of that. If a person has a drug addiction, he must remove that addiction by the substitution of something stronger. And for me, as a Christian, that something stronger is always a true faith in Jesus — not only as Savior but as Lord and Master.”
It’s up the Christian church to carry that message, Stone said, noting that Southern Baptists especially have an opportunity to make a positive impact.
“It’s up to our denomination,” he said. “We have the resources. We have the people. And God expects that of us.”
Stone himself has not been idle in carrying this message in the time since his last walk in 2000. He recently completed a tour of each of the six Southern Baptist seminaries to better prepare seminary students for ministry among those with alcohol and drug problems.
“We cannot continue to wash our hands like Pontius Pilate. We have to realize that it is our privilege, it is our responsibility to help rescue people from the maze of drug abuse,” Stone said.
Speaking Sunday night, June 9, at First Baptist Church of Washington, Mo., Stone asked his audience, “Do you believe that the truth can set us free from the plague of drug abuse?” A sea of upraised hands greeted the visiting speaker. Stone hastened to remind his audience that “the truth is sometimes painful and unpleasant.”
Stone noted that, in addition to drugs and alcoholic beverages, even “feel-good” medicines “hold the potential for total disaster in the user’s life. We can no longer afford to call our nation’s drug tragedy ‘their’ problem. It is certainly ‘our’ problem.”
Recounting his third cross-country walk in 2000, Stone said, “I visited with Anheuser-Busch officials in St. Louis and asked them to sacrifice profits for the sake of America’s young people. I was convinced that the company’s humorous commercials featuring comical frogs and lizards made a direct appeal to our children.”
The beer officials responded in letter form, calling the crusader’s assertion that the abuse of alcohol was a major part of the drug problem “a false and dangerous message.”
In posing his concern to the pharmaceutical industry, Stone said he will urge “more responsible advertising procedures in touting their latest miracle drugs. We will ask them to place more emphasis on developing drugs aimed at curing diseases rather than so many aimed at covering up symptoms.”
Stone further said, “The pharmaceutical and alcohol industries advertising campaigns always show these happy, healthy, attractive young people merrily skipping through life with the aid of their products. But they fail to accurately portray the rest of the story. You never see those who have been maimed or murdered in alcoholic stupors or automobile accidents attributed to drunk driving in these ads. We are never shown the devastating effects that these substances can produce. If anyone is ending a ‘false and dangerous message,’ it is certainly the promoter’s of these industries.”