A Walk in Progress

This summer, recent Bethel student Jeremy Floyd walked from Minneapolis to Santa Monica, California, to confront some of his biggest fears—and free other people from theirs.

By Jenny Hudalla '15, senior content specialist

October 03, 2019 | 11 a.m.

Jeremy Floyd walked from Minneapolis to Santa Monica, California, this summer to raise awareness for addiction and homelessness.

Jeremy Floyd walked from Minneapolis to Santa Monica, California, this summer to raise awareness for addiction and homelessness.

Jeremy Floyd grew up on the south side of Chicago. Most days were marked by gunfire. Some weeks were spent without a home. And every night, he hoped he’d make it out alive. When Floyd’s twin brother died of a rare autoimmune disorder at 13, it was too much to bear—so he turned to drugs and alcohol to help numb the pain. “I wasn’t a bad person,” he says. “I was just so tired of feeling afraid.”

Now, two decades later, it’s fear that Floyd wants to help others overcome. He was afraid when he moved to Minnesota in 2009, afraid when he checked into a recovery center a few years later, and afraid when, after his rehabilitation experience, he enrolled in Bethel’s B.A. in Organizational Leadership program. But he didn’t let fear dictate his future.

“Fear will write the narrative God gave you the ability to write yourself,” Floyd says. “I refuse to live in fear anymore. It has robbed too many people of opportunities, jobs, and relationships. I believe everyone has the right to realize their potential.”

“Fear will write the narrative God gave you the ability to write yourself. Everyone has the right to realize their potential.”

— Jeremy Floyd

In pursuit of his own purpose, Floyd quit his corporate job in May and began planning Walk Unchained, a two-month walking initiative that would take him from Minneapolis to Santa Monica, California, to raise awareness of people who battle with fear-inducing anxiety, depression, and addiction. The idea stemmed from Floyd’s childhood, when he once woke up at 2:45 a.m. to walk for more than six hours so that he could attend a basketball camp, only to walk six hours back to the hotel where his family was living. “The Holy Spirit took me back to all these times in my youth when I complained about walking,” Floyd says, “and He said to me, ‘I’ve been training you for this your whole life.’” 

His walk began on June 1 at Peavey Park in Minneapolis. Floyd’s 66-year-old mother walked the first 10 miles with him before he continued on, alone except for the single van designated to drive alongside him in case of an emergency. He traveled through South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, stopping at rehab centers and treatment facilities along the way to tell his story of redemption. 

With each visit, Floyd heard wrenching accounts of residents’ worst moments: women who had been trafficked for sex, teenagers who had lost family members to gun violence, and homeless people who had grown accustomed to not being looked in the eye. But he also encountered a sense of kinship that gave him hope. “These are people, and they’re hurting,” Floyd says. “I’ve been that person before—homeless on the light rail, overlooked, forgotten. The amazing thing about the walk was that I literally got to be the very thing I didn’t have growing up: a solution.”

He covered about 30 miles a day until he tore his meniscus in Wyoming, where a doctor told him to take a break or go home. Having trained for months to avoid such an injury, Floyd described it as one of his most challenging moments on the walk. “I felt like I had let people down,” he says. “I trained so hard, but it felt like my body had betrayed me.” 

With the help of a knee brace, Floyd kept walking at about half his previous pace, fending off feelings of inadequacy and focusing instead on God’s ability to work through imperfection. “I’ve learned that brokenness is our greatest common gift,” he says. “When I look back on the times God has used me most, it’s always been during moments of brokenness.”

When Floyd finally arrived at the end of the Santa Monica Pier, he knew he had accomplished something special—but he also knew he wasn’t done. Shortly after returning from California, he led another walk in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, to raise awareness for depression and suicide prevention. He plans to continue doing local and national walks, all with the aim of helping people overcome fear.

“My heart is for people to see Christ, not me,” Floyd says. “Darkness and light can’t operate in the same place. When we shine a light on these issues, we give other people the ability to step out of the dark.”

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