ASHLAND, Ky. – Team Amy For Africa runners have a story to tell, too.

And Eric Stewart, one of the organizations newest runners, has a good one.

He has been fighting the good fight of exercise since July 2013 when he decided after nearly 33 years of being “fat, obese, husky or at least overweight” that he was going to change.

Stewart said it was the day before his 33rd birthday that it all clicked.

“So with the support of a few (one being my wife, Laurie Stewart) and disbelief of many more, I started down this path towards a healthier me,” he said. “I thank those that supported me and/or continue to do so.

“And, I also thank those who doubted or attempted to discourage me, as it only pushed me harder.”

Stewart said he overcame a life of unhealthy eating, putting down the potato chips and ice cream while getting off the couch.

“For years I had heard terms like ‘portion control,’ ‘calories,’ ‘food diary,’ ‘running,’ ‘cardio,’, etc.

“I made jokes about and poked fun at people who would sacrifice themselves to exercise. And, I made excuses as to why I wasn’t out doing those things.”

But eventually, Stewart was out of excuses. He was going to lose weight without special products, gadgets, gizmos, or surgical intervention (no offense if you have gone those routes).

“Basically, I was going to do it the ‘right way,’ through exercise, hard work, and with self-control.”

Stewart said spending time with his wife and children (Emily and Elijah) has always been a priority and he was not willing to sacrifice family or the time spent with them. Therefore, he found himself drawn toward running.

“Running offered the biggest bang for my buck; the best calorie burn, something I could do almost anywhere, and it is cheap to start,” he said. “Little did I know I would actually ENJOY running. Plus, it helped me to lose 80 pounds.”

Stewart was raised in church but did not attend regularly until he was about 11 years old. Shortly thereafter, in 1993, he gave his life to Jesus while attending Twin Fork Church of the Nazarene. (Where he later met and married my wife.) “I slowly walked away from church (and God) in my senior year at Paul G Blazer and into my early college years at ACC and Morehead State University,” he said. “In the fall of 2001, a series of ‘God events’ led to my rededication and renewed commitment to The Lord while visiting Raceland First Assembly of God. (Where I later became a member and now serve on the board.)”

Stewart said he always loved hearing stories from missionaries when they visited his church; about life in other counties/cultures, the people they’ve met, and their victories for Jesus.

“These men and women of God dedicate their lives and sacrifice so much for the sole purpose of sharing Jesus with people who do not know him! My wallet was open to their cause but, for so long, my feet were not wiling to move. I was fearful that I would be called into world missions.”

However, he felt the calling of God when hearing about Amy For Africa and its mission to help the children and families in Moyo, Uganda.

“Before I knew it was even possible, I wondered how or if I could do anything to be part of this awesome team/mission,” he said. “A chance meeting with Mark Maynard (the president of the AFA organization) resulted in a conversation about how to do just that.

“And, just like my decision to lose weight and be healthier, it was time for me to DO SOMETHING! I want to make a difference! I also want to RUN FOR GOD!”

Stewart is a graduate of Paul Blazer High School and Morehead State. He was a former lineman/linebacker for the Tomcats.

He is employed at the Social Security Administration in Huntington, W.Va.