Ripple Effects | God's World News

Ripple Effects

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    Steve Leitch swims long distances to raise money to serve others. (Courtesy of Steve Leitch/
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    Leitch gives a thumbs up. His wife, Kelly, sits beside him. This crew helped Leitch swim across the Molokai Channel in Hawaii. (Courtesy of Steve Leitch/
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    A man kayaks beside Leitch while he swims across the Molokai Channel. (Courtesy of Steve Leitch/
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    Steve and Kelly Leitch (Courtesy of Steve Leitch/
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    Miracle Hill Ministries serves foster kids as well as people experiencing homelessness. It also distributes food to people in need. (Courtesy of Miracle Hill Ministries)
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Despite having been a member of Scotland’s national swim team, Steve “Moby” Leitch thought he was done with swimming by age 17. It took decades on dry land before he said, “Lord, I need to go swim something.”

That something was bigger than he’d ever imagined.

In 2018—26 years after Leitch had hung up his swim googles—Leitch’s boss encouraged Leitch to try an open water race. With just six weeks to train, Leitch entered a 2.4-mile event.

Despite cramps and exhaustion, Leitch won his age group. He tried another with the same result. Those races taught him that instead of swimming against people, he preferred swimming against himself. “Steve against Steve,” his wife, Kelly Leitch, jokes.

Soon, Leitch started swimming long: six miles, then 12, and then more.

In 2020, he decided to swim 40 miles across Lake Michigan. Family and friends started out kayaking alongside him, but the boat kept sinking. So Leitch pivoted and swam the Michigan coastline.

Sunburned and seasick, Leitch swam 28 miles under horrible conditions—and felt fine the next day. He calls that his “Big Failure Swim” because he hadn’t gone the full distance.

After that, Leitch started seeking advice from other long-distance swimmers. He learned about ear plugs in cold water and mid-swim nutrition.

Soon, he began leaning into what he now sees as his life’s calling: swimming ultra distances to raise money to serve the underprivileged—particularly foster children and recovering adults transitioning back into society after recovery programs for substance abuse.

“If I’m gonna swim,” Leitch says with a hint of Scottish brogue, “I need to do it for other people.”

Today, Leitch swims to raise money for Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina. Funds support mental health counseling, the foster community, and transitional housing for adults coming out of addiction.

Training for ultra swims isn’t easy. Leitch’s weekly schedule includes 19 training sessions involving weights, circuits, walking, and many hours in the water.

Why such a grueling endeavor? “Why not?” he asks. “You tell me a good reason why not to, that doesn’t involve just human comfort.”

Leitch definitely isn’t concerned about comfort. Last year, he embarked on the Oceans Seven Challenge. Started in 2008, it consists of seven difficult swims from 10 to 28 miles long. No wetsuit and no physical contact with a person or vessel allowed. Only 27 people have yet completed it.

In April 2023, Leitch swam the Kaiwi Channel from Molokai to Oahu in Hawaii. Before he even entered the water, his lead kayaker told Leitch that he couldn’t paddle on Leitch’s right side because of winds. That meant Leitch would need to change the side on which he took a breath—for the first time in over 30 years. He made the change.

During the 28-mile swim, his kayaker’s shark shield zapped him. Seven Portuguese man-of-wars stung him, and a fishing boat nearly ran him over. Additionally, he vomited for hours from the four- to 10-foot swells.

Leitch finished in 12 hours, 54 minutes—the sixth fastest on record at that time.

Kelly Leitch is an important part of his support team. She admits she’s not always crazy about her husband’s daring ideas. Still, she says, he’s continually asking “who has God created him to be and how can he be [that person].” She’s definitely on board with following God.

In July, Leitch will swim the English Channel. Three weeks later, he’ll tackle the North Channel. Both are difficult cold-water swims. As part of training, he hasn’t taken a warm shower in three years!

Kelly says she’ll be right there—only she’ll be wearing anti-nausea patches this time. (While her husband was sick in the water, Kelly was sick on the boat.) She’s confident he’ll succeed because “Steve never stops,” she laughs.

When swimming, Leitch thinks about nothing and everything: his favorite meal, how the kayak glow stick is made, or whether bubbles mean a shark is nearby.

He also prays a lot. “Lord, help me through this next moment” is a recurring prayer.

“I truly believe when Jesus died on the cross, He was not comfortable. So why would He do that? To serve other people,” Steve says.

Miracle Hill CEO Ryan Duerk says Leitch’s actions are about more than the money he raises. In a documentary about Leitch’s life and extraordinary swim in Hawaii, he calls Leitch “a physical representation of God’s love—a crazy Scot who’s gonna swim across an ocean for [the foster children].”

Swimming is Leitch’s service. He knows not everyone is wired for water, but Leitch advises young people to figure out how they can touch even one life. “You never know,” he says, “what that ripple effect could do.”

Why? Jesus modeled a life of service. Leitch uses his long-distance swimming talents to serve.

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