Ernestine Finley, wife of evangelist Mark Finley and author of the popular Natural Lifestyle Cooking cookbook, may have turned 70 last month, but she is preparing to run her first marathon in a few days.
Finley, known to many as “Teenie,” will run the full 26-mile (42-kilometer) marathon in the town of Celebration, Florida, next Sunday in a bid to raise $100,000 toward what she calls one of the most exciting projects she has ever tackled with her husband: a church and evangelistic training center in their hometown of Haymarket, Virginia.
“We have spent 47 years in ministry—preaching, teaching, and deeply involved in health ministry,” Finley said. “Therefore I am doing this to inspire others to be trained and equipped for involvement in the ministry of Christ. It is for God’s glory, not mine.”
The Finleys are on the last lap of a fundraising drive for the $4 million Life Hope Seventh-day Adventist Community Church and have already secured $3.5 million, mostly from private donors.
Construction is scheduled to begin in March, and the first group of 25-40 pastors and laypeople will start classes next year. The four- to eight-day intensive classes will be offered at no cost. Attendees will only be asked to pay for optional class materials, meals, and lodging.
Teenie Finley, who raised nearly half of her $100,000 goal from 32 donors
on the GivingZone.com website by Thursday morning, said she decided to run after reading an Adventist Review article about an 82-year-old practicing physician from Loma Linda, California, who has run in 237 marathons since the age of 62.
“I thought if Moses Christian improved his health and ran 237 full marathons in the past 21 years, then I can certainly start running my first marathon at the age of 70,” said Finley, who turned 70 on Dec. 4. “I want to glorify God in my body.”
The article by Wilona Karimabadi is titled “Running on Faith” and was published on July 10, 2014. Mark Finley is editor-at-large for
Adventist Review and Adventist World.
In addition to improving her health, Teenie Finley said she hoped that the race would inspire others to take charge of their lives. She said she often hears people say at health classes that she teaches that it is difficult to muster enough self discipline to make healthy choices.
“I want to inspire them that they can do it,” she said. “Yes, it takes discipline. It takes discipline for me to walk and run every day to train for this marathon as well. However, we will all feel better and live longer, healthier, and happier lives.”
Finley conducts wellness seminars during her husband’s evangelistic meetings, most recently speaking to nightly crowds that topped 15,000 people in a stadium in the Dominican Republic this month, and she has used her cookbook to teach nutrition classes to thousands more.
The marathon is already inspiring some people.
“We applaud Teenie as she undertakes this marathon for this cause,” wrote an anonymous donor who pledged $25,000 on the fundraising website. “May God bless both as you continue to participate in so many ministries for Him.”
“For His glory, go Teenie!” wrote another donor. “You are an inspiration. I need to start running again!”
Robert Banks, pastor of the Finleys’ home church in Warrenton, Virginia, said he also was encouraged by the initiative.
“It’s an inspiration to me that our age doesn’t have to slow us down,” Banks said by phone.
Banks, 60, will serve as pastor of the new church in Haymarket and join the Finleys as a regular speaker at its evangelism center. The Warrenton church, which has 60 members and around 95 regular attendees, will be sold in the coming months and its proceeds used to finance the new church, Banks said.
Mark Finley said he was excited about his wife’s participation in the marathon and planned to cheer her on from the sidelines.
“Her discipline to exercise vigorously each day really inspires me,” he said. “She has been interested in and teaching health for years, and we believe this will be a powerful testimony for the Adventist health message.”
Finley, 69, does not run on the recommendation of doctors after undergoing two sports-related knee operations. But he said he walks and bikes extensively, and he and his wife go for at least an hourlong walk every day.
“Even in our international travel we have disciplined ourselves to exercise each day,” he said. “Exercise is an integral part of both of our lives.”
Turning to the planned evangelism center, Finley said he hoped it would enable people to use Christ’s methods of multi-faceted outreach to reach their communities.
“My wife and I realize that the most significant contribution we can make for Christ and His church at this age of our lives is to share the practical lessons God has taught us,” he said. “Our goal is to spend our lives equipping others to effectively share the Adventist message with a world in desperate need.”
He called the entire project “an adventure in faith” that began about two years ago with nothing but an idea.
“During this time we have been amazed as God has worked some incredible miracles,” he said. “He has miraculously provided funding from many different sources. We are confident that He will enable us to see the project through to completion.”
Teenie Finley, meanwhile, said she was praying that God would give her the strength each step of the way throughout the race. She said she intended to reach the finish line through a combination of running and walking. To qualify for a medal, she needs to finish in seven hours. She is aiming for six and a half.
Supporters are invited to guess exactly how long it will take her to finish. The Finleys are offering to visit the winner’s home church and present a health-focused spiritual weekend.
“I pray most of all that God will be glorified by me running the race,” Teenie Finley said. “I have a lot of people who are cheering me on. Therefore, by the grace of God, I will glorify Him and finish the race.”
Mark Finley speaking about the Life Hope church project and his wife's marathon run in a 5:34-minute video.
Editor's note: The Adventist Review will be closely following developments at the Finleys' evangelistic training center in Haymarket, Virginia, from the start of construction in March through its opening next year.
The Adventist Review article that inspired Ernestine Finley to run the marathon: “Running on Faith,” July 10, 2014