When Teenie Finley ran her first marathon at the age of 70, she raised the $70,000 needed for a kitchen to host her cooking classes at a community church and evangelism center that she and her husband, evangelist Mark Finley, are constructing near Washington D.C.
Story and photos by Andrew McChesney, Adventist Review
A year later, the church in Haymarket, Virginia, is nearly completed, and Teenie Finley will run her second marathon next weekend in hope of raising the last $75,000 of the project’s $4.5 million price tag. She has no doubt that God will provide.
“This is my miracle kitchen!” Finley, beaming, said as she led the Adventist Review on a tour of the nearly finished kitchen on the ground floor of the two-story Living Hope Seventh-day Adventist Community Church.
Finley, 71, author of the popular cookbook Natural Lifestyle Cooking and a health lecturer at her husband’s evangelistic meetings, will use the kitchen to offer classes on heathy cooking to the affluent community situated near the 250-seat church. The handsome kitchen with dark wooden counters and cabinets will also be used to serve meals to local residents at seminars on issues such as health and archaeology, and to feed pastors who attend pastoral training courses.
The original cost of the kitchen was estimated at $105,000. But through negotiations and special discounts, Finley managed to bring the price down to $70,000 — the exact amount that she raised in running her first marathon in Celebration, Florida, on Jan. 25, 2015. She placed third in her age category, finishing the 26-mile (42-kilometer) route in 6 hours, 2 minutes, and 4 seconds.
3 Remarkable Donations
Now she hopes to beat her time by finishing in less than 6 hours at the same marathon on Sunday, Jan. 31. More important, she wants to raise the money needed to finish the church. As of Tuesday, she had raised about $18,000 toward her declared goal of $25,000 on the givingzone.com website.
But her real goal is $75,000 — a sum that she is sure God will provide.
Just a week ago, the church stood $185,000 short of its budget. Teenie Finley was praying fervently about the matter as she trained for the marathon on a forest trail.
“Give me the faith to believe that we can get the last $185,000 because I know that the last of it can be very difficult,” she prayed.
When she got home, the phone rang. The voice on the other end said: “I was thinking about your marathon. I was going to give something toward that on your website, but I’ve changed my mind and decided to give $100,000 directly to the General Conference instead.”
All funds for the project go through a special account at the General Conference, the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from the new church.
Then an 88-year-old woman contacted Mark Finley and, when he visited her, presented a $10,000 donation from a house sale.
“There were tears in my eyes,” said Mark Finley, editor-at-large for the Adventist Review. “I thought, ‘Here is a simple elderly lady, 88, who is saying, “Jesus, I want to do something special for you. I’ll make a sacrifice for you.”’”
Donations have ranged from $10 to the tens of thousands of dollars, he said. He praised the sacrifice of a teenage academy student who sent $10.
The Finishing Touches
The last $75,000 in needed funds will be used for two areas of the new church: a media center, which will broadcast seminars and sermons worldwide, and a heritage room, where people can pray and reflect on Adventist history amid furnishings such as a Uriah Smith-era desk and a 1920s Soviet-era typewriter that was used to produce a copy of Ellen G. White’s then-banned Desire of Ages in Russian.
Teenie Finley is still looking on eBay and elsewhere for several missing items for the heritage room, including old copies of Ellen White books, a carpetbag, and an old radio.
“Even when we’re traveling I go to antique shops,” she said.
The idea for the church began when Teenie Finley prayed for a way to perpetuate the ministry she and husband share when they grow too old to travel. One of the prime purposes of the facility is to establish an evangelistic training center for pastors and laypeople so they can be more effective in sharing Jesus’ love and the last-day message with their communities. Teenie Finley smiled as she remembered her husband’s initial reaction to her proposal to build the church in their hometown, Haymarket.
“There’s no way that we can raise up a church,” he said. “We don’t have any money.”
But a $50,000 check landed in their laps just a day after their conversation, and the funds have been coming in steadily ever since as Finleys and many other people have prayed.
It’s rare for a newly built Adventist church to open debt-free in North America, but that’s what the Living Hope church is on track toward achieving when it holds it inaugural worship services this spring.
“When we got that first $50,000, I said to Mark, ‘What are we going to do? Can we start a fund at the General Conference?” Teenie Finley said. “We did, and the rest is history.”