Running to Win

by Public Relations Office—Cedarville, Ohio

Cedarville, Ohio—The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 39.5 million people in America live below the poverty line. Did you get that number? 39.5 million men, women and children. These individuals find it difficult to escape poverty.

Dr. Jeff Cook, associate professor of Bible at Cedarville University, describes breaking the cycle of poverty like running a marathon. “You’ll find plenty of people excitedly rooting for the runners at the starting line and at the finish line,” he says, “but there are not many cheerleaders in the miles between. That’s how it is for the poor and broken.”

Like so many, Cook has seen the effects of poverty. That’s why in May of 2008, he began training for a 26-mile marathon to help raise funds for Changing Lives Now, a ministry in Springfield, Ohio. Changing Lives Now helps homeless adults and those who deal with substance addictions find stable employment and a place to live. On Oct. 19, Cook ran the full 26 miles in Columbus Ohio.

“It was tough - and I mean tough!” Cook adds. “But I discovered so many parallels between running a marathon and trying to come out of poverty.”

During the run, Cook recalls how his last eight miles were torture. At mile 24, he says he felt like dying. Suddenly, a woman he didn't know came alongside him, grabbed his hand, and ran with him a few steps, telling him, “You’ve come so far. You can make it. You can make it; don’t quit now.” Cook admits that he finished the race because someone encouraged him and ran with him when he felt he could not take another step. He’s reminded to do the same for those around him living in poverty. When Cook tells others about the marathon, he makes sure to inform them, “I just gave God what I had.”

Dr. Cook incorporates these lessons in the lives of his students. For instance, every semester his students are required to experience homelessness for a full weekend. “I’m allowing myself to be confronted with the issues of the city in urban ministry and allowing them to transform my life,” says Amber Prince, a student in Dr. Cook’s class.

There is always opportunity to reach out to those trapped in poverty. To donate to Changing Lives Now and help those going through the program get back on their feet again, visit